Thailand is a collage of animated scenes that comprise bustling modern cities crowded with motorbikes and tuk-tuks, Buddhist temples tended by orange-robed monks, hill tribes selling handicrafts, lush landscapes dotted with traditional farming villages, ancient ruins and stunning coastlines peppered with gorgeous beaches and blue lagoons. Such a captivating portrait explains why Thailand is Southeast Asia’s most popular travel destination.
- Islands in Thailand
- Chiang Mai
- Khao Sok National Park
- Chiang Rai
Thailand loves a festival, and it’s not surprising when you consider having fun and socialising is as central to Thai culture as eating spicy food. You’ll find festivals taking place all over Thailand, frequently held in temple grounds, and they are always a pleasant experience, but hardly worth flying half way around the world to see. However, there are also a handful of festivals that are a cut above. We have created this list to show you Thailand’s craziest, coolest and most bizarre festivals and gatherings, found all over the country, and graded for your pleasure. If you’re idea of cultural sightseeing is dancing the night away to village folk band, drinking shots of liquor with the locals and marvelling at things you will never truly understand, then this list is for you! Note: many festivals are planned according to the lunar calendar, so the exact date varies each year.
Water Festival (Songkran)
Everywhere – April
Songkran is an annual festival which takes place over three days during the traditional Thai New Year, April 13th-15th (in almost all provinces). The official Songkran festival lasts three days but in reality the whole week is taken over by a mass celebration as the whole country shuts down for a momentous water fight. Wild scenes of exuberance can be seen throughout the Kingdom with music, dancing, drinking and people drenched from head to toe. Water guns, hose pipes, buckets, in fact, anything youcan get your hands on can be used to splash people, and one thing is for certain: you will get wet!
Ghost Festival (Phi Ta Khon)
Dan Sai, Loei Province – June or July
Combining religious traditions, local handicrafts and fun-loving party atmosphere, Phi Ta Khon is a three-day festival that’s renowned for the colourful masks worn by thousands of locals. The masks are ghastly, stretched faces with phallic noses, decorated in bright, gaudy colours. The origin of the festival is a mixture of animist and Buddhist beliefs. It is supposed to recreate the legend of when a party was thrown that was so fun, everyone wanted to attend – living or dead. We don’t really know the significance of the phallic noses. The Ghost Festival is held on the weekend of the 6th full moon of the lunar calendar. It usually has the main parade on the Friday (dressing up as a ghost optional), with pageants and music on the Saturday and Buddhist ceremonies on the Sunday. Located in Dan Sai Town in Loei Province, the Ghost Festival is quite hard to get to. It’s easiest from Udon Thani (a three-hour bus journey) or Chiang Mai (five-hour bus journey). From Bangkok, buses leave from Mo Chit Northern Bus Terminal about five times a day. It’s around a seven-hour journey. As Dan Sai is a small town, accommodation gets booked up quickly, so make sure you book your hotel or guesthouse early.
Lantern Festival (Yi Peng)
Chiang Mai - November
Chiang Mai’s lantern festival takes place every November and is truly a remarkable sight. Down by the banks of the Peng River, thousands of paper lanterns are released into the sky to float away on the evening breeze. It’s a more genteel affair than the other festivals on this list, but is a great opportunity for snapping some breathtaking photos. Releasing lanterns is the most photogenic part of the festival, but there are also parades, religious ceremonies, fireworks and the releasing of paper floats in the river.
Wonderfruit Music and Arts Festival
Pattaya - December
The Wonderfruit Festival Pattaya is a three-day eco-friendly music and arts extravaganza on the outskirts of the city. Combining Thai, Asian and western cultures, the fantastic performances and wide-ranging workshops give it a Western-style festivalvibe, similar to Glastonbury in the UK or Woodstock in the US, though with significantly less mud
Chinese New Year Bangkok
January or February
Chinese New Year brings one of the most exhilarating celebrations to Yaowaraj, which is officially the Chinatown of Bangkok. The narrow, bustling alleys of Chinatown are always a fun place to explore but, during Chinese New Year, things are ramped up a notch. The entire length of the street (and surrounding alleys) comes to life, with crowds of worshippers, exploding firecrackers, dragon dancers and families of Chinese descent, who gather to partake in the street fanfare as well as enjoy sumptuous Chinese banquets. The best place to experience the festival in Bangkok is at Wat Mangkon Kamalawat on Charoen Krung Street, at the northern edge of Chinatown.