Category Archives: Thai Festivals

Getting Ready for the Vegetarian Festival

The annual Vegetarian Festival is about to start here in Thailand. It happens every year in the tenth Thai lunar month on the first new moon after the equinox. This year it is celebrated between 26th September and 5th October 2011. Most people make the mistake in thinking that this is a festival only celebrated in Phuket. Although it is true that their version is certainly livelier, it is actually celebrated in many places around Thailand wherever there are large Chinese communities. Samut Prakan is no exception. All through the town we have had large yellow banners hung across the roads for the past week. Also, food stalls selling vegetarian food have been flying little yellow flags. This will now be my fourth year of taking part in this festival.

At school, about 15% of our students and teachers have signed up for vegetarian meals. As well as a vegetarian meal for lunch, the students will have soy milk during break time. Not everyone has Chinese ancestors as there are people like myself who are doing it as a kind of purification of the body and mind. Personally I think it is a great form of detox not to eat animal products for ten days. However, some teachers have already admitted to me that they will probably only do it for three days. Most of them are worried about gaining weight. But this is mainly because of the deep fried snacks. Some of them are very addictive. Strangely, I usually lose weight during this period.

For my preparation I went to Tesco Lotus to see what I could eat. A large section of the supermarket had shelves stacked with food that we can safely eat during the vegetarian festival. It is easy to spot as there are always yellow flags with the word “jay” written in Thai in red letters. In the picture above, you can see some of the things I bought. These include soy bean milk and mama noodles. There were even cup noodles of tom yum with mushrooms and tofu.  Last time I also bought plenty of vegetables as I was planning on cooking for myself. However, there are so many food stalls here that are selling vegetarian food that it is usually easier to eat out every day.

Pomelo Festival in Thailand

One of my favourite fruits found in Thailand is the Pomelo, which is the largest of the citrus fruit family. In some ways it is a bit like a grapefruit, though of course larger, and is also often sweeter. However, it has a thick skin and rind pith. Although I do enjoy eating this fruit, it is certainly no fun to peel it yourself. It can be quite time-consuming. To give you an idea, a youtube video that I found that shows you how to peel a pomelo is nearly five minutes long! The best thing to do is to buy them already peeled. They don’t cost that much more. For example, the two foam cartons below of pomelo fruit were about 20 Baht each which is less than $1.

This week they have a Pomelo Fair in Nakhon Chaisi District in Nakhon Pathom Province. I drove out there at the weekend. This is taking place at Wat Rai Khing from now until Saturday 10th September. However, the vendors told me that they would still be selling on Sunday. Nakhon Chaisi is famous for two different kinds of Pomelo. This is “Som O Thong Dee” pictured on the left and “Som O Khao Nam Pheung” on the right. Som O Khao Nam Pheung is pear-shaped with yellowish green skin and sweet succulent honey-coloured flesh as its name in Thai suggests, while the pink juicy sweet flesh of the globular-shaped Som O Thong Dee (brilliant gold pomelo) makes it easily recognizable.

My Top 10 Favourite Thai Festivals

Over the years I have seen some really great Thai festivals. This is a list of my Top 10 favourites in no particular order.

Thai Festivals

Loy Krathong Festival

(1) As the full moon of the twelfth lunar month (usually in mid-November) lights up the night sky, throughout the Thai kingdom, hundreds of thousands of ornately-decorated krathong or traditional banana leaf floats are set adrift in rivers and waterways in a spell-binding ritual called “Loy Krathong” – the ‘festival of lights”. This is one of the Kingdom’s oldest and best-preserved traditions. The next festival takes place on 10th November 2011.

Thai Festivals

Songkran Festival

(2) Songkran Festival, a national celebration of the traditional Thai New Year, captures the imagination of travellers for both its cultural and fun attributes; the latter being enthusiastic bouts of water splashing between friends and relatives. This takes place all over Thailand in mid-April. The date used to vary but it is now fixed and takes place on 13-15 April every year.

