Do note that most event days are based on the lunar calendar and therefore change annually.
Winter Flower Fair
When: December – January
Where: Loei (94 Miles)
Held in Phu Rua, Loei during the cool months of December and January, and Winter Flower Fair features the flower decoration and sales during this period. The opening will call on all visitors to witness the beautiful parade, shop for flowers and plants from commercial gardens and nurseries. There are also local product sales, traditional performances by students, competitions, beauty pageant, music performance, music competition and countdown event on New Year’s Eve and Buddhist alms on the New Year Day.
Father’s Day (wan Chalerm)
When: 5th December
Where: Throughout Thailand
Is celebrated every second week of June in most countries, Father’s Day in Thailand just like Mother’s Day, is observed during the birthday of their monarch, King Rama IX or Wan Chalem; on the 5th December
Born Bhumibol Adulyadej, His Majesty became the King of Thailand on June 9, 1946 after the death of his brother, King Ananda Mahidol. He is now the longest serving monarch in the world, born in 1927 in
Cambridge, Massachusetts. He later on finished his studies in Switzerland and formally crowned as king May 5, 1950.
However, in 1948, the King met an accident. He hit the back of a truck that cost him his right eyesight. But from this accident he met and won his Queen—the daughter of Thai ambassador to France at that time—and helped him to recover from the misfortune.
His Majesty King has a very crucial role in Thai politics, especially Thailand’s transition to democracy in the 1990’s. He is loved and honored by many Thais because of his immersion with Thais’ poorest communities back when he was younger. He is considered as ‘inviolable’ and deemed as ‘almost divine’.
His Majesty King’s birthday celebration is a three-in-one festivity: his birthday, Thailand’s national day and Father’s day. December 5 is considered as the biggest event of the year where people break from their everyday routines and celebrate the day of the King, the heart and soul of Thailand.
Buildings and houses all over the country are decorated with flags, photographs of His Majesty and other embellishments—mostly color yellow—the color of the King. The center of the celebration is in the Royal residence, around the Grand Palace and the Ratchadamnoen Avenue in Bangkok.
The preparation for the holiday starts weeks before the day itself. Thousands of golden marigolds and colorful lights beautify the streets. There will be parades and exhibits around the capital city, Bangkok, in honor of His Majesty King’s life.
December 5 is also a bank holiday, all banks and establishments are closed to give way to the celebration. Some main streets to the Palace, like the Ratchadamnoen and Sanam Luang, are also closed because of the people celebrating and also the traffic. The main party commences at night where a big picture of His Majesty King will be paraded along the venue as scenic firework displays light up the sky with people rejoicing for the day of their King.
Isan Grand Kite Festival
When: 4 – 5 December
Where: Burirum (210 miles) make it a stopover to or from Pattaya or Bangkok
Held annually at the sports stadium in Amphoe Huai Rat on the first weekend of December, or during the harvest season when the cold north-eastern wind blows. At this time of the year, local people make “aek” kites, a traditional kite of the North-eastern people. Buriram province organized the first Isan Kite Festival in 1986 to conserve and publicize the local tradition of the Lower Northeast. There is also a kite competition among the locals who come from the surrounding districts and villages. A kite to enter the competition must be more than 2.5 metres wide and it is judged for its beautiful design, the sound of the “aek” – a sound–making device attached to the kite – and the way it floats in the sky. During the event there are also colourful kite parades, folk performances, shows and booths displaying the local products and you guessed it food.
Thung Sri Muang Festival
When: December 1st -15th
Where: Udon Thani
Located close to the City Hall and Nong Prajak Park the festival is one of nonstop mish mash of huge fairs, with roller coaster, booths, exhibitions, concerts, shows and much more, it will engage all your senses not just your eyes and ears and is a time to let your hair down, join in this crazy two weeks and enjoy this annual mayhem. The whole thing is kicked off on the 1st December with the huge (99 feet long) ‘Dragon Parade’ to mark the festival of ‘Thung Srimuang’
Silk Phuk Siew Festival and Red Cross Fair
When: 29 November – 10 December
Where: Khon Kaen (70 miles)
Phuk Siew or ‘friendship making’ is an ancient tradition of north eastern people. The ritual ceremony demonstrates the friendship not only amongst friends but also families, relatives and siblings. During the fair, visitors can participate in the friendship making ritual; enjoy north eastern food, ceremonial procession, local silk weaving exhibition, Red Cross Fair, local performances, beauty contest and local product sales.
