Thailand Festivals

There is arguably no better way to appreciate a nation’s culture, heritage and traditions than to experience one of its festivals. These festivals typically run once a year, and are created and shaped by the local people, often showcasing centuries-old customs and beliefs.

Here we introduce some of Thailand’s best (and least) known celebrations, each giving you a fascinating insight into its welcoming people, its food, and its love of both celebration and reflection. Read on, then come and live them for yourself.

Loi Krathong  (floating basket festival)

The floating basket festival occurs on the night of the full moon in November, or the 12th month of the Thai calendar. Based in Chiang Mai, baskets of banana trunk or bread are adorned with flowers, candles, and incense, before being placed in the river to float downstream. A stunning sight, this festival is really humbling. 

Songkran (water festival)

The Thai New Year celebrations (13th April) are famous for their public water fights, with major roads closed and reimagined as arenas for playful competition. The word Songkran means ‘astrological passage’, so the festival is something of a rebirth, a transformation for Thai people. The water signifies the cleansing of the old, and the awakening of the new.

 Phi Ta Khon (ghost festival)

This remote Loei Province festival, held in June or July each year, is quite tricky to get to but therein lays the attraction. Those who experience it witness incredibly crafted ghost masks worn by participants, a representation of a party that is so fun that everyone – living or dead – would want to attend.

Yi Peng (lantern festival)

A rather genteel affair, Yi Peng is celebrated each November in Chiang Mai and sees thousands of lanterns released into the night sky at once. There are also parades, religious ceremonies and firework displays. Be sure to book hotels ahead, as this is an incredibly popular celebration of light.

Lopburi Monkey Banquet

Lopburi is well known for its large monkey population and this festival is a way of celebrating their rightful place within the community. Tonnes of fruit and vegetables are laid out on tables in the town every November to be enjoyed by the thousands of macaque monkeys – thought to be descended from Hanuman, the Monkey King and considered good luck. It makes for a surreal viewing experience.

Chinese New Year

Bangkok is home to a bustling Chinatown in Yaowaraj. This colourful community comes to life in an explosion of noise and festivities each January or February, with sumptuous banquets enjoyed alongside dancing dragons, musical displays and of course plenty of firecrackers.

 Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Despite its name, Phuket’s Vegetarian Festival is famous for something other than vegetables. Participants gather to put their bodies to the test by piercing their cheeks with metal objects and walking over hot coals. It’s not for the faint hearted, but in return for their sacrifices and pain, the Chinese Gods will protect those who enter from harm.