With music, water fights, puppets and ghosts, the second quarter of the year brings more exciting festivals to Thailand’s annual events calendar. Here are a few you really do need to experience.
Phi Ta Khon, the Ghost Festival
Where: Dan Sai, Loei province
When: Between March and July
One of the country’s most unique festivals is Phi Ta Khon, which takes place each year in Dan Sai in the Loei Province. Better known in English as the Ghost Festival, it is a Buddhist merit-making holiday. During this three day period the quiet farming village of Dan Sai is transformed by colourful, masked spirits with bells around their waists, who dance and parade through the streets. The Thai festival is a re-enactment of a Buddhist story and a celebration of animist reincarnation beliefs that speaks of the time Lord Buddha was living his final incarnation before enlightenment as a prince who had been banished from his kingdom. After being exiled, Lord Buddha returned to a homecoming so jubilant that it awoke the dead, who joined in on the festivities. Phi Ta Khon is part of a bigger Buddhist festival called Bun Luang, which is celebrated in many parts of northern Thailand. The dates, between March and July, are selected annually by the town’s mediums.
Songkran Water Festival
Imagine taking to the streets armed with a water pistol and the express purpose of shooting as much water as possible at passersby, family and friends in a madly wonderful and fun celebration that brings in the New Year. This is exactly what happens annually during the much-adored Songkran festival. Celebrated in Thailand as the traditional Buddhist New Year, the word Songkran comes from the Sanskrit word saṃkrānti, which means transformation or change and marks the beginning of the solar calendar. For many it is a period of reflection and time to show respect to elders, but for others it’s a perfect opportunity to hit the streets for a giant water fight that is enjoyed by millions across the Kingdom.
Taking place every year from Friday the 13th April until late on Sunday the 15th this festival is a joyous return to childhood, to playful water fights that cool down hot days and to the unadulterated giggles and bliss of the mood and revelry. With April the hottest time of year in Thailand, it’s also the perfect way to cool off. But there is a deeper meaning and a symbolism to the throwing of water. During this time Thais will visit temples and pour water over Buddha statues, which represents washing away the sins and bad luck and starting the New Year with a pure and clean slate.
Nang Yai Shadow Puppet Festival
Where: Nang Yai Museum, Wat Khanon, Ratchaburi
Each year in April, Nang Yai Museum at Wat Khanon in Photharam, Ratchaburi presents the annual Nang Yai Shadow Puppet Festival. Beyond visiting the museum to enjoy the art and craft demonstrations, you will see live folk performances from around Thailand and be able to enjoy a traditional puppet show and shadow play depiction of The Battle with Mangkornkandh, an episode of The Ramakien.
Chanthaburi Fruit Festival
When: end of May or start of June
Held at the end of May or the start of June, this festival in Chanthaburi provides the perfect opportunity to feast on an assortment of fruit, from mangosteen, longkong, longan, salak and the pungent ‘not for everybody’ durian. A colourful and delicious extravaganza, the Chanthaburi Fruit Festival takes place in the small province some 245 km away from Bangkok. The city is not a tourist attraction, but rather agricultural land and with barely 30,000 residents, is a magical retreat from the urban chaos. The Festival traces its origin to when it first started centuries ago. The celebrations, which last for nearly ten days, offer a unique opportunity for visitors to taste the region’s annual fruit produce. The province of Chanthaburi is also known as the ‘Tropical Fruit Bowl of Thailand’. Apart from the delicious fruits, there’s a wide range of activities offered by the Chanthaburi Horticultural Research Centre.
Pattaya International Music Festival
The Pattaya International Music Festival is one of the biggest international beach music festivals in Asia and is hosted along Pattaya beach road. Drawing music lovers and fun-seekers from all over the world, it provides a fantastic backdrop as you sway along to the music of popular local bands. The festival hosts musicians from many genres such as reggae, jazz, rock, R&B and hip-hop. These genres are celebrated on different stages along the beach. When the festival first began, it saw mostly Thai bands perform, but as the years went back, the scope of the festival grew. In the last decade, it has seen bands from around the world and neighbouring countries like Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. There are booths selling music-related accessories and food stalls within the concert venue.