Everyone loves a good festival, and Thailand has plenty of them. But not all may be worth planning a trip around. Festivals usually give off a better understanding of the country’s culture and enthusiasm, so there are a few in every country worth a visit.
Here is a list of festivals that you should include in your itinerary when you plan a trip to this beautiful country.
As the most important date in the Thai calendar, the Thai New Year or Songkran is celebrated nationwide. Get ready to get wet during this season, as splashing water is the norm throughout and you better bring your own water gun too!
It’s the official Thai New Year landing on April 13th each year and lasting around 2 to 3 days. During the festival, the streets fill up with people looking to soak and get soaked with super-soakers in hand! Water is used as a symbol of cleansing, which is exactly what the Thai want to do to start the New Year.
Phi Ta Khon is a tradition of the Dan Sai district of the Loei Province in Isan. It is better known as the ghost festival since it reflects the regions beliefs in ghosts and spirits. It occurs each year around June/July and is probably Thailand’s most colourful festival. Men dress up as spirits in bright colourful costumes and masks. Along with the costumes, there’s plenty of dancing and rejoicing.
The whole event is called Bun Luang, part of a Buddhist merit-making holiday also known as Bun Phawet.
The first day is the Ghost Festival is also called Wan Ruam (assembly day). The town’s residents invite protection from Phra U-pakut, the spirit of the Mun River. They then hold a series of games and take part in a procession wearing masks made of rice husks or coconut leaves with hats made from rice steamers, plus patchwork clothing. They also wear bells and wave wooden phalluses.
The second day of the festival incorporates costume, dance contests and parades. On the third and final day, the villagers listen to sermons from Buddhist monks.
Chiang Mai, known as the "Rose of the North" hosts this three day festival during the first weekend of February, at the end of the cool season. Displays of yellow and white chrysanthemums, as well as the Damask Rose, a variety found only in Chiang Mai abound.
This is the best time to enjoy the spectacular floral tapestry that blankets the land with colourful flowers such as the African Marigold, Globe Amaranth, Orchids of different varieties, Chrysanthemum, Celosia and assorted roses such as the ‘Fa Mui’ and thin ‘Uang Dok Lek’.
In Thailand, there is the belief that King Rama gave a piece of land known as Lopburi to Hanuman, the Monkey King. Thanks to this history, locals believe that monkeys bring good fortune. They also attract a lot of visitors, thereby contributing to Thailand’s tourism.
Every year on the 25th of November, a buffet to feed the famous long-tailed macaque monkeys at the Pra Prang Sam Yot Temple is held in Lopburi, which has come to be known as the Monkey Buffet Festival. Approximately 4000 kilograms of food and drinks is served for the monkeys every year.
A word of caution: these monkey are very accustomed to human presence and they won't hesitate a second to climb on people and "borrow" valuables for an undefined period of time. So, be careful and enjoy the festivities!
Of all the festivals of Thailand, the most spectacular and beautiful is the Loi Krathong festival. Loi Krathong is celebrated on one night during full moon of the 12th lunar month. Loi Krathong (literally translated to Floating basket or Floating crown) is a festival believed to date back 8 centuries in Thailand.
It involves placing lotus shaped rafts (Krathong) decorated with candles, incense and flowers onto water with the intention of bringing luck and fulfilling wishes. Traditionally the decorations are placed into rivers and canals but nowadays any water including lakes and ponds will do. A popular belief in Thailand is that if the candle on your Krathong stays lit until it disappears out of sight, you’re in for a year of good luck!
The festival of lights is celebrated all over Thailand. In Chiang Mai in Thailand’s North it’s celebrated slightly differently with a religious festival, Yi Peng. Here lanterns are released into the sky rather than water to pay homage to Buddha. At night, the sky is lit up with thousands of lanterns creating a beautiful light display!
For art lovers, the Ubon Ratchatani Candle festival is perfect. Held at the start of the Buddhist Lenten period (beginning of August), artists create larger than life wax sculptures as a Buddhist offering. Seventy or so wax creations are then paraded through the streets, amazing all spectators.
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is probably one of craziest festivals you will ever be a part of. The benign title of the festival hides the fact that the festivities are actually pretty violent and gruesome
This festival usually leaves a traveller mystified by the sheer length that humans go to display their devotion and celebrate religious observances. Observers should expect to see entranced mediums walking the streets of Phuket with their faces and bodies pierced with thin long pins, knives, stakes, swords, and any manner of sharp objects.
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is an annual event held during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar. It is believed that the vegetarian festival and its accompanying sacred rituals bestow good fortune upon those who religiously observe this rite.