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World-Famous Thai Festivals and Holidays Travelers Shouldn't Miss - Smiling Tuk Tuk

World-Famous Thai Festivals and Holidays Travelers Shouldn’t Miss

While Thailand is famous for beautiful beaches and Buddhist temples, Thai festivals and holidays are equally tourist main draws. Thailand is teem with festivals and holidays thanks to the people’s diverse believes and ethnicities. Every sub-culture has colorful rituals and celebrations to contribute. Whether you live in Thailand or are traveling in the kingdom, take a look at our list of Thai festivals and holidays. Planning your holiday to coincide with any of them will give you a great cultural experience and an amazing time.

To experience local ways of life and culture in Thailand, let a Thai culture expert like Smiilng Tuk Tuk guide you. Out tours are catered to your interests, wether you love to experience Thai village lives, eat local food or explore beautiful nature, we have all figured out for you.



#1 Thai festivals and Holidays

Songkran (Water Festival)

Song Kran - Smiling Tuk Tuk

A couple with a bucket and a water gun enjoy Song Kran in Chiang Mai

One of the most talked about festivals in the world, Songkran or Thai Water Festival is celebrated with the highest level of energy and happiness. Think India’s Holi or Spain’s La Tomatina. Although Thai Water Festival is the most famous, it’s also observed in Myanmar (Thingyan), Cambodia (Chaul Chnam Thmey), and Laos (Songkran), as well as in a small region in China’s Yunnan where ancestors of Thai people came from.

Song Kran - Smiling Tuk Tuk

The young pour water over the hands of the elders, asking for blessings

Songkran is known to be the traditional New Year in Thailand. The term was borrowed from the name of a Hindu harvest festival celebrated in India to mark the arrival of spring. Back in the day, Songkran fell on different dates each year. But the government has fixed the date to be the 13th to 15th of April for simplicity.

Songkran is one of the major Thai holidays where people return to their hometowns to visit families. While the wild throwing of water becomes the primary form of celebration, traditional rituals take place in temples and at home. At temples, people pour water gently onto Buddha statues. At home, the young pour water over the hands of the elders. Pouring water represents purification and the washing away of one’s sins and bad luck. In the ethnic Mon community in Sangkhlaburi, a region in Kanchanaburi province, people pour water onto a Buddha statue via bamboo gutters. This one is a truly distinct celebration if you can plan to experience it.

But if you’re after a crazy water party, the dates when people throw water varies depending on where you are in the country. In some cities, the parties start several days before April 13th and continue past the 15th too. While Bangkok does the 13th to the 15th, Chiang Mai goes for the water fight between the 11th and the 16th, and Pattaya from 11th to 20th. Our suggestion is experience both the traditional form of celebration and crazy water fight!



#2 Thai festivals and Holidays

Phi Ta Khon (Ghost Festival)

Ghost Festival Thailand - Smiling Tuk Tuk

The colourful Phi Ta Khon parade in Dan Sai, Loei

The sleepy farming town of Dan Sai in the Northeastern Loei province becomes alive once a year with Phi Ta Khon festival. Falling on the 8th month of the Thai lunar calendar which coincides with June or July, the festival lasts 3 days. The highlight is on the second day when the colorful parade of people in masks and ghost costumes walk through the town. Some men carry wooden sticks carved to look like phallus and they would use them to tease girls and women they meet along the way. The teases are believed to please the Nature God who would supply rain if he’s happy. The parade ends at Wat Phon Chai where religious rituals take place during the 3 days. Check the festival’s date on Dan Sai Municipal website (all in Thai language).



#3 Thai festivals and Holidays

Hae Tien Phan Sa (Candle Festival)

Candle Festival Thailand - Smiling Tuk Tuk

Beautiful wax sculpture in the festival’s main day

Ubon Ratchathani’s Candle Festival is one of the most eye-catching Thai festivals and holidays owing to the elaborate processions of massive wax sculptures and beautiful traditional dances. The festival marks the beginning of Buddhist Lent, the 3-month period when Buddhist monks remain in one place, usually to meditate. During the period, Buddhist would make merit by offering basic essentials and candles to the monks. Carving beautiful wax sculptures is believed to be a huge merit by local artists and Buddhist devotees.

Wax Sculpture, Candle Festival Thailand - Smiling Tuk Tuk

The festival usually falls in July. The procession gathers huge wax sculptures carved and represented by each village in the province. Each sculpture takes part in the contest organized by the local government and every village presents their best artwork to ensure their places as a winner. A smaller procession takes place the night prior to the main day, and the main one takes place on the morning of the festival day.

Traditional dance, Candle Festival Thailand - Smiling Tuk Tuk

Traditional dance in the parade on the festival’s main day

If you don’t make it to the processions, you can still take photos of the sculptures stationed at Thung Si Mueng park for the public to enjoy. If you want to see live carving, the artists gather to work in temples around the town of Ubon Ratchathani and in villages. The carving activity begins months before and stops a week before the festival date. The main date for 2018 is July 28. For the future festival’s date, check the municipality’s website (in Thai). 



