Celebrating Songkran in Thailand

For Bangkok residents, there are two things you can do during Songkran. You can stay in Bangkok and get splashy or you can get out and escape the madness.

This year, the Eat Me family decided to avoid the watery mayhem of the Thai New Year water festival in Bangkok and close the restaurant for five days for a well-deserved break.

It’s also a bit of a ‘thank you’ to the team and a chance for us to celebrate our Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants award.

Not long after closing the courtyard gate in the wee hours this morning, twenty-one of us boarded a plane to Cambodia and the comparatively mellower location of Siem Reap, but more on that in another post.

For those of you celebrating Songkran in Thailand, prepare to get drenched.

While the Thai New Year holiday officially starts tomorrow and runs until 15th April, friends in Chiang Mai tell me the locals brought out their water pistols last night and the city is already saturated and it’s not because of the rain.

A traditional Theravāda Buddhist festival, the New Year holiday is observed in a number of Southeast Asian countries. Here in Cambodia it’s called Chaul Chnam Thmey, although the first day is called Maha Songkran.

It may just be one big water fight for many, but for Buddhists the festival represents new starts and regeneration and in the countryside it has historically included rituals to encourage the much-needed rain that’s necessary to ensure a good harvest.

Traditionally, the dousing of water was about cleansing. Buddhists visited the wats (pagodas) to sprinkle jasmine-scented water on the hands of monks and Buddha statues and participate in other merit-making rites like making offerings and building sand stupas decorated with colourful flags printed with the animals of the zodiac.

If you’re keen to experience the more traditional side of Songkran simply visit the nearest pagoda. Just make sure you leave the water pistol and bikinis at the hotel and dress respectfully.

When you’re ready to get wet, then you can dress anyway you like. Understand that you’re fair game anywhere and everywhere. Nowhere is safe. Although in Bangkok, our neighbourhood, Silom, is the preferred party spot for Thais, while tourists cram Khao San Road.

Make sure you buy a waterproof pouch for your cash, credit card, hotel key, and passport copy. The same vendors selling the buckets and water guns should have a stash.

Whatever you do, don’t throw water on old people, monks or babies – for pretty obvious reasons.

If you’re in Bangkok, don’t even think about using the roads. Traffic will be horrendous, so stick to the BTS Skytrain or MRT underground.

Our restaurant manager Thomas recommends you stick to the backstreets.

“Songkran is a laugh in the smaller sois off Sukhumvit and Silom. The big crowded avenues like Silom Road have become a turkey shoot with no escape and very little fun for anyone other than the shop boys who line the street with mud and iced water. Get into the backstreets with a group of friends where there’s room to move and the bars are open and you’ll have some fun.”

Enjoy! We’ll see you at the end of the week.

Eat Me will re-open on Friday 17th April. Enquiries for reservations can be made here.

Darren