Interesting Thai festivals
Thailand is known to be a vibrant travel destination for many, but as the current COVID-19 situation continues to dampen everyone’s spirits, we wouldn’t blame travellers for being cautious. With April right around the corner, Songkran events are cancelled around the country due to the virus too.
But don’t worry. Thailand still has many other lesser-known festivals we can enjoy throughout the year. From a buffalo race to a gorgeous lantern festival, here are 8 occasions to bookmark for your next trip to the Land of Smiles once the virus subsides.
1. Loi Krathong – respects to the Goddess of Water
In Chiang Mai, locals celebrate Loi Krathong and Yi Peng
Image credit: @travelnowlah
Date: 1st November 2020
Loi Krathong is one of the oldest, most celebrated festivals in Thailand. It is to pay respects to the Goddess of Water and to ask for her forgiveness, and takes place on the night of the full moon during the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar.
On this day, Thais usually visit temples and riversides, where “Loi Krathong” (often translated to ‘to float a basket’) is practised. Hand-made Krathong can be made with banana leaves and flowers and will contain offerings like sweets and desserts.
Image credit: John Shedrick
Besides this, some provinces also have other special ways of celebrating the event. In Chiang Mai, it’s celebrated along with the Lanna (Northern Thai) full moon festival Yi Peng.
Image credit: Get The Label
Locals make merit by letting go of floating sky lanterns that illuminate the night sky, making for a beautiful sight – just like in the movie Tangled!
2. Phi Ta Khon – Buddhism stories through a fancy event
Image credit: travelwithtradition
Dates: 26th-28th June 2020
Phi Ta Khon is an annual festival hosted in Northeastern Thailand’s Loei province. The event is mainly held at Dan Sai District with the purpose to have fun while passing Buddhism stories to the younger generation.
The event date is determined by local mediums and often falls anytime between March to July.
Phi Ta Khon originates from a crucial part of the Vessantara Jataka, a classic Buddhist tale of when wild animals and ghosts in the forest showed up to pay respects to Vessantara, one of the past lives of Buddha.
The event is also dubbed as the ‘Ghost Festival’. ‘Phi’ in Thai translates to ghost.
Image credit: @kitzana
During the event, locals dress up in fancy costumes with props and walk and dance around along with vibrant music in parades for fun. There’s a belief that those in Phi Ta Khon outfits need to throw their costumes away at Mun, a local river basin, to wash away any bad luck.
Besides the parade, there are also many shows and music performances held during the festival, along with stalls selling local goods like artwork and handicrafts.
3. Toh Jeen Ling – monkey feeding festival
Image credit: tourismthailand
Date: On the last Sunday of November (date TBA)
Lopburi is a province situated close to Bangkok and is known to Thais as the city of monkeys. In the past, it’s believed that mainly monkeys inhabited the land before humans took over. This caused them to have nowhere to look for food, resorting to stealing food from visitors and vendors across the city.
People dress up like Hanuman, a monkey character in Ramayana and join the event
Image credit: ngthai
First celebrated in 1989, Toh Jeen Ling is one of the strangest events in the world that has drawn loads of travellers from around the world to watch the local people and monkeys come together in a day of festivities.
With the intention to show respect and kindness towards these furry creatures, Lopburi locals host Toh Jeen Ling every November at Phra Prang Sam Yod, Ta Hin District. This includes preparing lots of food and snacks like fruits and vegetables for over 3,000 monkeys living there so that they’re well-fed.
4. Wing Kwai – buffalo racing
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Wing Kwai is well-known among Thais living in the eastern region of the country and is hosted in Chonburi every October. In the past, local people made a living by working in agriculture, with buffalos being crucial in helping farmers plow the fields. Locals originally hosted the event to thank their own buffalos for working hard to the year.
These days, other interesting activities include a dress-up contest for people and their pet buffalos to take part in, and visitors can enjoy tonnes of food stalls and local handicraft stores around.
Image credit: manitahotel
Besides that, the festival is also famous for its exciting buffalo races, which are categorised into 5 levels based on the size of the animal. The entire racing session can be watched for free too!
5. Boon Bang Fai – parades for the Rain God
Bang Fai – a Thai-style cannon
Image credit: partiharn
Dates: 9th-10th May 2020
Boon Bang Fai is an event hosted in Yasothon, a northeastern Thailand province (known as Isan). It is also celebrated in other provinces in the region and Laos. This is usually held during the 2nd week of May – the start of the rainy season, and when farmers usually plant their main harvests.
Image credit: gangbeauty
People living in Isan mainly worked in agriculture in the past. So, the rainy season was very important for their crops to grow. Till today, local farmers worship and give thanks to Phaya-Tan, the god of rain, so that he can bless the lands with lots of rain.
Boon Bang Fai is a joyous event with parades and dancing along to special Isan-style music.
6. Moo Yang Muang Trang – huge seaside food fest
Image credit: duckytiffy
Foodies who have been to Thailand might have heard of Moo Yang Muang Trang event, celebrated in Trang, one of the best seaside-attraction provinces in the southern part of Thailand. This region has a reputation for serving up mouth-watering grilled pork – so add this to your food bucket list.
Trang sees lots of visitors streaming in to take part in the festivities in September to try all the food it has to offer.
Image credit: 77kaoded
Besides savoury pork, you’ll also get a chance to try other interesting dishes like Cake Trang. This massive chiffon cake was originally made by Chinese immigrants living in the region, and eventually became one of the festival’s signatures.
There are other activities like exhibitions and singing contests to put everyone in a good mood as well. Don’t miss this if you’re a foodie!
7. Ngan Chang – elephant festival
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Ngan Chang, translated to “elephant event”, is an annual festival involving elephant performances that last over one week during November. Hosted in the northeastern province of Surin, visitors can learn more about the relationship between elephants and Thai people.
Surin is known as the province with the highest number of elephants in Thailand, leading to it being known as “Muang Chang” – the city of elephants.
Feeding elephants is also one part of the festival
Image credit: webSanom
Ngan Chang has been celebrated only in Surin since the 1960s. Every year, visitors will get a chance to watch elephant performances while learning more about how elephants helped people with work and even the war. Other cute events include elephants playing football and cultural dances.
8. Chiang Mai Flower Festival – flower parade
Image credit: thaifestivalblogs
Dates: February 2021 (Date TBA)
Chiang Mai is one of the most beautiful provinces in Thailand where most of us go to get lost in nature.If you’re heading over in February, don’t miss the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, a grand flower parade with chariots and performers adorned head to toe in flowers.
Image credit: What’s Up Chiang Mai
You can also expect to see the city decorated in a field of flowers – so get your cameras ready!
Image credit: HelloTravel
Hosted at Buak Hard Public Park, here is where you can appreciate over 25,000 seasonal flowers, take a deep breath and get some IG snaps to bring back home.
Celebrate these festivities in Thailand
These festivals are celebrated in different regions across Thailand, so don’t hesitate to steer off your usual travel plans and visit some lesser-known places instead.
Whether you’re postponing a trip or looking forward to travelling in time to come, bookmark these spots for your next holiday.