Spend any time in Thailand and you’ll soon realise there always seems to be something to celebrate. From nation-wide holidays, such as the famous Songkran and Loi Krathong, to lesser-known local festivals, the country has kept many of its traditional celebrations alive and invites visitors to experience them with open arms.
Here are just four of Thailand’s unique festivities found in different regions across the country.
Lopburi Monkey Banquet
Location: Lopburi town
Dates: Usually the last Sunday in November
Located 150 kilometres north of Bangkok in Lopburi, this isn’t your typical Thai food festival! Lopburi is famous for the countless monkeys that reside in the centre of town and one of the most popular activities for tourists when visiting Lopburi is feeding the creatures. Come November, the town lays out an impressive public banquet of fruits, vegetables and other treats for the monkeys to feast on.
Nan Traditional Boat Racing Festival
Location: Nan town
Long-boat races have taken place for centuries (even being traced back to the Ayutthaya period) to commemorate the end of the Buddhist Lent. Held during the 10th or 11th lunar months (around September/October) when the water levels are at their peak, decorated long boats, or dragon boats, take to the waters to race while spectators gather on the riverbanks to cheer on the teams, eat, drink and be merry. In the northern Nan province, the main town (also called Nan) is one of the best places in the country to join in the activities as the Nan River snakes right through town.
Location: Ubon Ratchathani
Celebrated during two of Theravada Buddhism’s most significant holidays – Asanha Puja commemorating the Buddha’s first sermon and Khao Pansa marking the start of Buddhist Lent – Ubon Rachathani’s Candle Festival is a picturesque affair. As the largest local festival of the year, locals enjoy parades featuring elaborate floats carved out of candle wax depicting scenes from the Buddha’s life and Thai Buddhist art motifs, as well as other cultural performances, Muay Thai boxing matches and plenty of street food.
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Location: Phuket Town
Dates: One week during the 9th lunar month (usually in October)
Though some version of the annual vegetarian festival is recognised throughout the country, with people choosing to eat meat-free dishes for one week, the most famous festivities happen on the island of Phuket. Based on a Chinese tale that teaches abstaining from meat will help lead to longevity, the festival is marked by Phuket’s rather extreme version of celebrating. Along with not eating meat, devout believers and conduits to the gods will pierce their bodies in gruesome ways or walk over fire to honour the gods and prove that they’re protected.