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Holi after Holi! How about that?

9 mins. read

As we wrap up Holi 2024, here’s an exciting idea for you. What if, this April, we could experience another festival similar to Holi all over again?

Published in the Sunday Indian Express Magazine - Eye on 31 March, 2024

Last weekend was all about Holi, a festival where literally everyone in India celebrates life with their loved ones. As we wrap up Holi 2024, here’s an exciting idea for you. What if, this April, we could experience another festival similar to Holi all over again? Confused? Let me explain.

But for this, we have to fly east, to Thailand, where the famous Songkran festival awaits us. Known as one of the years most fun celebrations, Songkran is akin to Holi but with a distinct Thai flavour. It involves water fights, cultural rituals, and communal gatherings that bring Thai people and tourists together in a celebration of renewal and joy.

So what is Songkran? It’s a celebration that welcomes the Thai New Year, traditionally celebrated from April 13th to 15th. Renowned for its exuberant water festival, Songkran is far beyond just mere festivity; it is a festival deeply rooted in Thai culture, reflecting values of purification, renewal, and a fresh beginning for everyone involved.

Songkran in Thailand and Holi in India, despite their geographical differences, share several key similarities. Both festivals mark the beginning of a new season and are celebrated with joyous communal activities. Holi celebrates the arrival of spring. Similarly, Songkran, marking the Thai New Year, is famous for its water fights, which are believed to wash away bad luck and bring about a fresh start.

As I realised in 2018, when it comes to Songkran, being there is when you realise how crazy this festival really is. Youtube videos or Instagram reels just don’t cut it. Speaking of the cultural side, Songkran commences with locals visiting temples to pray and offer food to monks. A pivotal ceremony during the festival involves the ritualistic pouring of water over Lord Buddha statues, a gesture that signifies the washing away of sins and bad luck, reinforcing the festivals spiritual core.
But if I were to talk of Songkrans most visible and universally enjoyed element, it is undoubtedly the high-spirited water fights that transform the streets of Thailand into arenas of celebration. Equipped with water guns and buckets, locals and tourists together engage in playful battles, with the belief that drenching someone in water brings good luck in the new year. Streets across cities and villages come alive as people, armed with water guns and buckets, douse each other in water, symbolising the eradication of the past years negatives and the welcoming of positive energy and prosperity.

Moving onto our main question then: Where in Thailand can you celebrate Songkran? So here is my list. First, as you may have already guessed, is Bangkok. The capital city transforms into a gigantic water fight zone, with major streets closed to traffic and turned into arenas for water-throwing. One advantage of celebrating Songkran in Bangkok is the fact that besides the water fights, Bangkok offers cultural events, traditional performances, and the opportunity to visit numerous temples for a more traditional celebration.

Then there’s Chiang Mai - which is renowned for having one of the biggest and most traditional Songkran celebrations in Thailand. If you are aware, Chiang Mai was built as a walled city surrounded by a moat, which you can still see the remains of today. This moat plays a central role in the celebrations, with people gathering around it to splash water and to enjoy the festivities, which can last up to six days.

If you plan to celebrate in Pattaya, then remember that Pattayas Songkran celebration, known as Wan Lai, takes place a week after the official dates, extending the festival period. The beach city turns into a lively party spot, with water fighting along the beachfront. Another place to celebrate Songkran is Phuket. With direct flight access from multiple cities in India, Phuket offers a mix of wild water fights, especially at Patong Beach, and traditional Buddhist ceremonies across the islands many temples. The beach setting adds a tropical backdrop to the celebrations, with tourists and locals engaging in water fights on the streets and beach parties at night.

If you are after a more traditional celebration, there’s Ayutthaya, which offers a unique twist to the Songkran celebration by incorporating elephants into the festivities. Elephants, decorated and prepared for the occasion, playfully spray water on passersby, offering a unique and memorable experience. This gives you a blend of fun and tradition, set against the backdrop of the ancient capitals historical sites.
Each of these cities brings its own unique flavour to the Songkran festival, offering a range of experiences from the ultimate water fights to more solemn, traditional ceremonies. All in all, whether we are talking about Songkran or Holi, what matters is that at the heart of both festivals lies a deep respect for familial and societal values. Both emphasise the importance of family and community, with rituals that strengthen individual ties.

In Holi, we have a day dedicated to familial love, while Songkran includes the practice of younger members pouring water over the hands of elders as a sign of respect and to seek blessings. In many ways, after multiple trips to Thailand, I believe that despite their distinct cultural backgrounds, Holi and Songkran mirror each other in celebrating lifes renewal, the importance of community, and our shared desire for joy and togetherness.

Whether youre looking for a party atmosphere, cultural immersion, or a mix of both, Thailands Songkran festival definitely has something to offer. So are you ready to partake in a water festival again? I want to, and so should you! Come, let’s Celebrate Life!

Travel Tip of the Week

Now that we are in the mood to travel again, let me introduce you to a new feature in our articles starting today. We are calling it the ‘Travel Tip of the Week’. As you may be aware, we have two travel podcasts called 5 Minute Travel Tips and Travel Explore Celebrate Life, which you can listen to on Spotify, JioSaavn, Apple Podcasts or wherever you like listening to your podcasts. Drawing from my conversations with guests, tour managers, and partners, this section is all about one travel tip every week that aims to help you and your loved ones plan more enjoyable and efficient trips.

Today, I want to focus on a travel essential that often presents a dilemma: shoes. Shoes are something that we have a love-hate relationship with when it comes to travelling. The paradox of shoes during travel is well-known; theyre crucial for comfort yet notorious for hogging suitcase space. So my golden rule before packing is prioritising comfort over appearance. The main thing to remember is that comfort is key. Even if your shoes look good, if they arent comfortable, they can negatively impact your trip.
Moreover, resist the temptation to pack brand-new shoes for your trip. If you buy new shoes right before a trip, there is a large possibility that you might suffer from a shoe bite. You cannot enjoy a trip if you are in pain due to a shoe bite and cant walk. One thing that I often prioritise is comfort over fashion, especially when on a trip, as you tend to walk a lot.

This leads me to my third point.. Limit yourself to three pairs of shoes in your suitcase. Typically, youll need a pair of versatile runners or trainers for extensive walking, stylish sneakers for casual outings, and, if necessary, formal shoes for events. Dont forget a pair of flip-flops or sandals, especially for beach destinations, as they are lightweight and space-efficient. Choose your shoes based on the trips activities and climate, ensuring they match your outfits to avoid fashion mishaps. By packing smart and minimal, you ensure mobility and comfort, leaving room in your luggage for other essentials or even an additional pair of shoes from your travels. So that’s my travel tip this week, shoes can definitely make or break your trip, so choose wisely! Until the next time, keep Celebrating Life!

March 30, 2024


Neil Patil
Neil Patil

Founder & Director, Veena World

More Blogs by Neil Patil

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