October 2, 2015
Phra Samut Chedi Fair 2015 – Get off the beaten tourist routes and immerse your-self in Thailand’s long and colourful past
When: 18 – 26th October 2015
Where: City of Samut Prakarn. Samut Prakarn Province. Central Thailand
This hugely popular annual fair, is held in the city of Samut Prakarn (also known by local people ‘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 Phra Samut Chedi (Chedi is an alternative term for a Buddhist stupa). The fair goes on for 9 days and nights, starting from the 5th day of the waning moon of the 11th lunar month. (18th October 2015), it is believed to not only be the largest fair in Thailand but also the longest running temple fair in the Kingdom with a history dating back 187 years.
Phra Samut Chedi was originally built on a small island in the Chao Phraya River in 1827 and was then 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 for a mini parade there, finally ending at the temple itself in the afternoon. Once there the cloth is walked, clockwise, around the temple three times, with the attendees carrying lighted candles, this simple act brings a feeling of reverence and peace to the proceedings.
During the festival, there are all manner of contests, the most surprising of all is the ‘Lady Boy’ Beauty contest. There are also a myriad of other activities including, boat races on the Chao Phraya River, candlelight processions, and traditional Thai entertainment. You can also find what could be loosely termed a western style fair with Ferris wheels, shooting galleries etc. along-side stalls selling a multitude of delicious local food and the obligatory sellers of souvenirs and all manner of other products.
With a bit of forward planning you could get to participate in both this festival and the neighbouring Lotus Flower Festival in Samut Prakan Province as the two locations are within easy reach of one another. With both venues a bit off the ‘normal’ tourist route, you will find very few westerners taking the same path, this is a real plus as you get to immerse yourself in the real Thailand, without rubbing shoulders with thousands of foreign tourists.