Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year festival, is just around the corner now and preparations for the world’s “largest water battle” are well under way.
If you wish to join the annual madness, which is like the final chapter of the high season and usually sees over half a million people from all over Thailand and abroad flood into Pattaya, make sure you book a hotel room in good time. With many tourists booking their holidays specifically to join the week-long water-throwing mayhem, it might prove to be difficult to find a reasonably priced room in a decent location at short notice.
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Songkran traditionally kicks off on April 13 and marks the beginning of the long-awaited rainy season following months of drought (at least on paper).
Also known and notorious as Thailand’s water festival, Songkran is just as wild as it is wet. Like it or not, you simply can’t help getting soaked wherever you go in the heat of the day. From dawn till dusk, locals and tourists will roam the streets of Funtown equipped with containers of water and high-pressure water guns, throwing water at everyone passing by.
And well, if you’re more into the visual side-effects of a virtually nonstop water-splashing party, you can surely expect to see many sexy ladies (and the odd topless ladyboy) in a kind of natural week-long “Miss Wet T-shirt” contest right on the streets of Pattaya. The clips compiled on the following page may give you a bit of an idea of what’s awaiting visitors to Pattaya over Songkran:
Are you ready to join the party?
Traditionally Songkran is celebrated for three days only (April 13-15). Here in Pattaya, however, the mayhem has been extended to as long as a full week and longer. Water-throwing activities are expected to start as early as April 11 and won’t stop before April 19, which is the main festival day (wan lai) in Pattaya and Jomtien. Naklua will celebrate wan lai one day earlier.
As usual, Pattaya Beach Road and all connecting side-streets will be closed for traffic on April 19, and the entire area will resemble some kind of water combat zone. Activities organized by city officials will include water-sprinkling ceremonies, a Buddha parade, live music and traditional dance performances on several stages to be set up along Beach Road.
Aside from Pattaya Beach Road and the Naklua area on April 18, the usual hotspots during the week will be Soi 6, Soi 7 and Soi 8 in Central Pattaya, as well as Soi Buakhao.
The Pattaya Mail in its March 27 issue has more details on the official Songkran celebrations scheduled for wan lai and notes: “City officials, as usual, pleaded for courtesy during water fights and laid down the usually ignored edicts against the use of PVC-pipe water cannons, ice cubes, skimpy clothing, excessive powder and alcohol.”
If that all sounds like 24/7 fun for you, better be quick and book your hotel room before Pattaya bursts at the seams over Songkran. For safety reasons, you’re just advised to be careful when riding a motorcycle and keep your wallet, mobile phone, camera etc. in a plastic bag, at least during the day. And truth be told, if you don’t fancy a week-long water-splashing street party, you might be better off avoiding Songkran hotspots like Pattaya and Chiang Mai altogether for a week, but “seek shelter” in quieter areas of the kingdom.