Thailand celebrates a new year not once, not twice but three times! In addition to the standard global new year, there is Songkran (the Thai new year) and the Chinese New Year. There is a large Chinese-Thai population in the country, so this is also celebrated with lots of zeal and it is great fun to be a part of. You can see concerts, colourful parades, lots of chinese food, chinese dancing and general partying. Check up on the net for the exact date in the year you are going, as it changes all the time.
Songkran is a famous festival which marks the beginning of a new solar year and the summer season in Thailand. It's Thailand's most popular festival, starting officially on April 13 (though some cities start celebrating a couple of days earlier) and lasting between three and five days, depending on where you are in the country.
Traditionally, families and friends celebrate Songkran by visiting temples and splashing water on each other to wish each other good luck.
Over the years, it’s evolved into a nationwide water fight and a fantastic reason to travel and party. Most employers let their staff take time off over Songkran, and lots of them get drunk and have a good time.
Bangkok and Chiang Mai are the craziest places to celebrate Songkran. The Khao San Road and Silom areas of Bangkok go absolutely mental. But I'd say Chiang Mai is the wildest place to celebrate in Thailand. It starts with an opening ceremony that includes a colourful parade around Chiang Mai city.
You can start by pouring some Thai scented water on a Buddha image, check out some traditional cultural performances and join in the massive water fights taking place on just about every street.
Things really get mad at night time, with the celebrations continuing well into the morning.
Just remember, you are 100% guaranteed to get wet!
Water used in a different way is the stand out feature of Loi Krathong, the alluring festival of lights that delights many tourists and backpackers every year. Held on the full moon of the 12th lunar month, usually in November, the festival sees Thais floating (loi) tiny banana leaf offerings (krathong) on waterways, lakes and ponds all over the kingdom to ask forgiveness from the goddess of water for polluting her waterways. Traditionally the krathong are made in the shape of a lotus flower, containing lighted candles, joss sticks and some coins.
Thais believe the krathong also carry away their sins as the tiny vessels bobble along the waterway in a romantic sea of lights. This is a great spectacle to witness. Also you will see travelling fairs around with rides and games to play, as well as Thai people dressing up in traditional clothing. This is the most beautiful event Thailand has to offer, so if you are in the country make sure you experience it! Again, check for the exact dates as it changes every year.