March 17, 2015
Celebrate Five festivals in 5 days in the province of Chonburi
Thailand in April is not all about Songkran. While most of the rest of the Kingdom will celebrate the Thai New Year over the 13-15 April, here in the Province of Chonburi the locals call Songkran the Wan Lai Tradition and there are 5 different events that run from the 16th to the 21st of April each year.
Wan Lai Sand Pagoda Building Festival
The first event is the Wan Lai Sand Pagoda Building Festival at Bang Saen Beach from the 16th to the 17th April. The competition is open to all, with the winners receiving prizes for the best and biggest sand pagoda. Bang Saen is a traditional Thai beach resort and the closest beach to Bangkok.
This ancient Thai tradition which has its roots in Buddhism, is part of making merit in the temples across Thailand over the Songkran holidays. It has two distinct functions, firstly the building of a pagoda is an offering to Buddha and secondly, it is to replace any sand that may have been taken out of the temple on the soles of the visiting people, it is regarded as sinful to remove anything from a temple. The sand pagodas once built are decorated with colourful flags and ropes that have been presented to the priests in a prior ceremony.
This simple act of bringing sand to the temple has also a direct benefit to the Monks as the sand can be used in further construction of the temple, while the local people have the enjoyment in building the pagodas and ultimately a closer bond is formed with both communities.
Today’s festival is all about preserving this ancient tradition along with displaying other local crafts and activities, including competing in traditional sports such as tug of war and Sepak Takro (kick volleyball).
That’s not all there are many cultural performances, along with a food fair, where amongst other things you can join in a sticky rice eating competition and try your hand at oyster striping. The event is a combination of traditional Thai culture, merit making and of course plenty of water throwing.
Pattaya – Na Kluea: Wan Lai Festival and the Na Kluea Kong Khao Fair
Wan Lai Festival and the Na Kluea Kong Kao Fair are organized annually on the 18th – 20th April. On the first two days of the event you will find the water mayhem in full swing all over Pattaya and neighbouring Na Kluea.
But each night once the mayhem abates and sanity returns to the streets, its time for the Na Kluea Kong Kao Fair, where the participant’s young and old dress in both Thai traditional costumes and as angels and fairies, for a parade in which they will sprinkle holy water on people in the crowd, at the same time paying their respect to their gods and spirits.
Others during the night festivities will dress as devils and demons and are appeased by the crowds with gifts of food. After the riotous 10 days of water-fighting that in Songkran in Pattaya, the Kong Khao festival is a refreshingly different and traditional way to herald the start of the Thai New Year.
Events during the day and away from the water bedlam include the hilarious sea boxing (see right), Pole-climbing; climbing up a pole to claim the prize at its top, the only problem is the pole is covered in grease, plus a slingshot contests and other fun activities. THe days also provide traditional song and dance performances along with a Sepak Takro (kick volleyball) competition.
Pictures from Pattaya Mail
Ko Si Chang
If that all sounds just like to much hard work why not travel to the quiet island of Ko Si Chang near Si Racha, while it only has a population of 4,500 it still has its own Wan Lai festivities (Songkran to the rest of Thailand) held on the 18th April each year.
The festival includes the normal if less fanatic water throwing along with many Thai folk games, such as climbing greased poles and boat racing, mingled with this fun will be a number of cultural performances and of course plenty of vendors selling an assortment of mouth water food and delicious drinks.
But that’s not all the day offers, as early morning witnesses fully clothed men carrying equally clothed ladies into the sea, returning with them some minutes later. This unique ancient event began in King Chulalongkorn era, the idea is that the men on the island would pick girls, who they like and ask for their permission to carry them to the sea, once in the water they bless each other.
This event is not just for the young but also for the young of heart, you will see mothers and grandmothers being carried into the sea by their children or grandchildren, where they will also stop to bless one another. (Songkran is about showing respect for ones elders see more on Traditional Songkran)
Songkran – Si Maha Racha Festival and Kong Khao Tradition
Last but not least, comes the much bigger festival of Songkran or Si Maha Racha Festival and Kong Khao Tradition. Held at Sriracha Public Park, Mueang Sriracha, Chonburi Province.
The Kong Khao tradition can trace its origins back over 100 hundred years and is held annually from the 19th – 21st April. Once celebrated in numerous districts in the province it is now only really celebrated here in Sri Racha.
The festival has an abundance of cultural performances featuring music, dance and folk plays, along with sports competitions and fun games. If that was not enough it also has a procession with colourful floats which is led by the elderly in traditional Thai costume.There are also worship ceremony, the Kong Khao beauty contest, best dress competition, and a wonderful Suntharapon musical performance.
No Thai festival would be complete without a huge selection of booths selling all manner of hand crafts and local Thai food, but it really it’s all about preserving the ancient Chonburi tradition of Kong Kao, see below. (Not to be confused with the Lao festival of Boun Kong Kao or Rice Festival normally held January or February)
Kong Khao Tradition
The origins of this long held festival, are thought to come from where the fisherman of the province worship spirits of the sea, and who they believe protect them from all the hazards that the elements can throw at them. (Such as the Good Spirit of the sea ‘Hear Tee’) In later years the festival has also included showing respect to the Goddess of Rice Mae Pho sop
In earlier years (and still today in some of the smaller villages in the province) local townspeople would gather a vast amount of food to please the spirits. After the offering, there was a banquet in which everyone would share the meal and later sing and dance together.
The belief is that the offering will ward off evil spirits, with the song, dance and happiness ushering in a New Year of prosperity and good fortune. One very important rule is that everyone is strictly prohibited from taking leftover food home because the food left behind is to help sustain other animals’ lives.
And there you have it 5 festivals in five days and all within a short distance of one another, be prepared to be dazzled, amazed, humbled, bemused and above all soaked to the skin, in what is Thailand most anticipated national festival.
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