8 THAI CULTURAL FESTIVALS YOU HAVE TO EXPERIENCE

This land of smile definitely has one of the richest histories and cultures in the world. The culture of Thailand has been crafted for over 700 years and evolved greatly over time.  With influences from religions including Buddhism and Hinduism; and countries such as China, India and Cambodia, this country offers a unique combination of culture for us to enjoy.  There are numerous annual cultural festivals in Thailand, however these are the eight that you should put in your bucket-list!

SONGKRAN FESTIVAL
Where: Thailand Nationwide | When: 13-15 April

It is well-known that the weather in Thailand is hot, and April is the hottest month of all. However, Thai people are excited and looking forward to this month. Why? Because it’s a long awaiting holiday, Songkran Festival! It’s a Thai Traditional New Year where family and friends join together and show gratitude to their elders. As the meaning of Songkran is ‘to pass,’ they visit temples, making merit and praying for the new year. The highlight of this event is water. Songkran is also a ritual of bathing. In believing by doing so will give them good luck, Thai people pour water mixed with Thai traditional perfume on Buddha images, Buddhist monks, and elders. What else? Oh, they splash themselves and others! Water Fight! It’s a meaningful 3-day-war though. Splashing water is to cleanse oneself, washing away bad things, and the water also represents prosperity. So what to do in Thailand next summer? Join Songkran Festival, of course!

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LOY KRATHONG & LANTERN FLOATING
Where: Chiang Mai | When: November

The night is dark, but the moon shines brightly. The light of hope is floating on the water, and the goddess is showing the way. It’s a practice of appreciation to the Mother of Water, Phra Mae Kongka. In November, on a night when the moon is at its fullest, Thai people will go to a river to ask for forgiveness for polluting the river and show their gratitude to the water goddess. Some ask for her blessing and wish to wash away bad lucks. It’s a tradition called Loy Krathong. Loy is ‘to float,’ and Krathong is what Thai people make to sail along the river. Banana leaves are famous and the most used material in making Krathong. It comes in a round shape with petals like a lotus flower, decorated with a candle, incenses, and some flower. In the North of Thailand, people Loy Krathong in the sky. Yes, they make the sky full of stars. It’s a Chiang Mai festival called Yi Peng or Lantern Floating. Lanterns are lit up and set free as they carry all wishes to the moon. It’s a fascinating sight to see and a memorable event to participate in.

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ELEPHANT FESTIVAL
Where: Surin Province | When: November

Most souvenirs from Thailand have elephants in their design. Why is that? Well, elephants and Thai people have a long history together, and the elephant was once centered on the flag of Thailand. There is a festival celebrating the connection between elephants and Thai people. The Elephant Festival is held in Surin province on the third weekend of November to honor this beloved animal that had taken part in Thai culture. The elephants march through the city and get to enjoy a fruit buffet. Then they play sports like football and tug of war and play tricks. Moreover, and more importantly, the elephants show their skills and strength by dressing in battle suits and perform a traditional Thai war. It’s a great experience to learn about how significant the elephants are to Thai people.

elephant festival

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ROCKET FESTIVAL (BOON BUNG FAI)
Where: Yasothon Province | When: May

To infinity and beyond! Let’s go to Yasothon then! In this northeastern part of Thailand, it takes place a Rocket Festival or Boon Bung Fai, held on the second Saturday of May. The purpose of this event is to glorify and worship the gods and goddesses above to ensure that they will bless the people with pouring rain for cultivation. The rockets are designed in different sizes and styles. The winner of the competition goes to the one whose rocket flies up the highest. Besides the contest, there are parades, performances, and other activities along with the festival. Bun Bang Fai is indeed an overwhelming experience. Up, up, here we go! Let’s fly!

Rocket festival Thailand

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PHI TA KHON
Where: Loei Province | When: July

Almost all of the Legends has its spooky side. Now let’s peek-a-boo at Phi Ta Khon story from Loei, northeastern Thailand. This ghost festival is originally believed it’s a celebration for the return of Prince Vessandorn, Buddha in his previous life. Since he had left for a long journey, his followers and the villagers were overjoyed when he came back safely. They then threw an overwhelming party. It was a joyful feeling like the loved one had come back to life. The celebration was enormous and so loud that might even wake the spirits up to join them. The major gathering is in Dan Sai district, and it takes place in July. The people dress up as a ghost, wearing a long white face mask with a big nose. At the top of the ghost’s head is made of sticky rice steamer. The ghosts and the villagers come together in the parade, celebrating and dancing. It’s an amusing and entertaining sight to see. Oh, and somehow, the ghosts don’t look scary at all!

Phi ta Khon

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PHUKET VEGETARIAN FESTIVAL
Where: Phuket | When: September-October

Have you ever seen such a big celebration for eating vegetarian food? I’ll give you one. Try visiting Phuket between September and October. It’s the ninth Chinese lunar month where the people abstain from eating meat and pray for the Nine Emperor Gods. This belief of the Chinese community has taken long ago in Phuket. In the time when there was an epidemic, by doing so, the inhabited Chinese people recovered from the disease. The practice then spread out in the local and became a tradition. During the period of the celebration which lasts nine days, the people dress tidy in white as it represents purification. The highlight of this event that makes it thrilling is the acts appealing to the gods such as body piercing and fire walking. Carry your vegetarian food tight while participating in the festival. Otherwise, you’ll faint!

Vegetarian festival Phuket

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Fruit Festival
Where: Rayong & Chantaburi Province | When: May-June

If you’re a fruit lover, it’s the right and excellent decision to visit Thailand. However, please do come between May and June because Thai people are celebrating the Fruit Festival! It takes place in many parts of Thailand. The most famous destinations are Rayong and Chantaburi provinces. The idea is to help and support the farmers and local people. It’s a good opportunity for having a fresh and quality fruit buffet, and you get to pick them by yourself right from the orchard! Now, what’s your favorite fruit?

Fruit festival thailand

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CANDLE FESTIVAL
Where: Ubon Ratchathani Province | When: July

One of the few festivals that lights up the town in flame. No, just kidding! They don’t light the candles. However, they do parade them. It’s a fancy carnival where the people in Ubon Ratchathani and the artists from all around crave candles (huge ones!) into Buddha images and fascinating creatures from Buddhist legends. This festival is held during Asahna Bucha and Khao Phansa days (Buddhist Lent). Along the street where the giant wax sculptures float, young boys and girls dressed beautifully in Thai clothing customs perform traditional dancing. Even though it can be described as a carnival, it’s practically a ceremony. The people make merit on a large scale since the monks will confine themselves in temples for three months, doing meditation, studying, and reflecting. The city is glowing during the festival, especially at night. So don’t miss the chance to be stunned by the seeming candlelight!

Candle festival Thailand

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Author

Noel M.