Songkran aka Thai New Year

I love national holidays. I don’t just mean bank holidays which means a three day weekend and a four day working week. I love national holidays that bring a community or a nation together to celebrate something like Halloween at home or Hogueras in Alicante or New Years Eve in London. Ammun and I managed to strategically work out plans so that we could celebrate Thailand’s biggest festival: Songkran (Thai New Year).
We left Mr Chart’s crazy house after our weird jungle trek at 5:30am and arrived in Chiang Mai about 9:30am on 12th April which is the day before Songkran officially begins every year. We chose Chiang Mai as it is where the Songkran Water Festival originates and when we spoke to Anne our cooking class instructor last time we were in Chiang Mai, she said it was a way better location than Bangkok which would have been easier for us.
Our hostel is just across the road from our hostel before (the one that left me unable to walk due to mosquito bites) so we walked down the road to a cafe that we had seen before but never gone into called Amaka. We both drooled over the menu and eventually I decided on cinnamon French toast with fruit and yoghurt and Ammun chose dippy eggs and soldiers with fruit and yoghurt. Breakfast comes with a drink so I tried guava juice for the first time which is actually quite nice and I also treated myself to a banana peanut milkshake thing. It was probably one of the most dreamy breakfasts I have had this whole trip. We stayed for ages, slowly eating and drinking and enjoying wifi for the first time in 3 days.


In the afternoon we went back and washed 99% of our clothes which felt amazing and had a nap before venturing out to get water guns for the next few days. As expected, everything had began prematurely and we hadn’t even got to the end of the road before someone poured a whole watering can of cold water down my back. It felt good in the 37 degree heat but I was gutted I had nothing to defend myself with. Once we got to the end of the road we could see people lining the streets with water guns, hoses and buckets all attacking people in cars and on motorbikes as they drove past. There were stalls selling guns and buckets and we walked up and down a few times because we needed the perfect, most threatening, badass gun we could find. This is what we chose:


We spent a few hours attacking people going past in the road (including unsuspecting tourists in red taxis) whilst also defending ourselves from people walking past. Even when locals didn’t speak English we could still play and fight and laugh and everyone’s spirits were high.


After some dinner and another quick nap we were ready for a beer or two and walked to Zoe In Yellow. Turns out there’s Zoe In Yellow bar, pub, cocktail bar and something else and it was mental. We went here because one of my best friends in primary school, Kim, had said she was going. We have both been travelling for a few months but never managed to meet (even though we were both in Siem Reap for 3 nights at the same time)! I had absolutely no idea how to find her and we were just getting very wet looking but then I saw a girl called Erica who I used to dance with at uni and eagle eyed me had seen on Instagram that she was at the same hostel as Kim so when she invited us to drink at the Reggae Bar with people from her hostel we instantly said yes and Kim and I were finally reunited! I also met her friend Paige from secondary school and despite the rivalry between the only 2 all girls schools in our area, the four of us chatted and danced the night away!


Needless to say, we didn’t get out of bed that morning. We went back to Amaka for brunch again because it was delicious and we were too scared to walk far now that Songkran had officially begun. Once we had food in our bellies we grabbed our fearsome guns and headed to the streets.
It was probably one of the most mental things I have ever seen. The city is surrounded by a moat with a main road next to it. All the way along the road, everyone has bins being filled with water and cups and guns to soak everyone who walks or drives past. They have paddling pools for the young children and beers for the adults. On the road there are pick up truck type cars with loads of people in the back and a big bin of water to that they can soak everyone the drive past as well as get soaked by people on the ground. It was impossible to have a centimetre of your body still dry after 5 minutes!


Eventually we got to Stamps hostel where Fi and Kay had said they were going. We met them in Koh Ta Kiev, Cambodia and then bumped into them again on the first night of Songkran. Somehow we didn’t see them but we had a few drinks and chatted to some other people who were staying at that hostel which was fun.
Late afternoon we decided to go out and fight again but it slowly got cold and then chucked it down with rain! We took shelter in a burger restaurant and stayed for dinner while we waited for the storm to pass because it was way too cold for ice water!


We headed back to our hostel for a quick nap and to ditch our guns and then did a barcrawl starting at Stamps hostel, then Fat Elvis Bar then Zoe in Yellow again. Zoe in Yellow was even more carnage than the day before and there was a stage with a DJ. After a while it was a bit too sweaty for us so we went back to the reggae bar which was a lot quieter. After months of being away, I finally got a decent mojito so I drunk that and then ordered a mega mojito for not much more money! I was definitely in my happy place.
About 1:30am we headed towards Spicy Club but it sounded very quiet and you needed to pay for a drink to get in which we didn’t fancy so we got drunk food and went to bed. I learned my lesson not to order spicy food as drunk food because I was way too hungry and it made me sad that I couldn’t eat it all.
Our last morning was like all other mornings: bed until midday and then Amaka for brunch! I had dippy eggs with fruit and yoghurt and I couldn’t remember the last time I had dippy eggs before that! Because of the festival traffic, the night bus wasn’t able to pick us up from our hostel so we got a taxi to another hostel and spent the day there. This hostel was way more fun than ours so we out everything in lockers then joined in the fun. Everyone was out the front with their guns and buckets attacking people on the street whilst also being attacked by people in passing cars and the water sprinklers from above! There were still so many people out in the streets and my favourite was two kids in a canoe that was strapped on top of the car. People weren’t very safe passing us and if they were in the red taxis (with an open back), they had absolutely no chance.


