Love it or hate it, if you are in Thailand between the 13th & 15th of April one thing is for sure, you will not be able to avoid it, SONGKRAN!

Songkran is the celebration of the traditional Thai New Year and is by far the biggest and most popular festival in Thailand. A national holiday of at least 3 days is declared and many Thai's take the opportunity to travel home to their villages and visit family. Many old customs take place during these visits such as washing the hands of the elders in the family with "Nam hom" perfumed water, the giving of small gifts such as towels and soap, placing a garland of flowers around the elders necks. This is done as a mark of respect and also to wish them good luck for the coming year and these customs should not be overlooked due to the ensuing madness that is to follow.

OK now for the fun part! During Songkran and most likely a good few days preceding it, Thailand turns into what can only be described as one very, very large water fight.

Dare to leave the comfort of your residence and you WILL get wet! You could choose to stay inside for a week after stocking up on food from the local supermarket but it's probably easier and certainly a lot more fun just to join in the party.

Prepare for battle - Place anything that can be water damaged inside a resealable sandwich bag. The Thais method of choice for protecting their mobile phones is a condom, allegedly it's effective 96% of the time!

Probably the best way to enjoy the festival is in the back of a pick-up truck suitably equipped with large bins for storing water but watch out for those mischievous Thai's who have chilled their water to near freezing. Songkran may be held at the hottest time of year but that ice cold water still manages to make the nerve endings scream in discomfort.

Cruise around the city taking in the many strange sights on offer and then head over to Nong Prajak Park which is the main venue in Udon. There you will be greeted by streams of trucks, cars, tuk tuks, motorbikes and the thousands on foot that have all come to play. Once there don't expect to get through it quickly, the traffic can be severe.

If you are a westerner you will find that you are suddenly more popular than you ever thought possible and many Thai's will want to wish you Happy New Year and then wipe talcum powder on each cheek. You may well also be offered to join them in a drink and of course that is your decision to make but our advice is simply that if you wish to join them it is perfectly safe to do so.

We believe that if you enter Songkran with the spirit of fun in your heart you will experience something that will live a long time in your memory and raise a smile every time its recalled.

NB It should be noted that during Songkran the statistics for road traffic accidents increase significantly therefore it would be wise to take extra care whilst driving even the shortest distance. The Police presence at roadside check points is also greatly increased so please don't drink and drive, the penalties for being caught are more severe during the festival.


Loy Krathong

Loy Krathong takes place on a different date in each year (21st November in 2010) as it is is based on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month which is usually falls in November. It is widely regarded as the most most romantic of Thai festivals and if your in Thailand around November it would be best to be close to a body of water if you wish to experience this charming ritual.

"Loy' is the Thai word for float and "Krathong" means circular object decorated with banana leaves and flowers and these are exactly what you will see in their hundreds if not thousands floating down rivers, bobbing gently in lakes and floating out to sea all over Thailand on the night of the full moon. With each one illuminated by candles it is clear why the festival is viewed as romantic.

Couples and singles alike launch their Krathong in the hope of gaining insight into their romantic future, immediately sinking to the murky depths is not viewed as a good sign!

The Krathong also symbolises the taking away of any previous bad luck experienced in the preceding year.

Couple the thousands of Krathong shimmering on the waters surface with the many Chinese lanterns that are launched high into the sky Loy Krathong can be a truly visually stunning sight.

If you wish to participate yourself there will be a multitude of Krathong on offer close to any area that it is taking place. They range from around 30 baht for a small, plain one to around 100 baht for the more elaborate.

Once again Nong Prajak Park is the centre of activities for Udon Thai.