Songkran festival in Thailand is that time of the year that people either extremely love or love to hate. Perhaps it’s the scorching hot of 40 deg C (or 104 deg F) every day. Love it or hate it, Bangkok streets are once again celebrating with water as Thais and foreigners usher the Thai New Year with a bang. A proof that fireworks and champagne can be just as fun as water fights and whiskey.
If you happen (or planning) to be in Thailand for Songkran, you may find that while many Bangkok hot spots are empty, some can get very, very crowded. You may want to complete your shopping to-do’s and at the risk of being disappointed, here’s what to expect in Bangkok during Songkran.
Where to Make Your Splash
Silom probably holds the largest and wildest of celebrations in Bangkok. This whole stretch of a few kilometers is packed with Thais and foreigners in water-to-water action. If you come here on a Saturday night, this whole area gets so busy you can barely walk without being swept away by the crowd. You’ll know a Songkran street party by the blast of Thai traditional music in loud speakers and the rows of stalls selling water guns, food and beer.
Khao Sarn Road becomes a stage for water wars during Songkran and the best part is restaurants and bars stay open during the festival.
According to many, Chiangmai is the grandest place to celebrate Songkran. It starts with a procession around the city and you can find many cultural performances in the day. And of course, the water-dousing antics are second to none.
Where to Shop
During Songkran, most office buildings, banks and government offices are closed. Most of the street shops and stalls in Pratunam are also most likely closed, so the best way is to head to the bigger shopping centers like Platinum Mall, Shibuya and Grand Diamond Hotel’s wholesale shopping mall. Bangkok’s top shopping malls like Siam Paragon, Central World, Terminal 21 and Emporium usually stay open as a good opportunity to serve locals and tourists coming to Bangkok during the Songkran festival.
It’s also worth noting that many vendors may head “upcountry” to visit their families so some shops in popular shopping venues like Chatuchak Weekend Market, MBK, Asiatique and others may be closed but most shops still stay open.
Chatuchak Weekend Market is also bound for renovation in March 2013 by the State Railway of Thailand so many shopkeepers and visitors will be affected by the construction.
A joint campaign by the Government every year has prompted an alcohol ban in many celebration venues to keep families and children safe. How strongly implemented these alcohol-free zones are remain to be seen but this campaign appears to become more popular each year.
According to the Thai Ministry of Public Health, there were 3,129 road accidents, 3,320 injuries and 320 fatalities over Songkran in 2012.
If your trip to Bangkok requires you to scour the streets of Pratunam to find goods for your clothing business, it’s a good idea to note the alcohol-free zones so you can plan your shopping ahead of time.
Keep a secure, water-proof bag to protect your valuables and watch out for your belongings. Many people lose their phones and bags during Songkran.
While modes of transport such as the Sky Train and the Underground Train remain reliable, other forms of transport such as buses and taxis are much harder to come by. If you are tired, wet and out at 1AM, I wish you luck getting a taxi back home.
Staying at Home
Needless to say, the safest alternative to celebrating Songkran is to stay home. It’s probably not the most fun, but being in Thailand for many years has taken away the novelty of water wars for me. If I’m in the unfortunate position of not being away from Thailand for the Songkran holidays, staying in a warm and dry place is the next best thing. And a “stay-cation” helps me be more energized and productive. And look, I’ve just written a blog post and thank you for reading it!
How about you? What do you feel about Songkran? Love it or hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts or experiences by leaving a comment below.
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