When we stopped for food, I loved people watching and seeing people of al ages getting involved and all the family rivalry. I went inside for a bit and skyped my own family as it was my brothers 21st birthday. It was very loud on my end so it wasn’t a long conversation but still nice to see Dan open my present. We showered and chilled until 8 when our bus arrived. Once we got on the bus we were so excited for the buffet dinner we had been promised but sadly, the clock kept ticking and the bus kept going and we never got our buffet. Instead we had a bottle of water, some biscuits and the second worst sandwich of my life (after whatever was slipped between bread on our Lao Airlines flight).
We arrived in Bangkok after a pretty uncomfortable sleep about 5:30am. We were dropped at Khao San Road which usually is filled with partying tourists and locals. However at 5:30am all I could see was litter lining the streets and monks walking in between collecting their daily alms. It was a very sad sight after seeing the same ritual in Luang Prabang. We checked into our hostel and slept until 11am because we never cope well with night busses.
As this was our third time in Bangkok, we decided to do some of the weirder stuff we could find. We considered the temple that has a David Beckham statue in it, we considered the penis shrine at one of the temples and we considered the airplane graveyard. But we really love food so I had the task of finding the strangest places to eat. For lunch we went to the Hello Kitty Cafe. We arrived very wet as we had to make it through one of Bangkok’s Songkran zones but we were ready for pink and hello kitty shaped food! We both had a Mama White’s brunch which was okay. Ammun had an iced coffee and I had a hot chocolate with Hello Kitty on. The food was very average and the service was below average but we went for the experience and loved looking around the two levels of cafe and the gift shop and spa. If the staff had the enthusiasm of staff at Disneyland or The Roald Dahl Museum (not to brag) then this place would be a little girls dream!


We later realised that we could have got to the cafe through the dry shopping centre so we thought we would exit through Silom One. Although we may have got a little bit sidetracked and headed to the 7th floor which was for health and wellbeing. Ammun went to have her nails done and I went for a long overdue back massage. The massage place was fully booked so I glumly walked to find Ammun. My luck turned when I realised this nail bar had massage chairs so I sat next to her and used the massage chair for free while I waited for her. Not the same as a real massage but better than nothing!


The place I had chosen for dinner was probably even more of a novelty than the Hello Kitty Cafe so we got a quick dinner from 7/11 beforehand with the intention of just getting a dessert and drink here. This place has probably the best service I have ever seen. The waiters are in fact multi-million pound robots! We were very excited to watch these larger than life robot men pick up our mango pudding, glide towards us and lay the tray down. We were even more excited when the 2 robots did an (almost) synchronised dance routine to Lady Gaga. The robots normally dance every 30 minutes but as the restaurant was so empty, we were treated to 4 dances including the actual dance routine to Gangnam Style. We were sad that the restaurant had no alcohol but we had a great time anyway!


After finally hailing down a taxi in the middle of nowhere, we got to Khao San Road and finally got to see what the hype was about. The water fights continued all night and the streets were packed. We went into two different bars for a bucket of cocktail in each. In the first we stayed bone dry but in the second we did get a bit wet as it was more open. We didn’t mind getting a little bit wet – as long as the drink stayed covered and we didn’t drink dirty water!
As you probably can guess if you’ve read my blogs before, Ammun and I left because our tummies dragged us to Burger King. We got even wetter on the way out of Khao San Road because everyone was drunk and didn’t get/ignored any hints that I don’t want water being constantly fired into my head.
Songkran was amazing and it was lovely to see locals and tourists playing together and not even needing to say anything – just laughing. The locals were all so fun and some used the traditional small cups which are meant to be used to wash away your sins from the past year. Most tourists embraced the national festival with a smile on their faces but if anyone ever annoyed me by taking it too far, it was a tourist.

The next day we arrived in Yangon, Myanmar relieved that we could finally wash our hair because it hasn’t been worth trying the last few days but we were wrong…

Annalise x

3 Replies to “Songkran aka Thai New Year”

  1. I was in Chiang Mai for Songkran as well and have just written a blog post about our time there! I also loved how the locals and tourists had fun together and I totally agree that it was the tourists who took it too far! Locals could tell if you didn’t want to participate outside of the city walls, but tourists didn’t care! We made sure we took the local approach and respected people’s wishes … but inside the City Walls, we certainly had a lot of fun with them! When we were in Bangkok, we also considered the David Beckham Temple but opted for Chinatown just around the corner from our hostel 😀 Lovely to read someone else’s experience of the same place! #feetdotravel

  2. This festival sounds amazing!!!! What a great idea. The hello kitty cafe also looks awesome! Very interesting blog 🙂 xx

  3. I loved Songkran when I was in Thailand, I spent it in Bangkok and it was mental, I have never seen a street so crowded! Also loving the robot dancing restaurant, wish I had found that x

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