August 28, 2016
Phra Samut Chedi Fair (งานนมัสการองค์พระสมุทรเจดีย์ )
Phra Samut Chedi Fair: believed to be the largest & longest running temple fair in the Kingdom, but as yet thankfully, not invaded by hordes of tourists
When: 21st October – 1st November 2016
Where: City of Samut Prakarn. Samut Prakarn Province. 30 Kms southwest of Bangkok
This hugely popular annual fair, is held in the city of Samut Prakarn (the city has the same name as the province and is also known by local people as Pak Nam – Thai for ‘Mouth of a River’), it attracts thousands of people from all around the country, who come to join in the fun and to pay homage to the Phra Samut Chedi (Chedi is an alternative term for a Buddhist stupa). The Phra Samut Chedi Fair goes on for 9 days and nights, starting from the 5th day of the waning moon of the 11th lunar month and is believed to be the largest and longest running temple fair in the Kingdom.
Phra Samut Chedi was originally built on a small island in the Chao Phraya River in 1827, it was designed to be the first significant sight for visitors coming to Bangkok by boat. It is said that King Rama II wanted all foreigners entering Thailand to know that the Thai people were Buddhists. The temple is also known as Wat Klang Nam, (วัดกลางน้ำ, ‘Temple in the middle of the water’). Over time the river has silted with the result that the island is now part of the main land located on the western bank of the Chao Phraya River.
To pay respect to the temple, during the festival a new red cloth is wrapped around the Chedi, before this is done this huge red fabric is paraded through the streets by the local residents starting at the city hall. It completes a huge circular land route and is then paraded by boat upriver to Phra Pradaeng, where it is again alighted to take part in a mini parade, finally ending its journey at the temple itself in the afternoon.
There is an air is of reverence and peace to the proceedings, after the noise and bustle of the parades, as the cloth is finally walked solemnly clockwise, around the temple three times, with the attendees carrying lighted candles, During the festival, there are contests held for the best-looking procession and how the Red Cloth was actually presented at the Chedi.
One of the most beautiful sights during the Temple Fair is the evening Candlelight Processions, or Wien Tien in Thai, when thousands of people will walk around the Chedi carrying both a lite candle, in their hands and hope in their hearts for prosperity and good health for themselves family and friends.
There are a myriad of other activities including, boat races on the Chao Phraya River, candlelight processions, and traditional Thai entertainment. There is also what could be termed as a western style fair with Ferris wheels, shooting galleries etc. The most surprising of all the shows is a ‘Lady Boy’ Beauty contest, which runs along-side stalls and booths, selling a multitude of delicious local food and the obligatory sellers of souvenirs, t-shirts and all manner of other products.
How to get there: Phra Samut Chedi is approx. 26 km from Bangkok (148 km from Pattaya) situated in the same province as the international airport of Suvarnabhumi. The closest BTS station is Bearing, from where it’s a 20 minute ‘Song Taeow’ ride. Be aware you should always make sure you agree the taxi costs in advance if you are hiring the taxi for a private fare. From Bang Phli you can also take a Song Taeow to the Chedi which is only 20 minutes away.
Samut Prakarn is a bit off the ‘normal’ route, with the result that you will find very few foreign tourists taking the same path, this is a real plus, as you get to immerse yourself in the real Thailand, without rubbing shoulders with hundreds of camera clicking tourists.
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