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Festivals in Thailand are an intricate part of what makes the nation tick and how their colourful culture and ways penetrate every part of life in the kingdom. If you are a bit of a festival freak or a gala geek or even a carnival crazy, here are ten essential Thai festivals that you do not want to miss in 2018!
#1 – Festivals in Thailand: Songkran
When: 13 April 2018. Thai New Year is 13th April | Where: Nationwide
Songkran Thai New Year is the world’s biggest and most exciting water festivals in Thailand. Songkran or better known as Thai New Year is routinely held on the 13th April and lasts 3-days in most areas. In Phuket, the water festival is just 24-hours, but in places such as Pattaya and Chiang Mai, it can take a week or more to unfold. The streets will be awash (excuse the pun) with water pistol-toting badasses who are trying to drench you thoroughly, so make sure you are a hunter and not the hunted. Make sure you leave your valuables in your hotel safe or water from the pistols might not be the only kind leaking from your face.
#2 – Festivals in Thailand: Loy Krathong Festival
When: 23 November 2018 | Where: Nationwide
Do not confuse the Lantern Festival (Yi Peng) with Loy Krathong. The Lantern Festival is running in conjunction with, Loy Krathong. Loy Krathong is one of the most fascinating and colourful festivals in Thailand held throughout the year. The celebration is routinely held on the Full Moon of the 12th month of the Lunar Calendar and usually falls in November on the Gregorian calendar. All stretches of water in Thailand fill to the brim with decorative floats, also called ‘Krathongs’. Banana tree truck, banana leaves and lots of flowers make the Krathong. Buy these Krathongs on the streets or get the materials and make them yourself. Casting the floats out across the water signifies casting away the stresses and troubles of the past lunar year, ready to start anew. It is an enjoyable experience. No matter where you are in Thailand, you can take part in this nationwide event.
#3 – Ghost Festival (Phi Ta Khon)
When: 15 June 2018 | Where: Dan Sai, Loei province
You might not believe in superstitions and ghosts, but Thai people most definitely do. This three-day festival known as the Ghost Festival (Phi Ta Khon) takes place in Dan Sai, which is in the Loei Province in the north about a 3-hour journey from Chiang Mai. Combining local traditions, spirituality and a party-like atmosphere, the Ghost Festival is visited by thousands of locals in masks and is a mixture of both Buddhist and animist beliefs. This Thai festival is always on the weekend of the 6th full-moon on the lunar calendar. The festival is supposed to recreate a party that both the dead and the living would like to attend. There are lots of pageants and live music shows, so if you want to know more about Thai superstitions and ghosts, this event is unmissable.
#4 – Phuket Vegetarian Festival
When: 18 October 2018 | Where: Phuket Town
One of the most covered Thailand events in media terms is the Phuket Vegetarian Festival. The festival has become infamous because of the strange acts of self-mutilation that go on, which makes this one of goriest festivals in the world. Taking place in Phuket Town for a 10-day period in October 2018, the festival deals with the more darker side of the spirit and supernatural world. Popularized in men’s magazine such as FHM and Maxim, photos of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival usually centre around Thai men sticking all manner of objects into their bodies such as metal poles, machine guns and even hooks, which takes place on the last couple of days of the event. Over the 10-day period, the streets are closed down in the evening, and there are lots of vegetarian food stalls, music shows and all manner of carnival things taking place. If you are in Phuket in October 2018, we would strongly recommend you head over to Phuket Town with your camera in hand to enjoy the fun.
#5 – Lantern Festival (Yi Peng)
When: October/November 2018 | Where: Chiang Mai
Taking place over the same period as Loy Krathong in October and sometimes November, depending on the year, the Lantern Festival (Yi Peng) is quite possibly the most stunning regarding aesthetics. This Thai festival takes place on the banks of the Ping River in Chiang Mai and is a remarkable sight you must see at first hand at least once in your life. At the festival, spectators release thousands of lanterns into the sky, which honestly is a sight to behold. Bring along your camera and you will get some of the most amazing photos imaginable.
#6 – Chonburi Buffalo Racing Festival 2018
When: 23 October 2018 | Where: Chonburi City
I don’t know about you, but I have run away from a few buffaloes in my time, but have never actually ridden on one. The Chonburi Buffalo Racing Festival might seem like a fun and friendly Thailand event, and it is, but do not underestimate how sincerely the buffalo breeders and contestant take these races. The racing has been taking place for over 100 years and is a colourful spectacle that attracts lots of local spectators, and also many Western onlookers from Bangkok and Pattaya. The races are fun, there are lots of food and drink stalls, live concerts and much more that make this a fascinating experience.
#7 – Festivals in Thailand: Lopburi Monkey Banquet
When: Phra Prang Sam Yot temple, Lopburi | Where: November 2018
If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys! Lopburi is located 150km north of Bangkok and is home to the unique Lopburi Monkey Banquet, which is held each November at the Phra Prang Sam Yot temple in Lopburi. Monkeys overrun merely the temples for a giant monkey buffet the world has ever seen! The banquet is for 3,000 monkeys and combines 4-ton of fruit, vegetable and other edibles. It’s like the Mad Hatter’s tea party with more intelligent conversation and better manners. The temple grounds are usually a den of tranquillity, but not during this unique festival. Do be careful though if you reach for some food. Primates might swarm you! That sounds like an all-you-can-eat Thai BBQ buffet!
#8 Festivals in Thailand: Bo Sang Festival
The Bo Sang festival is a unique celebration of Thai culture and exuberance. The locals and tourists come together in the streets with a cascade of majestic umbrellas all over. They dance, they make merry and have a gala of time parading on the streets of beautiful Bo Sang. It’s a treat for travellers who want to witness something new and unique, but also want a taste of the local culture of the area.
While the village of Bo Sang is known for its handmade umbrellas and parasols, the flowery motifs and elegant designs are now famous worldwide. The festival also includes a Miss Bo Sang beauty pageant, which is renowned across Thailand, and people visit in from around the globe. The designs, the aesthetics and the overall beauty of the festival are mesmerising, especially when looking at the incredible effort and workforce that went into creating the production.
Nobody does it like Thailand and especially when it comes to festivals. From self-mutilation and ghostly spiritual happenings to racing buffaloes at breakneck speeds, releasing colourful lanterns to lots of monkey business and everything in between, you have never lived if you haven’t experienced a few of these unique events. Thai festivals bring together the entire nation, and it is the perfect time to see the local people at their beautiful best. Sample a real slice of Thai culture and life? Visit one of these festivals while you are here on holiday.