#4 Thai festivals and Holidays

Loy Kratong (Lantern Festival)

Loy Kratong - Smiling Tuk Tuk

On Loy Kratong night, Thailand as well as its neighbors see the brightest night sky in a whole year. Loy (to float) Kratong (baskets) falls in the 12th lunar month which coincides with November every year. Traditionally people made baskets out of banana trunks and leaves. The baskets are filled with flowers, incenses, and lit candles before being let go in a water, usually rivers. Nowadays, you can see baskets made out of bread or other materials as well. The act of Loy Kratong is believed to be thanking and asking for forgiveness from Goddess of Water. Sometimes, people put pieces of their nails or hair in the baskets as a symbol of letting go of past transgressions and negative thoughts.

Yipeng - Smiling Tuk Tuk

Yi Peng is celebrated in Northern Thailand, mainly in Chiang Mai

Some cities in Thailand have distinct Loy Kratong celebrations. The most popular Loy Kratong celebration is Yipeng, which is a Lanna’s (Northern Thailand) tradition, and is observed in Chiang Mai by releasing floating lanterns into the night sky. In Tak province, coconut-shell kratongs are tied to make long threads. Once let go onto the Ping river, they beautifully form glowing threads against the darkness of the water and the sky.

In Sukhothai province, the Historical Park always hosts beautiful light and sound shows portraying how the ancient Sukhothai kingdom celebrated Loy Kratong 700 years ago. To see when each city celebrate their Loy Kratong, check their municipality websites (Chiang Mai, Tak , Sukhothai  – all in Thai language).



#5 Thai festivals and Holidays

Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Phuket vegetarian festival - Smiling Tuk Tuk

The most bloody Thai festival, Phuket Vegetarian Festival celebrates local Chinese Thai’s belief that not eating meat for a month will give them good health and a peaceful state of mind. The purpose is also to bring good luck and drive away evil spirits. The festival falls in the 9th Chinese lunar calendar or October. The event is known for extremity. Participants pierce their faces, using anything from swords, pipes, rifles, spikes. So, this is not for a fainted heart.

Apart from the piercing, participants also walk on hot coals. Noisy sparking firecrackers add to the atmosphere. How are the participants able to do it? They sink into a state of trance before setting out. Vegetarian Festival is celebrated widely by Chinese communities in the south of Thailand. But no community does it as extremely as the Phuket Old town people. Ceremonies take place at 6 Chinese temples around the Old Town but the main temple is Jui Tui Shrine. The festival lasts 9 days. Check out the festival date at FB: เทศกาลกินเจ Phuket 



#6 Thai festivals and Holidays

Boon Bang Fai (Rocket Festival)

Rocket Festival - Smiling Tuk Tuk

Rockets shot into the sky is believed to remind the Rain God to provide the farmers with rain

A merit-making ceremony traditionally practiced by ethnic Lao farmers, the Rocket Festival is celebrated in the Issan (Northeastern Thailand) region and in Laos. By shooting rockets into the sky, the farmers remind Phaya Taen, the Rain God, that it’s time to release rain and to provide the farmers with good harvests. Although these homemade rockets employ the most primitive making method, not a rocket science, they’re really impressive! Traditionally, bamboos filled with explosive potassium nitrate were handmade. Nowadays, machine-built metal contraptions do the job.

Rocket festival is celebrated in several Issan provinces but the most famous one is in Yasothon. The 4-day festival sees the festive activities like traditional dance shows and contests, modern and traditional rocket parades, beauty pageants, temple fairs leadinf up to the final day’s morning when the rockets are shot into the sky. Expect locals enjoying themselves, drinking and perhaps gambling. The rockets will be released in the Phaya Taen Park. The festival usually takes place in May. For 2018, it’s May 11th to 13th. Several websites provide news about the festival dates, such as Visit Yasothon. (in Thai)



#7 Thai festivals and Holidays

Wing Kwai(Buffalo Racing Festival)

Buffalo racing Thailand - Smiling Tuk Tuk

Buffalo racing is a novel event that guarantees action, hilarity, cheering fans, beauty queens, and all the fun of a rustic Thai temple fair. An annual spectacle mid-October in Chonburi, a city an hour south of Bangkok, the races have been held for more than a hundred years at the End of Buddhist Lent. The tradition had a humble start. In the past, it was a time-passing game when farmers met at markets, riding on the back of their water buffaloes.

Buffalo racing takes place in several districts in Chonburi, such as in Ban Bung, Na Pa, Hua Koon Chae. While the village ones see the races in muddy rice fields and are more intimate, the official one takes place in front of Chonburi City Hall. The official one is a week long event with markets, fairs, beauty pageants, leading up to the last day when the buffalo races take place, along with buffalo beauty pageant, and traditional games like oil-coated pole climbing race, Thai boxing, and so on. Check the district websites: Ban Bung / Chonburi City Hall (in Thai language).




#8 Thai festivals and Holidays

Toe Chin Ling (Lopburi’s Monkey Banquet)

Lopburi Monkey Festival - Smiling Tuk Tuk

The Monkey Buffet Festival is held near the Khmer temple of Phra Prang Sam Yot near the railway station in the Old Town of Lopburi. It’s organized on every last Sunday of November. Herds of wild monkeys live in and around this ancient temple. They are usually fed by locals and tourists. But on that very day, a feast of fruits and vegetables are offered to the monkeys by a local enterprise, Lopburi Inn Group along with locals who bring them food and are happy to see the monkeys be fed. While some locals are simply pleased to see the animals being fed, others believe the monkeys are disciples of a local god Chao Poh Phra Kan.

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