The focus of the festival is on family, community, and nature. Its timing coincides with the end of the dry season and the beginning of the wet season in South East Asia. Traditionally, it is a time for reflection, gestures of respect to elders, renewal, and cleansing by sprinkling water. However, the festival has perhaps become best known around the world as one very wet and one very wild water fight for all ages.
The 13th of April (Songkran Day) is the main day of the festival. On this day, packs of people - locals, expats, tourists, the young and the old - will hit the streets of Phuket to thrash and splash about gallons of water. Cross their path and you will get wet. Guaranteed. It is probably best to join the masses; just be sure to leave your non-waterproof valuables at home.
Songkran Festival 2014: If you leave your hotel room, you will get wet at the Thailand Water Festival
As well as going a little crazy and cooling off with the water throwing fun, be sure to explore the traditional aspects of the festival. Processions, cultural performances, and beauty pageants will be held at temples around Phuket. Wat Chalong is the most important of the Buddhist temples in Phuket and attracts the largest crowd of Songkran worshipers and spectators. Rituals performed include building sand pagodas, bathing Buddha images with scented water, washing the hands of elders and monks, and applying chalk powder to the face and body.
Songkran Festival 2014: Explore the traditional aspects of the Thailand Water Festival
An interesting Songkran tradition is the beauty pageant of the Songkran Queen. The pageant represents a Thai legend about a king who cut off his head and instructed his seven daughters to carry the head around a mountain, one at a time. As the legend goes, the daughter who carries her father's head on Songkran Day is that year's Songkran Queen.
For ease of reference in modern times, each of the seven daughters represents a day of the week. The Songkran Queen for a particular year is the daughter whose "day" on which Songkran falls. Furthermore, each daughter has been allocated "preferences" that are used by prophets to foresee the events of the coming year.
Songkran Festival 2014: Visit Wat Chalong to participate in the traditional aspects of the Thailand Water Festival
In 2014, Songkran Day (April 13) falls on a Sunday. Therefore, the Songkran Queen will be the daughter Tungsatevee. In terms of "preferences", Tungsatevee wears a red dress. She eats wild fruit. She holds a discus in her right hand and a shell in her left. And she travels on a garuda (a large mythical bird). Hmmm. Red dress - Wild fruit - Shells - Travels on the back of a large mythical bird. I like the sound of the Thai New Year 2557.
We arrived this day, and by good fortune we were staying north of Phuket town as taxis weren't going there - the traffic was taking SIX hours to get there. People were driving round in trucks spraying everyone as they drove past. Crazy stuff. Our kids were given water pistols while I checked in and then the whole resort had a big water fight...next time I'll plan a little better as we missed the biggest day!