What is it?
Observed most famously in Thailand, but also in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and north-east India, Songkran is the celebration of the Buddhist Lunar New Year.
When is it?
While the dates change depending on the lunar cycle, Songkran is now officially held from 13 to 15 April in most of the countries listed above.
Traditional activities include making merit by giving alms to local monks and pouring water on Buddha statues to symbolise the cleansing of sins. These customs have now morphed into wilder water fights – where people take to the streets armed with water pistols, hoses and buckets.
Chiang Mai has a distinctive take on Songkran. Activities start on 12 April, when the revered Phra Buddha Sihing statue is taken on a vibrant procession through the city. The next day sees locals visiting Wat Prasingh temple to construct sand pagodas, a symbolic way of making merit. 14 April is when the water fights commence in earnest, and they continue into the next day.
Get a waterproof or Ziploc bag to keep your smartphone and camera safe from the inevitable drenching.
Where to experience it in Singapore
1. Dusit Thani Laguna Singapore
The wellness resort is offering a host of food and beverage promotions, activities and workshops to allow guests to soak in the festivities on the Little Red Dot. The first 50 bookings made to stay in the hotel during the festive celebration season between 5 to 18 April 2021 will receive a complimentary box of traditional Thai snacks. If you miss out, fret not, as you can also purchase the snacks at the hotel. During your stay, tuck into special Songkran dishes including Chef Donnapa’s Signature Khanom Jeen Nam Ngiao (Spicy Curry Pork Noodles) – a rich noodle dish with homemade curry broth – at all-day dining restaurant the Greenhouse; and Som Tum Gai Yang Kaeng Khanun (Pork & Jackfruit Curry) at Tee Deck, an al fresco bar and grill serving a selection of Thai-inspired BBQ dishes. To try your hand at making something, sign up for the Thai Tea-Time Snacks Workshop (17 April) that teaches you how to make Kanom Cheep Nok, or dumplings shaped like well-fed birds, as well as Chor Muang, purple-blossom dumplings.
2. Wild Wild Wet
The popular Downtown East water theme park is holding an epic Songkran Water Festival for the month of April that involves daily water gun fights (3pm to 5pm) in a massive water fight arena. Remember to bring your own super soakers and water blasters for the battle with roving talents who will be armed with water gun backpacks. In between getting soaked, snap some photos with the Thai-themed installations dotted around the waterpark such as an actual tuk-tuk, and tuck into Thai-inspired treats and beverages at Ola Beach Club. Do note that there’s a cap of 50 people at certain attractions.
3. Blue Jasmine
You won’t get drenched here, but you’ll still get to join in the Songkran fun by indulging in some delicious Thai dishes from its Songkran Festive A-La-Carte Buffet Dinner (available from 16 to 17 April 2021). A selection of dishes found in different parts of Thailand during the new year will be available and served fresh and hot to your tables. Start with the refreshing Thai salad Tam Mua, which consists of Thai green papaya, seafood, fresh vegetables and crispy chicken skin coated in a zesty dressing of lime juice, tamarind and fermented fish. Then move on to a steamed sea bass dish with a tangy lime and seafood sauce, as well as a fiery plate of squid stir-fried with a homemade chilli pesto sauce comprising Thai fresh chilli padi, galangal, garlic, turmeric and lime leaf. Best of all, the restaurant will be decorated with fresh lotus blooms floating in bowls of water, so you get to enjoy your meal in a peaceful atmosphere in line with the festivities. Desserts include a delightful mango sticky rice dish.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
SEE ALSO: Visit these heritage restaurants in Singapore for a taste of nostalgia
This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Silkwinds magazine and was updated on 13 April 2021.