Thai Festivals

Chinese New Year

(3) The celebration of the Chinese New Year remains the most important of annual festivals on the Chinese lunar calendar observed in the various regions of Thailand. Festive celebrations are typically staged in areas where there is a significant Thai-Chinese community such as the Yaowarat district in Bangkok and in the provinces of Suphan Buri, Ayutthaya, Chon Buri, Ratchaburi, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nakhon Sawan, Chiang Mai, Songkhla and Phuket. The next festival is on 23rd January 2012.

Thai Festivals

Rub Bua Festival

(4) The Lotus Flower Receiving Festival, or Rub Bua in Thai, takes place at Bang Phli. This festival has been handed down from one generation to the next. It is held annually one day before the end of the Buddhist Rain Retreat.  Traditionally, local people line up on both sides of Klong Samrong and throw lotus flowers onto the boat carrying a replica of a revered Buddha image.The next festival is on 11th October 2011.

Thai Festivals

Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival

(5) The Candle Festival takes place as the seasonal monsoon rains descends over the kingdom, marking the beginning of the Buddhist “rain retreat” and the Buddhist Lent, or “Phansa”. As Ubon Ratchathani province prepares for the Buddhist Lent, men with artistic skills set about the task of moulding and sculpting Lenten candles. As these works of art are to be presented as Buddhist merit-making offerings, the artisans pour their heart and soul into their craft. The next festival is around the 3rd August 2012.

Thai Festivals

Phi Ta Khon Festival

(6) The Phi Ta Khon festival is unique to the Dan Sai district in Loei Province and reflects the local Isan belief in ghosts and spirits. Held once a year, it is part of a grand merit-making festival known as the “Boon Luang” festival. Young men of the community dress up as “spirits” wearing long trailing costumes made from colourful strips of cloth sewn together. The next festival will take place around June/July 2012.

Thai Festivals

Hae Pha Khuen That Festival

(7) The Hae Pha Kuen That Festival is unique to the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat. Holy cloth, known as Phra bot, is draped around the stupa in a merit-making ritual. The custom reflects a form of communal merit-making designed to strengthen community spirit and foster unity and has been observed for some 800 years. According to Buddhist belief, participation in communal merit-making earns an individual more merit. The next festival will take place around 7th March 2012.

Thai Festivals

Tak Bat Dok Mai Festival

(8) The Tak Bat Dok Mai floral offering merit-making ritual is unique to Saraburi province. This ritual stands out from the merit-making activities conducted in the other parts of Thailand because in addition to the offerings of cooked rice, food, incense, candles and other conventional sacred items, the Tak Bat Dok Mai ritual includes offerings of Dok Khao Phansa flowers that only come into bloom during the Buddhist Lent. The next festival is around 2nd August 2012.

Thai Festivals

Phra Samut Chedi Fair

(9) The longest running temple fair in Thailand is the Phra Samut Chedi Fair in Samut Prakan. It starts with parades through the town and along the river of the red cloth that is later wrapped around the stupa. Then for ten days the city virtually comes to a standstill for one of the biggest temple fairs in the region.  The next festival is on 17th-28th October 2011.

Thai Festivals

Monkey Buffet Festival

(10) One of the most famous places in Thailand to see monkeys is among the ruins of the historical city of Lopburi. In appreciation of their efforts to attract tourists, local businessmen put on a grand Monkey Buffet Festival for the monkeys on the last Sunday in November every year. Over the years this has become one of the world’s biggest monkey parties. The next festival is on 27th November 2011.

There are obviously more big festivals that take place in Thailand. Those will have to wait for another day and another list. What are your favourites? Are they missing from this list? Let us know in the comments below. For information and dates of Festivals of Thailand please visit our Thai Festival Blogs.

Candle Procession Festival in Ubon Ratchathani

One of the biggest and most beautiful festivals in Thailand is the Candle Procession which marks the start of the Buddhist Lent. In Thai this is called Khao Phansa which is the day after the full moon in July.  Traditionally during this period, Thai Buddhists take part in parades to their local temples where they offer basic essentials and candles to the monks. This year, I attended the Candle Procession in Ubon Ratchathani, which is in the Northeast of Thailand.

