April Joy: Best Ways to Experience Traditional New Year in Thailand, Lao and Cambodia

Since April 2024 approaches, Indochina countries like Thailand, Lao and Cambodia come to life with the biggest festive events. Through this article, you can take a closer look at the New Year festivities. We will share with you the highlight destinations, as well as bring you insights into the local traditions and experiences, which you won’t want to miss when traveling during the new year of Thailand, Lao and Cambodia.

Differences between Songkran, Boun Pi Mai, and Chaul Chnam Thmey

Lao, Cambodia, and Thailand new year are celebrated from Apr 13 to Apr 16. They have similar new year festivals since they share the same Khmer culture. However, each festival, Chaul Chnam Thmey, Boun Pi Mai, and Songkran, has its own unique traditions and customs. During the New Year festival, Thailand and Laos are exceptionally vibrant and fun with water battles.

When you visit the Chaul Chnam Thmey, you will be able to experience the traditional Khmer new year, complete with religious and cultural ceremonies.

During Boun Pi Mai, you can learn more about the religious and cultural significance of Lao. It is a time for families to come together and pay respect to their ancestors, as well as for renewal and forgiveness. One of the most vital and meaningful traditions of Pi Mai Lao is the baci ceremony, in which friends and family gather to tie white strings around each other’s wrists as a symbol of good luck and unity.

If you’re looking for something fun, the Songkran festival is around energetic activities from street parties, to water splashing, and trying traditional Thai food. Besides that, Thai people also come together, clean their homes, and pay respect to elders.

And finally, remember that you are not allowed to splash water to monks, elder people, or some well-dressed women who are on the way to occasional new year events.

Songkran Festival 2024 – The Water Festival in Thailand

The Most Exciting Things of Songkran

The Songkran Festival is a vibrant and exciting celebration that attracts tourists from all over the world. Here are some reasons why you should experience the Water Festival:

Water Fights

songkran festival 2023

One of the most iconic part of Songkran Festival is water-splashing, which is a playful and fun way for participants to cleanse themselves of bad luck and welcome the new year.

Cultural Immersion

Songkran is not only about water fights, but it is also an opportunity to immerse yourself in Thai culture. You will be fascinated by the cultural significance of the festival and the traditional activities such as merit-making and offerings to Buddha images. Not at all, visiting temples, and participating in traditional games and dances make you an unforgettable memory.

Street Food and Festivals

street food in Songkran Thailand

Thailand wears its pride on its plate in an enormous diversity of dishes. Especially, during the water festival, you can sample a range of traditional dishes and sweets. The food at Songkran is an experience in itself. Additionally, the festivals and live music that take place in the streets provide an opportunity for tourists to experience Thai culture and traditions in a unique way.

Socializing with Locals

Finally, tourists often find the opportunity to socialize with locals. The friendly of the Thai people mixed with the festive atmosphere creates a perfect opportunity for you to interact with locals and learn more about Thai culture.

All of these elements come together to make Songkran Festival an exciting and colorful celebration that provides a unique glimpse into Thai culture and tradition.

Best place to enjoy Songkran 

During Songkran, the streets are filled with people splashing water on each other as a sign of purification. Both Pattaya and Phuket are popular tourist locations during the Songkran Festival, but each offers a unique experience.

Why Pattaya?

Pattaya is known for its vibrant nightlife and bustling street parties, making it an ideal place for those want to experience the energy and excitement of Songkran. The city is also home to a large expat community, contributing to a diverse and inclusive atmosphere during the festival.

Why Phuket?

Phuket is well-known for its beautiful beaches and lush tropical scenery. A trip to Phuket during Songkran is ideal if you are looking to escape the rush and bustle of city life. The beaches come alive with water-splashing festivities, music, and dance, allowing you can chill-out here.

Choosing the best place to enjoy Songkran depends on personal preferences and travel style. If you are looking for a more traditional and cultural experience, Phuket may be the better option. And Pattaya is the way to go for someone who loves energetic and lively celebration.

Boun Pi Mai – Lao New Year

The Most Exciting Things of Boun Pi Mai

The celebratory spirit extends from the bustling downtown of Vientiane to the quiet villages of Pakse and Luang Prabang. You’ll witness joyful faces of residents dressed in traditional garb and making offerings for their ancestors everywhere you go.

Baci ceremony

The “Baci” ceremony is one of the highlights of Bun Pi Mai celebrations. It is a traditional ritual when family members and friends come together, and then they tie white cotton threads around each other’s wrists. The act symbolizes the strengthening of bonds between friends, family, and communities and is believed to bring good fortune and unity for new year.

Water splashing

splash water in lao newyear

It is considered that the last day of Boun Pi Mai is the most thrilling one. Before pouring water on each other, they exchange well wishes. They often splash water on their dwellings, furnishings, and animals for good luck. As a result, being poured water on these days is fortunate for you, it expels the bad things in the last year and will bring you happiness and health in the coming year. Let us seize the opportunity to enjoy this fantastic festival in such a beautiful country as Laos.

