January 11, 2017
While the Kingdom is still known as the Land of Smiles, it could also be known as the Land of Cheeky Grins. Throughout the year and across the Kingdom, its people continuously demonstrate the age-less whacky side to their persona. Listed here are the top craziest festivals staged annually in the country.
It’s during this event that you get a sense that the Thai people have never forgiven their parents for making them eat their vegetables. Once a year and across a number of its 76 provinces, mobs of people, armed with all sorts of weapons and sharp objects take to the streets….to be surrounded by a cacophony of noise, and the acidic smell of gunpowder. See more Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Power tiller Racing
Where once the water buffalo was seen as the work horse of the Kingdom, time has caught up on these beasts of burden, since the development of the unique long-handled, “Thai” two-wheel tractor, in 1950, the more and more of their work is done by these once steer less (long handles were used to steer them), lumps of metal (called ‘iron buffalo’ in Thai).
These now modernized machines, are now taking on the mighty water buffalo in their traditional sport of Buffalo Racing. Each year in March the country’s top power tiller racers let the mud fly, squaring off in the annual Thailand Power Tiller Race. This annual event is held in Khamhaeng Phet, upper central Thailand, Tiller Racing has long been a popular pastime in many rice-growing provinces, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that it became a national competition.
Competitions feature champions from neighbouring countries such as Cambodia to compete against Thailand’s best. It may lack the pace of Formula1, but power tiller racers are required to work in teams of two – a driver and a wheel-man – to navigate their diesel-powered field-churning machines around a course of deep, sticky mud. For a sneak preview click on You Tube
Racing is also held in the Northeast province of Nakhon Ratchasima at the historical town of Phimai, in March each year, known as the Kubota Thailand championships, when they compete for the Princess Sirindhorn Trophy. Kubota is a well-known agricultural machinery manufacturer in Thailand.
What next for the endangered buffalo – will they lose out to their mechanical nemesis, and no longer compete in the Traditional Thai sport of Bull Fighting?
While the festival is known throughout the world for the copious amount of water that is thrown everywhere, it is also a public spring cleaning holiday, based on a religious belief that, everything old and useless must be thrown away or it will bring bad luck.
I suppose after all that sweat and tears in doing the chores, you have to cool down somehow. With the festivities going on for anything up to 10 days this is one manic time to be visiting the country. See more on Wet and Wild in Thailand
Isan consists of 20 provinces in the northeastern region of Thailand and is the Kingdom’s largest. It is in this corner of the country that prior to the beginning of the rainy season May – June each year, local people, let down their hair and send all many of (some would say scary), rockets to the heavens.
The biggest and strangest of these events is the Yasothon Rocket Festival, where they not only let their hair down, but they also put on their painted faces and join in the fun as cross dressers. To add to the mayhem of untold rockets, booze and noise, Phallic symbols and innuendo are everywhere in this 2-3 day event, which has its beginnings, in ancient fertility rites. See more Yasothen Rocket Festival
This annual event is where faith meets mayhem and is a combination of Tattoos, faith and dreams. Once a year thousands of Thai’s and tourists attend the special ‘Wai Kru’ ceremony, at Wat Bang Phra in Nakhon Pathom Central Thailand, to honour the late sacred tattoo master, Luang Pu Poen. It is also a time for those that already have Yantra tattooing, to have their tattoos re-consecrated by the temples monks.
The wearers of the tattoos believe so strongly in the strength of their Sak yant, that some will enter a state of trance during the event and become possessed by the spirit of the animals and mythical figures that adorn their bodies.
Whether you believe in these magico-religious tattoos or not, those attending certainly do. The day is full of quiet serenity and utter madness in almost equal measure and may leave you questioning your own beliefs. See more Wat Bang Phra Tattoo Festival
The sport of Buffalo Racing is held through-out much of Thailand, with the biggest and best known held at Chonburi city hall, Chonburi. Central/Eastern Thailand, (90.2km southeast of Bangkok, and 62.5 km further to Pattaya). The event has been held in the province for over 140 years, with most of the activities centered around, the ability of the jockeys, to both hang onto several tones of lumbering, disgruntled, mass of sinew and horns and with luck…… coax the animal in the right direction, as it hurtles down the race track.
The speed these ungainly animals reach is quite frightening, it is not unusual for riders to become dislodged, in their frantic attempt to be the winner, perched as they are on the haunches of their animal, with only their knees to keep them in contact with it.
This is not to say, the festival is just about speed and the ability of the rider to hang on to their beast. The festival also includes a buffalo beauty pageant, the winning animal is crowned “Miss Farmer”, if you want to see Thai’s laugh to the point of almost crying, the hilarious buffalo beauty contest is a must see. The whole event is a mass of noise, mud and laughter. See more Chonburi Buffalo Races Festival
Held close to the Khmer temple of Phra Prang Sam Yot, near the railway station in the Old Town of Lopburi, aptly nicknamed “the city of monkeys,” is one of the Kingdoms newest annual events, the somewhat bizarre ‘Monkey Buffet Festival’
The event draws in big crowds each year, even though it is one of the few almost non spiritual festivals in the country. During the event, held every last Sunday in November, over 3,000 of the local, long tailed macaques come down from their hideouts, to feast on over 4,000 kilos of food, lovingly prepared by local chefs. Consisting of delicious choices of prepared fruit salads, fruit carvings, sticky white rice and even traditional Thai desserts made from egg, all washed down with cans of soda.
Some fruit will be encased in blocks of ice which the monkeys will lick in frustration, not being able to contain them-selves and wait for the ice to melt. A perfect picture opportunity if you can catch one in action.
Whether you go to Lopburi to see the ancient ruins or especially for the Monkey Buffet Festival you’re sure to have unforgettable time in this laid back monkey paradise! See more Monkey Festival
The Phi Ta Khon Festival, sometimes known as the Ghost Festival, is the biggest attraction in this otherwise mainly farming community and while, the days normally float past at a leisurely pace, the sleepy district and town of the same name, Dan Sai, once a year in July, erupts into life with the unique and magical Phi Ta Khon Festival
The date of this three day event was once selected annually by the town’s mediums. It has its roots in seeking protection from Phra U-pakut, the spirit of the local Mun River. Part of the celebrations are also ascribed to a story of the Vessantara Jataka in which the Buddha in one of his past lives as a prince, made a long journey and after a time was presumed dead. The celebrations on his return were so raucous that they were believed to have woken the dead; today’s festivities are a re-enactment of this glorious and noisy time.
As with most all festivals in the Kingdom, they are a combination of riotous fun and spiritual calm, here is no exception. The mayhem of the first two days eventually gives way to the peace and solemn prayers. All in all this festival is a reflection of Thai life, where its long and colourful history sits hand in hand with its spiritual past. See more Ghost Festival
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