How to culturally immerse yourself in Thailand’s New Year water festival

Thailand’s Maha Songkran World Water Festival entails young people washing their parents’ or elders’ hands with scented water. Picture: X.

Thailand’s Maha Songkran World Water Festival entails young people washing their parents’ or elders’ hands with scented water. Picture: X.

Published Mar 27, 2024


People travel to different locations for different reasons.

Some are looking to escape the fast-paced city life in favour of a tropical getaway, others are looking to explore different cities and sites, then there are those who want to temporarily live among wildlife in the bush.

Whether it's to relax on the beach, enjoy some unique and delicious local cuisine or to sightsee, a holiday can offer a much-needed retreat.

Cultural tourism is also gaining momentum in the travel sector as scores of people across the world are looking to expand their horizons by immersing themselves in the culture of another country.

This often involves travellers experiencing new cultures, tasting local delicacies and embracing the local lifestyle.

For those eager for a cultural adventure, Thailand’s Maha Songkran World Water Festival is set to be a treat for South Africans and global tourists.

The five-day long extravaganza takes place from April 11 - 15 in the capital city of Bangkok, along the renowned tourist hot spots of Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue and the Sanam Luang state park.

This gathering showcases Thailand’s vibrant cultural heritage through dazzling Songkran processions and festive revelries as it attracts people from around the world each year.

The vibrant festival takes place in the week of the Thai New Year, also known as the Songkran, which usually takes place annually after the rice harvest in mid-April.

This is a time of the year when the Thai reunite with their families and pay their respects to older adults, the ancestors and sacred Buddha images.

As will be the case during the festival, part of their new year rituals is the pouring of water which symbolises cleansing, reverence and good fortune.

Other activities include bathing important Buddha images, splashing water on family and friends, folk plays, games, music and feasting.

Thailand’s Maha Songkran World Water Festival involves splashing loved ones with water. Picture: X.

Apart from showcasing Thai culture and celebrating the new year, the Maha Songkran World Water Festival is expected to boost the country’s economy, and it is anticipated that the gathering will contribute an increase of around 18% in overall tourism revenue.

Meanwhile, the Thai cultural event will also include the Maha Songkran Parade featuring 20 grand processions and more than 1000 performers.

Some of the processions will feature authentic Thai fashion, games and entertainment. Songkran traditions and festivities will be on display at a dedicated zone during the festival.

As water is the main theme of the festival, it is also set to feature splash activities. There will be a dancing fountain, a water tunnel and a gigantic wading pool for attendees to enjoy.

Other cultural activities include the Song Nam Phra ritual of purifying a Buddha image with scented water as a way of paying respect to the Lord Buddha, and to bring good fortune.

The Rot Nam Dam Hua ritual, which entails young people washing their parents’ or elders’ hands with scented water, is another feature of the celebrations.

With environmental matters in mind, the Thai authorities have encouraged festival participants to discard waste plastic bottles at any of the many recycling points.

They can also join DIY up-cycling activities by turning plastic bottle caps into keychains, bracelets, necklaces or bottle openers or by buying up-cycling products such as floral printed shirts made of plastic waste at the festival