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The Five Best Festivals in Thailand

by Travelbag on 29 May 2015, 13:05PM

The fun-loving exotic haven of Thailand is a country that is well-known for the temples and beaches that attract visitors from around the world. It is a comforting, sacred place that you can’t help but adore.

Beyond the bright lights of Bangkok, the adventurous activities of Phuket and the stunning island of Koh Samui, there are other ways to get an insight into Thai culture – festivals. The country has countless festivals during the year as they come together to celebrate special events and religious dates. Here we will run down five of the best festivals to look out for when travelling to Thailand.

Songkran

You have probably seen pictures (and videos) of the Songkran Water Festival online but it is not until you have experienced it that you understand just how enormous this celebration is. A truly unique occasion, it is an event full of tradition which is celebrated nationwide.

Intro1

The meaning of the word is ‘move into’ and this refers to the orbit of the sun. While Thailand celebrates the Western New Year on January 1st, this is celebrated in April (usually the 13th) to mark the start of a new solar year.

Officially, it is a three-day festival but in the north it often lasts for a lot longer than that. The water throwing is associated with cleansing and purifying all ills, misfortune or wrongdoing for the previous year as well as fertility and hope for rain for a bountiful rice harvest.

Expect firecrackers on day one to combat any evil spirits while parades of important Buddha images are common and, of course, the water mayhem begins. On the second day you shouldn’t argue because this is said to be bad luck for the year ahead and the third is New Year’s Day where people visit temples, bathe Buddha and party into the night.

Loy Krathong

The Festival of the Light is another event that is celebrated nationwide and is a stunning thing to witness. Its title translates as ‘to float small rafts/baskets’ and this is exactly what happens. A banana tree is used to create these rafts and candles, incense and flowers are added to them. Before they are placed into water, the person floating the krathong adds some hair and the idea is that this raft gives you a fresh start.

Using the Thai lunar calendar, this festival takes place on the full moon of the twelfth month which is usually November. The origins of this event aren’t fully known but it is believed to stretch back to the 13th century in the ancient capital of Sukhothai. Also used to give thanks to Mae Kongkha, Mother of Waters, the festival has evolved to become a full blown party that includes concerts and pageants.

It is celebrated throughout Thailand but Old Sukhothai, Chiang Mai and Bangkok have some of the best events with the latter even involving fire lanterns.

Phi Ta Khon

Also known as the ghost festival, this is a colourful tradition that takes place in Dan Sai, which is a district in the Loei Province in Isan. Filled with dancing and revelling, it is the men who dress up as spirits in vibrant masks and costumes as they celebrate the Buddha beliefs of spirits.

Taking place over three days between March and July, it is part of a holiday known as Bun Phawet. The origins are said to be from a story of the Vessantara Jataka in which a prince didn’t return from a long journey and was presumed to have died. His return sparked raucous celebrations that, as the story goes, woke the dead.

The Candle Festival

Taking place as the monsoon rains begin to hit the kingdom of Thailand, it marks the start of Buddhist Lent and the “rain retreat”. It is perfect for art lovers as talented artists create huge wax sculptures to offer to Buddha before the creations are paraded through the streets. There are usually around 70 sculptures using Lenten candles and this makes for quite an awe-inspiring spectacle. Held in Ubon Ratchathani, the idea behind it is that the devout donate items to the monks, including candles to brighten up their rooms in the wat.

Monkey Banquet Festival

The quirkiest event takes place in the town of Lopburi. To pay homage to the hundreds of macaque monkeys that live in this town in central Thailand, a buffet is provided that includes fruit and food for the animals who bring in an enormous amount of money thanks to the tourists that visit to see them. The idea came from a businessman in the 1980s and is now sponsored by a local hotel.

Head to the ancient Khmer temple of Phra Prang Sam Yot to see these monkeys that are classed as heroes. To see the festival you need to go there on the last Sunday in November. Legend has it that the monkeys once saved a God and that means they are a symbol of luck and prosperity throughout the country.

 Click here to read more on Thailand.


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