Explore the traditional festival

Rocket Festival during Boun Pi Mai

Another highlight of Bun Pi Mai is the “Rocket Festival,” where locals build bamboo rockets and launch them into the sky to bring rain for the upcoming year’s harvest. This lively and colorful festival is a display of the Lao people’s deep-rooted beliefs in their traditions and is a must-see for any traveler.

Street parades

The streets are fully covered with music and dance as the sun sets and the night goes down. People of all ages gather together to dance and sing for welcoming the new year with open hearts and joyful spirits. Whether you participate or merely watch, the experience is unforgettable.

Bun Pi Mai will bring you a memorable experience with its blend of cultural ceremonies and exciting festivals. April is an excellent time to pack your luggage, bring your camera, and participate in the traditional Lao New Year celebration.

Best places to experience Boun Pi Mai

While Bun Pi Mai is celebrated throughout Laos, tourists in the capital of Vientiane or Luang Prabang see the holiday at its most intense.

Why Vientiane?

In Vientiane, it’s easy for you to spot families going the rounds of the different temples to bathe the Buddha statues. Among them, Wat Phra Kaew, the city’s oldest temple, is the most popular. You will be able to witness the colorful processions of people dressed in traditional costumes, and the lively performances of music and dance. Don’t miss out on trying some delicious traditional Laotian food that is served during the festival, such as sticky rice and mango.

This is a great destination for those who want to experience the traditional side of Laos, as well as its modern city culture. Don’t miss out on trying some of the delicious traditional Laotian food that is served during the festival, such as sticky rice and mango.

Why Luang Prabang?

If you’re interested in experiencing traditional Lao culture and history, Luang Prabang is perfectly chosen. This is a historic city known for its stunning temples, rich in traditional architecture and beautiful natural scenery. During Bun Pi Mai, the city is transformed into a vibrant celebration, with processions, water splashing, and other festivities.

Why Pakse?

Pakse is a city located in southern Laos and is known for its scenic countryside, and historic temples. If you visit this city during Lao New Year you can experience the best of Lao culture from traditional music, dance, and food.

Each of these cities offers unique feeling during Bun Pi Mai. No matter where you go in Laos, you will be sure to experience the rich cultural heritage and excitement of this unique celebration.

Choul Chnam Thmey – Cambodian New Year

Best things to do during Choul Chnam Thmey

The arrival of Choul Chnam Thmey is a time for joy and celebration. Here are some of the best ways to embark on the magic of this festival.

Watching the cleaning ceremony Cambodia New Year cleaning ceremony

On the the third day of this festive, it is more traditional religious and focuses on cleaning. It is distinguished by the ritual washing of the face, chest, and feet; people mix water with scent and wash Buddha statues. People will pour the remaining perfume over themselves to bring good luck and fortune, or they may lightheartedly pour it over their companions.

Enjoy delicious Cambodian cuisine

No celebration is complete without food, and Choul Chnam Thmey is no exception. Don’t miss indulging in delicious Cambodian food, such as “Amok” (steamed fish in coconut milk) and “Lap Khmer” (spicy beef salad), and savor the flavors of the country.

Best places to experience the traditional Chaul Chnam Thmey 

If you’re wondering which place is perfect to spend your trip in the traditional Chaul Chnam Thmey, look no further than Phnom Penh. The bustling capital city, known for its rich history and vibrant culture, truly comes to life during this special time of year. From the lively celebrations at Wat Phnom to the unbeatable energy of the city, there are countless reasons why Phnom Penh is the ideal destination for this unforgettable holiday.

Phnom Penh is centrally located in Cambodia, so you can easily access other parts of the country to experience the full range of Chaul Chnam Thmey festivities. More than that, it gives you an opportunity to experience this cultural richness first-hand through traditional dance performances, religious ceremonies, and food. While exploring the Cambodian culture you even enjoy the comforts of a city offering range of accommodation options and modern amenities.

Tips to plan to travel Southeast Asia in April to enjoy the fullest 

While our focus lies primarily on Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, we cannot overlook the captivating allure of Vietnam, which shares a deep historical and cultural connection with its neighboring countries. So gather your loved ones, pack your bags, and get ready for a remarkable ultimate Southeast Asia trip that will leave you with cherished memories for a lifetime.

If you are planning to travel with kids this April, you should take a look at our list of Vietnam and Cambodia family tours. You can find different itinerary ideas with a wide variety of prices, routes, activities, and accommodations to help you have an overview of your upcoming journey.

The traditional new year celebrations in Indochina offer an unforgettable experience for travelers. Start planning your trip to Cambodia, Lao and Thailand today and discover the best things to do during this special event just by contacting us.

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IV Travel Specialist

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