Pattaya's Wan Lai Festival: How to survive the CRAZY Songkran water fight?
Songkran in Pattaya is unlike anywhere else in Thailand. The famous water festival is taken to extremes and the whole city becomes not so much one giant water fight as a week-long pitched battle! The gentle origins of this traditional celebration are mostly lost amongst the buckets of ice water, high-pressure soakers and foam parties on Beach Road.
While the Songkran holiday only officially lasts for three days (11th – 13th April), Pattaya’s party atmosphere means that you are likely to get a thorough soaking as much as a week beforehand and several days after. Some of the city’s expatriates, who have had their best office togs doused in freezing cold water once too often, choose to take the week off and escape to Koh Samet or other nearby havens while many others stock up on supplies and barricade themselves indoors. However, many more stick around for the best all-day wet and wild party in Thailand. If you like fun and hijinks, there is no better place to be in mid-April.
Songkran is the celebration of the traditional New Year in Thailand, a Buddhist holiday, and one could argue the world’ biggest water gun fight. Most travelers to Thailand that want to experience water festival come for the latter.
For three days, up to a week in some areas, people take to the street with buckets of water, super soaker water guns, hoses, and anything else that will help them delight in dousing people with water.
It is a huge celebration and national holiday in Thailand and great fun. There is a party like atmosphere throughout the cities and many festivals and events taking place throughout the celebration.
Songkran officially lasts three days, but City Hall commonly extends it in Pattaya so that it lasts a full week, with the last day being the craziest day. This additional holiday is called “Wan Lai”, which means “day that flows”, but is generally lumped together with and commonly referred to as Songkran. Although Wan Lai is only one day – the last day – most people link it to the earlier holidays, creating an extra few unofficial days of Songkran.
On Wan Lai Day, the water really does flow – practically continuously. Everybody is armed with a water dispenser of some description. Some favour the semi-traditional bucket, many go for a water gun and some use Heath Robinson high-pressure hoses made from a length of plastic plumbing pipe with a small hole at one and a plunger at the other. These are easily available but are considered too powerful and the police will confiscate them if they see you using them.
An additional weapon you are likely to encounter during Songkran in Pattaya is the mysterious white paste. This mix of talcum powder and water is commonly applied to the face (but this is Pattaya and it is the weapon of choice for most bar staff, so expect to end up with white hand prints all over). This has no cultural significance whatsoever and is done purely for fun, though it is considerably less fun when it gets into your eyes!
When is Songkran in Pattaya?
In Pattaya, the fun begins on April 11 and is not over until April 19! This festival is merely an excuse for a week-long, super water-battle throughout the entire city! Songkran originated with family members sprinkling each other with water to commemorate the Thai New Year; it has now erupted into high-pressure soakings with water guns, buckets of ice poured down your back or on a passing car, and foam parties on Pattaya's beaches. These activities spare no one - participants or bystanders – everyone is drenched by the end of each day!
Where to Go in Pattaya during Songkran?
Every bar will have a selection of water butts in front, generally with a few large blocks of ice floating in them. Most will ask that you buy at least one drink if you are going to reload your gun there, though you can find some butts free for public use if you look around long enough.
Naturally, this means that every bar becomes a nest of water shooters and you are liable to be ambushed and completely drenched as you walk past. With roads where every building is a bar – particularly Sois 6 and 7 – this creates complete bedlam and a constant unavoidable crossfire.
Beach Road is cut off to traffic and stages are set up for live music and foam machines. The fire department park their engines here, filling numerous water butts for revellers to reload their soakers from. On the roads that do allow vehicles, the main ones become a slow-moving traffic jam.
Pick-up trucks are turned into mobile parties, with their own water butts, the radio on full volume and many young Thais strafing pedestrians and other vehicles from the back.
Some of the more bizarre sights to see include monks sat in the back of pick-up trucks, rolling around town giving merit and blessings. Due to the great respect shown to them, their saffron robes remain perfectly dry while everything around them is drenched (and we strongly advise that you do not even think about trying to change that!).
The police, by contrast, probably get more drenched than anyone else. They give as good as they get, though, and many swap their side-arms for soakers!
Songkran in Pattaya is generally not actively dangerous, but there are those who do get hurt. With so much water flying around, it is only to be expected. Take particular care if you are driving a motorbike as revellers (more so the drunken ones) will have no qualms about throwing freezing water at you as you drive past. Avoid driving – take a songteaw or walk instead.
Avoid wearing or carrying anything expensive, particularly if it is electrical. Not only is it likely to get soaking wet, but pickpockets are known to work the crowd. Waterproof wallets to hang around your neck are widely available. You should carry an ample supply of sunscreen with you as, with the constant soaking, it will get washed off and will need reapplying.
Finally, be careful of who you target. Most people out and about during Songkran in Pattaya are up for fun and do not mind complete strangers hosing them down. Just be mindful of giving small children and elderly people a bucket of ice water down the neck and avoid shooting people in the face. Be sure that you are happy to take it and dish it out in equal measure, and if you are hoping to stay dry, do not leave your hotel.
Surviving Tips for Pattaya Songkran Water Fight
Expect to get wet, very wet – Only wear clothes you’d be ok with if they got ruined.
It’s going to be hot, very hot – April is the hottest month of the year, wear your sunscreen
Carry your belongings in a waterproof bag – Cash, wallet, passport, anything you shouldn’t get we. Don’t take out your cell phone or camera on the streets, find someplace inside
Keep your stuff secure – There are large crowds and with them come pickpockets.
Everyone is fair game – you’ll even see people (Thai’s) soaking police officers (not recommended if you are a visitor)
Be smart – Don’t throw water at young children, the elderly, monks, police, or shoot someone in the face.
Be safe – There is a lot of drinking going on and deaths from drinking and driving are at highs during Songkran. This goes for walking down the street, watch out for cars
Keep it clean – Cameras and Videos are everywhere now. There is always some drunken lout that becomes notorious for lewd behavior or undressing. This is not acceptable in Thailand, don’t be ‘that guy.’
It’s going to be busy and crowded – walk if you can or use public transportation if you must
Avoid motorbikes if you can – people will through buckets of water into the face of drivers. This can lead to losing control and crashing.
Have fun and smile! This is a time for celebration, enjoy it.
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My name is Jolie, I am a Vietnamese girl growing up in the countryside of Hai Duong, northern Vietnam. Since a little girl, I was always dreaming of exploring the far-away lands, the unseen beauty spots of the world. My dream has been growing bigger and bigger day after day, and I do not miss a chance to make it real. After graduating from the univesity of language in Hanoi, I started the exploration with a travel agency and learning more about travel, especially responsible travel. I love experiencing the different cultures of the different lands and sharing my dream with the whole world. Hope that you love it too!
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Also known as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival or the Kin Jay Festival, the Phuket Vegetarian Festival is an annual event celebrated primarily by the Chinese community in Thailand and throughout Southeast Asia.
Running for nine days, the vegetarian festival in Phuket is considered by many to be the most extreme and bizarre of festivals in Thailand. The Phuket Vegetarian Festival could be Thailand's answer to the Tamil festival of Thaipusam celebrated in neighboring Malaysia. Devotees not only adopt a special diet for the holiday, a select few participants prove their devotion by practicing self-mutilation.
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WARNING!The content and the images are not recommended for the faint of heart! Consider before continuing.
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