Festivals, Chiang Mai
Concierge.com's insider take:
Wear drip-dry clothing for Songkran. The mid-April Thai New Year celebration is a blow-out splash party throughout the kingdom, but Chiang Mai's water festival is less hysterical—and more mindful of history and ritual—than Bangkok's. The celebration kicks off when Wat Phra Singh's sacred Buddha statue is paraded through the streets and sprinkled with lustral water. The following day, the devout also deliver handfuls of sand to build small chedis at various temples, symbolic of the dust they carry away on their bare feet throughout the year. The most magical event, however, is November's Loy Krathong. On the full-moon night, tens of thousands of Thai launch small banana-leaf boats containing candles, flowers, and incense on the Ping River in thanks for the life-giving waters or release paper lanterns into the sky to carry away bad luck.