2022 Thailand Festivals
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If you’re planning a holiday in Thailand, you can time your trip to coincide with one of the country’s famous festivals. Backpackers flock to the full-moon parties, but there are plenty of cultural festivities to immerse yourself in during daylight hours, too. Most Thailand festivals have Hindu, Buddhist, or animist roots, and are planned according to the lunar calendar, so dates shift slightly year to year. Here are five of our favourites to help you party like a local.
Chiang Mai Flower Festival — February
Forget the Chelsea Flower Show; let the sweet smell of jasmine and hibiscus guide you instead to The Rose of the North, Chiang Mai.
Centred around Suan Buak Haad Public Park in the Old Town, the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, which takes place in early February, prompts an explosion of colour as floats adorned with blossoming botanical sculptures parade through the sweet-scented city streets. Think floral representations of temples, elephants, and even the Buddha himself, accompanied by traditionally dressed dancers and marching bands. Meanwhile, the park itself is transformed with a tapestry of orchids, lotus flowers, and golden ratchaphruek — Thailand’s national flower. It’s not just the beautiful bouquets that get their moment — stick around to see the Flower Festival Queen receive her crown.
Songkran Water Festival — April
If you’re after the biggest water fight the world has to offer, look no further than Thailand's annual Songkran festivities. To celebrate Songkran, Thai New Year, it's Buddhist tradition to pour water on to statues and images of the Buddha to symbolise purification. Indeed, water is a huge part of the festival, which takes place in mid-April and marks the end of the dry season. Young people pay respect to their elders by pouring water on to their hands, and senior monks are likewise bathed as a sign of respect.
Rather less solemnly, young and old alike splash into the streets armed with Super-Soakers, buckets, and waterbombs, and processions, parades, and parties take place right across the country. Believe us when we say that these soggy street parties bring great relief from the soaring temperatures. If you're island hopping, Phuket is the perfect place to soak up the party vibes. Unless you watch from your hotel window, getting wet is inescapable, so don’t wear your best clothes, and keep your valuables somewhere watertight.
Phi Ta Khon Festival (Ghost Festival) — June
It is believed that in one of his past lives, the Buddha was a prince who was sent into exile for having given away the king's white elephant to a drought-afflicted neighbouring country — the elephant possessed the miraculous power of bringing rain wherever it was ridden, and its loss angered the people. Eventually, they repented for their anger and invited the prince to return. When he came back, everyone rejoiced, and the celebrations that followed were so raucous they woke the dead.
Today, the festival, which takes place in Dan Sai, in the Loei Province, forms part of Bun Luang — a Buddhist merit-making holiday that lasts for three days. Locals dress up in vibrant masks, with gnarled teeth and long, thin noses, to participate in dances, games, parades, and parties. The festival is Thailand’s answer to Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival — a party so epic that both the dead and living want to attend. Dan Sai is about 500 kilometres north of Bangkok; direct buses take approximately six hours.
Monkey Buffet Festival — November
Yup, you read that right. Lopburi, one of the oldest cities in Thailand, just north of Bangkok, is home to an annual Monkey Buffet Festival. You might feel like you have stepped on to the set of “Planet of the Apes”, as the ancient temple ruins of Phra Prang Sam Yot are home to over 2000 macaque monkeys, but it's not until towers of fruit are piled up among the relics that things really start to get strange. Each year, colourful and elegant displays of fruit are prepared for the monkeys to devour. Monkeys are highly regarded in Buddhist and Hindu culture, and it is believed to be good luck to feed the primates. Despite the ancient surroundings of the Khmer temples, the festival’s roots are modern: the first event took place in 1989 to persuade tourists to venture outside Bangkok. Beware — things can get messy when you get caught in the crossfire of a monkey food fight!
Loi Krathong and Yi Peng — October-November
If Songkran is the wettest and wildest of all Thai festivals, Loi Krathong and Yi Peng — Thailand's lantern festivals — are surely the most peaceful and picturesque. The events take place during a full moon and, in contrast to Songkran, they mark the end of the rainy season.
For Yi Peng, thousands of floating fire lanterns are released up to the sky, while for Loi Krathong, which is celebrated on the same day, mini floating lanterns known as krathongs are set peacefully adrift down rivers. During the festival of light, krathongs adorned with flowers, incense, and candles are often sent off with a wish or a prayer to the water goddess, Phra Mae Khongkha. Thailand is known as the Land of a Thousand Smiles, and we're sure this festival will bring a smile to your face.
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Nick Elvin contributed to this post.