Just a heads-up here: Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year festival a.k.a. the “world’s largest water battle” is just around the corner now. While the notorious “water festival” traditionally kicks off on April 13 (mark it on your calendar) and is celebrated for three days only the water-splashing party has been extended to as long as a full week in Pattaya and won’t stop before April 19, which is the main festival day (wan lai) in Funtown.
If you wish to join the annual madness and nonstop seven-day street party, which usually sees more than half a million people from all over Thailand and abroad flood into Pattaya, make sure you book a hotel room in good time. Alternatively, if you’re an expat and you’ve “been there, done that” time and time again (or you positively hate Songkran as some folks do) then how about “seeking shelter” in quieter areas of the kingdom for a week?
Despite the country facing the most severe water shortage in decades this year and authorities appealing to the public to use water as sparingly as possible, Songkran 2016 promises to become just as wet and wild as usual.
For a full week, locals and tourists will roam the streets of Pattaya 24/7 equipped with containers of water and high-pressure water guns, throwing sometimes ice-cool water or water mixed with talcum powder at everyone passing by. While the water throwing tradition was originally introduced as a symbolic method to wash off the sins of the year gone-by and to pay respect to the elderly, Songkran these days – let’s face it – has pretty much degenerated to the “world’s largest water battle”.
Little surprisingly, sexy Thai girls in revealing outfits (and the odd topless ladyboy) table-dancing in front of their bars in a kind of week-long “Miss Wet T-shirt” contest, have always been part and parcel of the Songkran experience in Pattaya, especially in famous water-splashing hotspots like Soi 6 and Soi 7. Last year, even a foreign woman was filmed dancing topless and exposing her breasts to a crowd of amused onlookers on Soi 6. To give you an idea of what’s awaiting you in Pattaya over Songkran, here’s a compilation of video clips from last year’s festival.
If that sounds (and looks) like 24/7 fun for you, better be quick and book your hotel room before Pattaya bursts at the seams over Songkran.
As every year, the biggest action can be expected in the usual Songkran hotspots such as Pattaya Beach Road and Soi 7, but you should find it virtually impossible to stay dry anywhere around Pattaya for a week. Beach Road will as usual be closed for traffic on “wan lai” (April 19) and there will be free concerts to enjoy for the public, including live performances by popular Thai rock bands such as Labanoon and Lomosonic, outside the Central Festival Pattaya Beach mall from April 16-19.
For safety reasons, just be careful when riding a motorcycle and keep your wallet, mobile phone, passport etc. in a plastic bag, at least during the day. Please also note that the Thai government has recently resolved to revive the harsh anti-drink driving campaign of the past New Year holiday period over Songkran.
The renewed crackdown on drunk driving will again include nationwide police checkpoints and won’t just allow authorities to temporarily seize vehicles and driving licences of offenders; no, drunk drivers may also be arrested and detained for up to 15 days. So just to be on the safe side you’re well advised to leave your motorcycle or car at home if you plan on drinking over Songkran.