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Thailand has a long and fascinating cultural history, with some particularly famous Buddhist festivals held throughout the year such as Songkran (April) and Loy Krathong (November). But this vast country has so much more waiting to be discovered in terms of cultural events, whether in celebration of historical traditions or moving the spotlight to contemporary events such as film festivals, art gallery exhibitions or small-scale museum openings.
Here is an overview of Thailand’s best cultural events found throughout the country, from the capital Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Phuket, Pattaya and into the rural provinces of the Northeast.
Film Festivals in Thailand
These cultural events in Thailand may not create as much noise as the bigger public dates, but look hard enough and you’re sure to find some excellent independent screenings each month. Locations in Bangkok such as the Screening Room and certain screens in CentralWorld often showcase some fine locally-produced and regional films (with subtitles!) The SFX cinema at CentralWorld is actually where Bangkok’s annual Film Festival will be held from 01 February.
Animal Events in Thailand
Animals are loved and respected by Thais, although there are certain species that get more attention than others. In some cases, the animals get a whole event to themselves!
Perhaps the most unique is the annual Monkey Feeding Buffet in Lopburi, which sees locals and tourists bring in truckloads of fresh fruit to feed the monkeys that call this ancient city home.
The national symbol of Thailand, the mighty elephant, is also the attention of several cultural events in Thailand, such as Thai Elephant Day (Prachuap Kiri Khan) and the huge Elephant Round-up every year in Surin province.
Food Events and Festivals in Thailand
Almost every province in Thailand specializes in a certain regional food, and, guess what – they almost always celebrate that fact by holding a food festival. For example, a whole day is dedicated to sweet tamarinds each year in Phetchabun and there is a ‘fruit day’ every June in Chanthaburi!
For some slightly less specific food events, the major cities and tourist destinations are where you’ll some of the biggest. Chinese New Year is almost as much about the food as it is the New Year, and the whole street of Yaowarat (in Bangkok) and Phuket’s Old Town get packed full of Chinese food vendors during the weeklong event. The Thailand Vegetarian Festival or ‘Jay’ Festival (around September) is also a great time to visit Thailand, sampling some tasty non-meat dishes in basically every town and city throughout Thailand.
Other Buddhist events across Thailand
As well as the two big dates we’re sure you know about already (Songkran and Loy Krathong), plenty of other Buddhist celebrations and smaller festivals are dotted around the country. In fact, without the crowds and over-commercialization, these cultural experiences are often more rewarding.
Some dates to look out for are the Sak Yant Tattoo Festival (outskirts of Bangkok, March), Pi Ta Khon (a colorful 3-day Buddhist ritual celebration in Loei province), and Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival (throughout June).
Another intriguing event to look forward to is Nong Khai’s Naga Fireball Festival, which is held over the Mekong River. Locals believe that mythical Buddhist serpent ‘Naga’ rises from the water every October to breathe fireballs into the sky, while skeptics blame a buildup of methane gas. So, depending on your views, this is either a cultural or natural event. Either way, it’s not to be missed.