Where: Nakhon Ratchasima (189.3 miles)
The event is held by TAT Nakhon Ratchasima and Fine Arts Department at Phrommathat Ground of Phimai Historical Park and the bank of Chakkarat River. The highlight of Phimai Festival includes the jaw-dropping light and sound presentation, traditional dances by Mun River, telling a story of glorious era of King Jayavarman VII. During 13 – 14 November, traditional boat races take place on the bank of Chakkarat River and Mun River. Indigenous to Nakhon Ratchasima, there is Korat cat competition, Khon (classical Thai mask dance); local art and Phimai food competition are added to this colourful event.
Where: Throughout Thailand
The delightful Loy Krathong Festival, celebrated nation-wide on the full moon night in November. The float or krathong is made of banana-leaf and is filled with incense sticks, flowers, a lighted candle and small coins, once completed and the candles and incense are alight it is floated into the sea or on the river, while the sky is awash with hot air lanterns, it is then when Thai people will as ask for good luck in the future and forgiveness Pra Mae Khongkha.
It is a very emotional time and it’s when we remember those that are no longer with us
The original festival was thought to be it used for worshipping the foot-print of Buddha at Nammathanati River beach in Thakkhinabodh district, India.
Buriram Royal Trophy Long Boat Races
Where: Buriram (210 miles) make it a stop over from Pattaya or Bangkok
There is an elephant parade for the Royal Trophy of H.M. the King and H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhon, long boat races of various sizes which are large with 55 rowers, medium-sized with 40 rowers and small with 38 rowers. The festival also features the elephant swimming races between elephants and elephant with man as well as water boxing.
Surin Elephant Round-Up and Elephant Show
Where: Surin (241 miles) combine it Buriram Royal Trophy Long Boat Races above
The importance of elephant in the Kingdom has been revered for centuries. Once, the inhabitants of Surin were known for their abilities to catch and train the wild elephants. Now, there is no more wild elephant round-up. However, the residents have prolonged their tradition of revering the domesticated elephants. This internationally recognized event includes demonstration of various techniques in capturing and training the elephants, elephant talent competitions, a presentation of ancient elephant warfare and adoring tug-of-war between men and elephants.
Illuminated Boat Procession
When: October – November
Where: Nakhon Pranom (148 miles)
Nakhon Pranom Illuminated Boat Procession is held from the full moon day to the 1st day of the waning moon of the 11th lunar month, (“that’s as clear as mud I know”) the procession illuminates the Mekong River in front of the city hall the boats a awash with lights and the whole sky is lit up by a multitude of fireworks it a spectacular event and worth the trip.
Bang Fai Phaya Nak (Naga Fireballs)
When: In the middle of October
Where: Nong Khai (37.5miles)
The phenomenon that occurs along Mekong River in Amphoe Phon Sai, the ‘Naga’ fireball is the fireballs flying from the surface of the river into the night sky and always occurs at the beginning of the full moon night in 11th lunar month. The locals believe that Naga, the serpent dwelling in the river, propels the fireballs to remind the residents to treat the river with respect.
Sakon Nakhon Wax Castle Festival
Where: Sakon Nakhon (101 Miles)
The festival marks the end of Buddhist Lent and is complemented by Princess’s Cup Royal long-boat race. Isan people believe that high merits can be gained by offering beeswax to the monks to use to light at night and to make candles. Originally, only beeswax was offered. Over time the tradition has developed into a big ceremony. Beeswax nowadays is used to build intricately carved castles which are displayed in a procession and competition. There are local cultural performances and local music performances which reflect the lively and fun nature of Isan people.