For the three months of the Buddhist Lent the monks are not allowed to leave their temples and must spend their time studying the scriptures. This is also the height of the rainy season and so in the past it wasn’t easy for them to travel around anyway. The idea for the large candle is to give light to the monks during this period. Some Thai people believe that by donating candles, they will have wisdom, be resourceful and be bright like the candle.

In the beginning, they probably gave the monks plain candles, but over time, the more devout Buddhists would decorate the candle or carve it into intricate designs. We have now gone from normal candles to these 15 meter long floats that depict scenes from Hindu and Buddhist mythology. The normal Candle Processions still take place all over Thailand at this time, but the big floats first started to appear in Ubon Ratchathani about 34 years ago. Ubon is still the most famous though a few other cities now copy them.

The Candle Festival takes place in Ubon for the entire month of July but the main activities only take place around the full moon. If you are planning on going next year, make sure that you book your accommodation in advance. This year there was an estimated 200,000 domestic and international tourists at the festival. Ubon’s 3,100 hotel rooms were fully booked for these three days. Flights were also fully booked.

This was my first time at the festival and I had a really enjoyable time taking pictures of the dancers and floats. Though it was very exhausting as it went on for about three hours. I am not sure how many floats there were in the end but it was certainly a lot. In the evening, the winning floats were displayed at Thung Si Mueang Park. I already posted pictures over at Thai Travel Blogs of the winners. I’m not sure how long they will stay there as they were suffering a bit in the heat. But the entrants in the International Wax Sculpture competition will be on display in the grounds of the National Museum until 31st July.

I don’t have the dates yet for the Candle Festival Procession in 2012, but it will be around the full moon in July 2012. I will post the dates and schedule as soon as they are confirmed on my Twitter account @RichardBarrow, Facebook Fanpage, Thai Festival Blogs and also Thai Travel Blogs. In addition to the Candle Procession in Ubon Ratchathani, there are also big ones in Nakhon Ratchasima and Suphan Buri at the same time. There are smaller candle processions elsewhere in Thailand including some on a boat. But, Ubon has the biggest.

Sam Praeng Festival in Bangkok

Over this weekend, the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) are organizing the “Sam Praeng – The Colours of Yesterday Festival”. The event is taking place in the communities of Phraeng Phuthon, Phraeng Nara and Phraeng Sapsaat. There are cultural events, exhibitions and lots of delicious Thai food.

Praeng in Thai means “junction”. This area was formerly the palace of King rama IV’s son. Later on, a road called Praeng Nara was built through the grounds of the old palace. A row of houses of European style, which was popular at that time, were constructed along both sides of the road. Many of them can still be seen today and are in good condition.

The festival starts at about 4 p.m. though it is best to go a bit later as it doesn’t really start to kick off until dusk. There are about three different roads in this area where the festival is taking place and each road has one or two stages set up for shows. This is the long drum parade through the streets.

The highlight for me was the food of course. Many of the shophouses had set up tables in front of their premises and were selling a variety of food as well as other items. Instead of eating one big meal I just walked around snacking on a variety of different food. This is a famous khanom buang shop. Their recipe is slightly different to ones I have tasted before.

The festival continues until about 10 p.m. Each stage has different shows that vary from singing to ballroom dancing. At this stage I watched the long drum dancing which is from the Northeast of Thailand. This show also included sword fighting and flame throwing.  I also watched a ten year old kid play a Thai xylophone.

This isn’t one of those big festivals. It is something organized by the local community. But, it is worth taking the time to explore the area as there is a lot of history here and the old architecture is something you don’t often see in a modern Bangkok. It is not too far from the Grand Palace and Sanam Luang.

Map showing the location of Sam Praeng:

[cetsEmbedGmap src=,100.497351&spn=0.003413,0.004823&z=18 width=450 height=425 marginwidth=0 marginheight=0 frameborder=0 scrolling=no]