5 Tips for Tourists Going to Thailand for Songkran 2017 During Year-Long Mourning Period

The title says it all, but before going into that, the golden question to ask is: When is Songkran 2017?

The title says it all, but before going into that, the golden question to ask is: When is Songkran 2017?

Songkran 2017 in Thailand will begin on Thursday, April 13 and ends on Saturday, April 15.

Songkran, like many people may have already known, is the Thai New Year festival falling on April 13 every year, which therefore makes it a national holiday in the country. However, the holiday extends until April 15 by tradition, making it a three-day festival.

Having celebrated Songkran myself in Thailand several times and also lived in Thailand for two years, let me share with you what to expect for Songkran in general and also what to be mindful about this year now that the year-long mourning period for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away on October 13, 2016, is still ongoing.

So here they are:

1. Four major NO’s during Songkran 2017

The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) has issued major no’s for the Thai New Year celebrations next week in deference to the year-long mourning period of mourning period for King Bhumibol Adulyadej: no powder, no water guns, no excessive use of water, no sexy dress, and no alcohol.

Songkran 2017

Heck, It was even reported that Khan San would have no Songkran water celebration activities this year! Which, of course, translates to the exact opposite in reality based on the Thailand that I know.

Thailand is known for its tourism-centric economy. Every year, Songkran, which is Thailand’s biggest festival, attracts about half a million tourists. Trust me, there will STILL be Songkran celebrations all over Thailand, especially in tourist-populated areas like Khao San and Hatyai downtown. There will be shops (sans supermarkets and 7 Eleven’s perhaps) selling and bars serving alcohol. Most importantly, there will also be people playing water guns.

Read: Foreign Songkran Revelers Caught Dancing Naked in Pattaya

However, the celebrations will certainly be scaled down this year out of respect for the late King Bhumibol. Tourists, therefore, have to be attune to local sensitivities. Visitor information during the mourning period as issued by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) can be read here.

2. If arriving at Thailand during Songkran…

If you touch down in Thailand during one of the Songkran holidays, be prepared to get wet.

People will likely splash, spray, or douse water on  you, and they don’t care whether or not you have a backpack, your smartphone is protected with a waterproof case, or you are lugging your luggage through the pedestrian walkway to your hotel. And no, you don’t have the right to get mad, because it’s Songkran.

So make sure your gadgets and clothes are wrapped in plastic bags – even if they will be kept inside your bag. If you have a backpack with a rain cover, by all means put it on before you walk through the downtown areas.

Waterproof cases for mobile phones can be bought everywhere at venues of Songkran celebration.

3. There’s ABSOLUTELY ZERO NEED to wear a raincoat

There will be those people who choose to travel to Thailand during Songkran, and yet are not willing to get wet.

I’ve celebrated Songkran with my Thai counterparts, and we LOVED throwing water on tourists with a raincoat on.

Trust me, the more you protect yourself by wearing a raincoat, the more you will get wet. So, keep your raincoat at home and get soaked in the water-splashing madness with style and fierceness. You’re welcome.

4. It’s normal for people to put powder on your face

Just when you think that Songkran is all about throwing water on people, it’s actually more than that. One of the rites of Songkran is to rub white powder or pasty substance on people’s face. The white paste is a symbol of protection against the evil.

During Songkran, you will notice that besides water guns and waterproof cases, bottles and cans of white powder are also being sold everywhere.

Image credit to samuidays.com.

It is typical for the Thais to mix the powder with water before rubbing it on random people’s faces, so don’t take offence when someone – even of the same sex because it’s Thailand – comes up to you to rub powder on your face.

5. Take part in Buddha bathing ceremony

Like I’ve said, Songkran isn’t all about getting yourself indulged in the water-splashing madness. One can celebrate the festival in a more traditional way by proceeding to local temples to make merits and participate in the Buddha bathing ceremony.

Songkran 2017
Image credit to theworldfestival.net.

In certain shopping centers and also venues where Songkran water activities will be celebrated, there may be statues of Buddha put up for people to pour fragrant water over. It is called “bathing the Buddha” and signifies purification and washing away one’s bad luck.

Try that, and Happy Songkran!