Traditional Dragon Boat Races
Where: Nr Udon Thani
The Dragon has a very symbolic meaning for the Chinese and Thai’s alike (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Thailand). A classic dragon has the head of an ox; a deer’s antlers; the mane of a horse; the body and scales of a snake; the claws of an eagle and the tail of a fish. With its strength and power the Dragon rides the clouds in the sky and commands the wind, mist and rain.
The Dragon Boat is deeply embedded in China’s and Thailand’s ‘Dragon’ culture, with each Boat having an ornately carved dragon’s head at the Bow and a tail in the Stern. The Hull is painted with the Dragon’s scales. The paddles symbolically represent the claws. In Traditional Festivals the boat designs and crew numbers can vary from 10 up to 50 or more paddlers, along with the Drummer and Helmsman.
The races are a colourful spectacle, with at least two boats competing against each other over distances from 200 to 2000 metres and above. Not only are strength, endurance and skill important but equally teamwork and harmony of purpose.
Within Khumpahawapi is a city park with a large troupe of monkeys that have been living there for over a hundred years, during the festival there are numerous stalls selling local food and drinks.
Rocket Festival-Bun Bang Fai (translated ‘Big Bang Festival’)
Where: Non Sung – Nr Udon Thani
A Rocket Festival is a merit-making ceremony traditionally practiced by ethnic Lao people throughout much of northeast Thailand and Laos, the festivities take place in numerous villages and municipalities near the beginning of the rainy season. Celebrations include local music and dance performances, competitive processions of floats, in the main on the first and second day, and culminating on the third day in competitive firings of home-made rockets. Be prepared for hair raising noise and that’s not just from the fireworks.
Mother’s day (Wan Mae)
When: 12th August
Where: Throughout Thailand
Born Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara in 1932, Her Majesty Queen has been revered by the Thais through her enduring charity work since the 1950’s. Being a Queen, she also promoted acceptance and tolerance to the local Muslim minorities in Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat, the southernmost provinces of Thailand. She is also adored for her humanitarian efforts in the tsunami disaster in 2004, making her very popular among the masses. Her Majesty Queen is venerated in the country’s provinces not only because of her compassion and goodwill, but they also deemed the monarchy as semi-divine, because of this love for the royal highness, Thais made her birthday a national holiday where people celebrate Her Majesty Queen Sirikit as a mother of the people of Thailand, and at the same time, pay tribute and honour to everybody’s own mothers. The event is also known as “Wan Mae” or literally Mother’s day. Preparations start weeks before August 12. Houses will be decorated with the portrait of Her Majesty Queen, while people and various organizations will raise national flags at their homes and offices all over the Kingdom of Thailand. Lanterns, garlands, and colourful lights brighten up the streets her array of portraits is displayed.
Mother’s day in Thailand is also a time for family reunions and gatherings. The day usually will start with children giving alms to the monks. They will go to their mothers afterwards (even grandmothers and aunts); offering them a garland of flowers with a letter telling how important they are in their lives. Typically, a child will kneel in front of the mother, kissing the back of their hands while on top of their mother’s feet or what Thais called as “krub”.
A spectrum of activities is also lined up throughout the day. In Bangkok, parades are all around the city. Fireworks displays add up to the beauty of the festivity, along with the rich and vibrant colors of street lights. The heart of the celebration is near the Grand Palace in Sanam Luang, north of the Royal Residence.
Hotels and airlines are fully booked at this time of the year, just like the other national holidays. Tourists from around the world flock to Thailand to witness the grand celebration of Her Majesty Queen’s birthday and how Thais celebrate their “Wan Mae”. So if you want to see how festive Thailand is every Mother’s Day, better book early to avoid the hassle of last minute decisions.
Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival
When: Typically takes place in July, on the full moon of the eighth lunar month
Where: Ubon Ratchathani (246 miles)
At the start of the Lenten period, it is traditional in preparation for the rainy season for the devout to donate to items for the personal use of monks, and of candles to dispel gloom in their quarters and elsewhere within the wat (temple). The latter is often the core event of many village celebrations, but is at its most elaborate in the Ubon Ratchathani version, which nowadays is a major event both for residents and for tourists: giant candles are paraded through the town, each representing a local temple, district or other institution. The more elaborate versions are accompanied by scenes of Hindu and Buddhist mythology sculpted in wood or plaster and coated with wax
The candles are carved a couple of days before the procession.
On Asanha Bucha day, the candles are taken to Thung Si Mueang, a park in the middle of the city, where they are decorated and then exhibited in the evening. On the same evening, there are small processions with lighted candles at several temples.
The procession takes place on the morning of Wan Kao Pansa. The candles are paraded through the city centre on floats, accompanied by representatives of the respective institutions. These are normally dancers or musicians in traditional dress.
In addition to the above, the festival is accompanied by the usual paraphernalia of feasting and games which attend any Thai festival.
Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon Festival
Where: Dansai, Loei (135 Miles)
A unique festival of Dan Sai in Loei province, Phi Ta Khon or ghost festival is believed to be a celebration of the return of the Buddha-to-be, Prince Vessandorn after leaving the village on a very long journey. People in the village were celebrating so loud that awoke the dead to join the celebration. On the first and second day of this 3-day festival, people in the village are dressed in ghostly attire with ragged and colourful clothes and colourfully painted masks made from local bamboo rice cooker. The full version of the procession is on the second day which the residents sing and dance throughout the village. The last day is Buddhist ceremony in the temple.
Siam Tulip Festival
June, as a part of the early rainy season, is the only time in a year that Siam Tulip is in bloom. The field of Pa Hin Ngam National Park and surroundings are stunningly covered with pinkish-purple flowers. As a part of the festival, there are mountain bike competition, exhibition, rock climbing and visit the viewpoint at Sai Thong National Park in the same province.
When: April 12th-21st
Where: Throughout Thailand
Each province has its own special day here in Udon the celebrations go on for 5 days. Literally meaning “astrological passage”, Songkran is supposedly only celebrated every April 12 to 15. Though January 1 is the start of Thailand’s New Year, the festival is commemorated as a tradition and a national holiday in the country. It is observed nationwide even in the southernmost part of Thailand, but the heart of the celebration is in the northern city of Chiang Mai and Pattaya where it is observed for more than 6 days.
Throwing of water is the most amusing activity in the Songkran Festival. People will stroll through the streets with water guns or water container, while others will use fire trucks and hose pipes to ensure everyone gets wet, people will also mix water with mentholated talc or chalk and cover passersby, (because monks use it to mark blessing). It is a fun-filled crazy activity for all ages.
Songkran is also a time for reunions as most people come home to visit their families, especially to pay respect to the elders. Since it is also celebrated as a Buddhist festival, most people also visit a wat or a temple to pray and give food to the monks. Some Buddha shrines and images will also be cleansed gently with water mixed with Thai fragrance and herbs as it is believed that it will prosperity and good luck for the New Year.
According to religious traditions and beliefs, the water used to cleanse Buddha images is best to throw at people as a sign of respect because it is already blessed water. Elders believe that when the holy water will bring good fortune and wash all the bad luck when gently poured to the shoulders of the family members.
A definitely one-of-a-kind celebration in the country and something not to miss
Where: Throughout Thailand
It’s not only the day Gautama Buddha was born though, but it includes his whole life; his birth, enlightenment and death.
Also known as Vesak, Buddha’s birthday is celebrated in various days, depending on the calendar used by a particular country. In Thailand, where Buddhism is the major form of religion, Buddha’s birthday frequently falls on a May except in the leap year where it falls on June.
Approximately 95% of Thailand’s population is Buddhist of Therevada School of the Southern Buddhism, similar to that of Sri Lanka. It is estimated that the religion reached Thailand during the 3rd Century B.C., the same time when Emperor Asoka of Japan propagated its beliefs. The rest of the 5% in Thai population are mostly Muslims and Christians.
Buddha is considered as a great philosopher and teacher. His teachings widely spread Asia, particularly India and South Asia. Buddhism is not focused on gods and goddesses as most religions do; rather, it is focused on man and his life. Life, according to Buddha, is pain and suffering caused by craving and worldly desires. He said that agony will only end once desire ceases, until one achieves nirvana or the enlightenment.
Buddhism, because of its existence in the country for centuries, is deeply rooted in Thailand’s culture. From religion to customs and even to architecture, Buddhism is very dominant in the Thai nation. Like other Buddhist countries, the religion is represented by monks (some in yellow robes) who serve as the officiator on various ceremonies and occasions.
Vesak is the holiest day of Thai Buddhism. The monks and nuns all over the Kingdom of Thailand will chant rituals and the ancient rules of their orders. Some lay people, offer flowers and various offerings on the temples where they can also meditate and listen to monks’ discussions. There will usually be candlelight processions at night as part of their religious practices.
Celebrations in temples are a solemn and contemplating day, while other places celebrate it the modern way’ there are festivals, parades and parties like other Thai holidays. Streets will be covered with garlands and lanterns, including Buddha’s images.
In Wat Yai Chaimongkon, just outside the old city of Ayutthaya, celebration will start in the morning. Images surrounding the courtyard will be wrapped in new golden robes, including the large central tower or cedhi. Thousands of people usually visit the temple and go around it three times to give gratitude.
Bun Phawet Festival
Where: Roi Et (140 Miles)
Bun Phawet is a Buddhist ceremony to celebrate the return of Vetsandon, who was the previous life of The Lord Buddha. The festival is held for 3 days at the Somdech Phra Srinakarindra Park and Bueng Phalan Chai. There are a parade of Phra Ubbakhup around the town, 13 parades of Phrawet arranged by public and private organisations, light and sound presentation, cultural performances and a sermon of all chapters of the Maha Wetsandon Chadok in the Buddhist temple.
Phrathat Phanom Fair
When: February/early March
Where: Nakhon Phanom (148 Miles)
The festival takes place in February or early March. The fair starts in the morning with Buddhist ceremonies which brings Phra Uppakhup from the bank of Mekong River to Phrathat Phanom Temple. Then there are worship ceremony of the Phrathat Phanom Stupa, traditional dances for revering the Stupa, local product sales, local games and entertainment at day and night.
The Chinese New Year (“Trut Chin”)
Where: Throughout Thailand
Is a day of thanksgiving and a time for family reunion. It started when the Chinese migrated in the Ayuttaha period in 1350 to 1767 A.D. It is an important day for the Thais and can be compared to the Christian celebration of Christmas.
The occasion is one of the most exciting events in Thailand. It is celebrated on the first day of the Chinese lunar month, usually February, just like the other Chinese-influenced countries. It is believed to be the start of spring, when the weather is excellent, when it is best to grow crops. Trut Chin is the time to pay honor and worship to the gods and ancestors for the good crops and harvests.
Dragons, which are believed to be divine and mythical creatures by the Chinese, represent good fortune and prosperity while lions are the symbol of courage and solidity.
Although the event is observed nationwide, the celebration in the Nakhon Sawan province is the biggest because it lasts for 11 grand days. Usually there are stunning acrobatic performances like pole climbing and trapeze. Food and other incredible Thai and Chinese delicacies are also an attraction in the festival.
Ban Chiang World Heritage Festival
Where: Udon Thani
As one of the most sophisticated prehistoric sites in Southeast civilisation, Ban Chiang, the World Heritage Site holds a fascinating event where there are performances from Thailand, Lao PDR and Vietnam, light and sound presentation, traditional dinner, exhibition as well as local product sales and much more.
Where: Yasothon (182 Miles)
The Garland Festival is held at Ban Yard Fah, Maha Chana Chai, Yasothon during Makha Pucha Day. Buddhists believe that on that day, the Lord Buddha comes back from heaven after preaching his mother and he is welcomed by angels with flowers and rice. This belief is turned into the tradition. The villagers make garlands from baked rice which will be shown in a parade and used for decorating the temple’s pavilion.