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Songkran Festival (Water Splashing Festival), Loy Krathong Festival, and Yee Peng Festival (Sky Lantern Festival) are the most important traditional festivals in Thailand, while the Full Moon Party is the most famous party in Thailand. If you want to experience a feast of Thai culture, then the four mentioned activities are what you should not miss. This article will cover the four major activities, let you have a deeper understanding of traditional Thai culture.
1. What is the Songkran Festival?
Songkran Festival is the New Year Festival in Thailand. People will splash water on each other for good luck during this festival, so it also called the Water Splashing Festival.
2. When is Songkran Festival?
Songkran Festival takes place from 13-15 April every year, but the celebrations often last an entire week! 13 April is Thai New Year’s Day.
3. How do people celebrate Songkran Festival in Thailand?
Do cleaning – People will clean their houses, offices, and some public places to welcome the New Year, it is symbolic of a fresh start.
Appreciation – An important aspect of this festival, young people will make their way back to hometowns to spend time with older relatives. The youth will pour fragrant water into their elder's palms to show their humility while begging for their elder's blessings.
Almsgiving & release birds and fish– People will make merit by offering alms to monks to commemorate late ancestors, while release birds and fish will also be a part of the merit-making activities.
Buddha washing – People will visit temples throughout Songkran where water is poured on Buddha images and on the hands of Buddhist monks as a mark of respect and to receive blessings for the New Year.
Building sand pagodas – People will bring sand to the temple to build sand pagoda which is considered a merit as the sand can be used for construction or restoration by the temple.
Water fights – People will use clean or scented water to splashing water by exchanging New Year’s greetings.
4. Where are the best places to celebrate the Songkran Festival?
We have selected a range of popular tourist destinations across Thailand where you can experience Songkran and create unforgettable memories, both in traditional and modern style:
Khao San Road (Bangkok)
Khao San Road is the most popular backpacker street in Bangkok. It is also the best place to experience the water fight and enjoy the open-air music party. The carnival atmosphere here is electric, both local Thais and foreigners will prepare festival with oversized water guns and pressure hoses, people will ‘fight’ with their water gun and dance along the road. You will be absolutely getting soaked from head to toe in the middle of this crowded and wild party!
Silom Road (Bangkok)
Silom Road is usually known to have the largest and wildest Songkran crowds in Bangkok. This 5 km length street is packed on two levels with thousands of young Thais and tourists carrying anything that can spray water. The highlight is to spot the firetrucks ambushed at each intersection with their incredibly powerful water hoses. If you don't want to get wet anymore, you can stay on the BTS skywalk that runs above the street to enjoy the party where is a relatively dry surrounding. From up there you can witness the full extent of the game.
Wat Arun (Bangkok)
Wat Arun also called "The Dawn Temple", which belongs to an immense stupa. During the Songkran Festival, local people will bring sand to the temple and form sand pagodas in any design, and with any decorations they like, this activity is considered a merit as the sand can be used for construction or restoration by the temple. After building the sand pagoda, people can also watch the bathing rites of Buddha images and join the merit-making activities.
RCA Club Street (Bangkok)
RCA is well known as the best place for nightclubs in Bangkok. You will find many nightclubs that jump with partygoers every night of the week. Most of the clubs & bars will hold special activities for the Songkran Festival, they may have the firetrucks at their outdoor area with the incredibly powerful water hoses, they may put a big rubber swimming pool in the middle of the dancing hall to supply your ‘bullets’, they may use the foam machine to create white foam for the crazy night, just to choose one of the many bars and enjoy yourself!
Walking Street (Pattaya)
The Songkran Festival in Pattaya is unlike anywhere else in Thailand, the water fight will last a week-long from 13th April to 19 th April, especially on 17 th, 18 th, and 19 th. The Pattaya Walking Street will be the most popular street during Songkran, where Thai and foreign tourists come together to share smiles while simultaneously soaking each other with water.
Ayutthaya Historical Park (Ayutthaya)
If you are looking for a more traditional Songkran experience, Ayutthaya will be a good choice. People here will go to the temple to make merit, and watch the monks perform bathing rites of the Buddha images around the temples. Arm yourself with a water gun of your own, participate in a wet and wild water fight around ancient temple grounds, you will also encounter with the elephant join this water game with you!
Thapae Gate (Chiang Mai)
Thapae Gate is a major entrance into Chiang Mai’s Old City, you will find large stages set up here during Songkran with various performances and competitions. No matter Thais or foreigners, young or old, they will all throw themselves into this watery carnival.
1. What is Loy Krathong Festival?
Loy Krathong Festival is considered the second most important festival in Thailand and it is a favorite for Thais and visitors as well. Loy means “to float” and Krathong means “basket”. Loy Krathong means “to float the basket.”
Thais celebrate this festival for many reasons. It is said one of the main reasons is that this time of the year marks the end of the rainy season and all of the bothersome downpour days have gone. Another main reason is the main rice harvest season has ended and it is time to thank the Water Goddess for her abundant supply for the year while some people are asking forgiveness for using too much or polluting the water.
Thais believe that this is the right time to symbolically ‘float away’ all the anger and grudges one has been holding onto. They release their banana-leaf made krathongs with their hope for good fortune into rivers.
2. When is Loy Krathong Festival?
Loi Krathong takes place every year on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, thus the exact date of the festival changes every year. In the Western calendar, this usually falls in the month of November.
Loy Krathong Dates in this year and the following year
3. How do people celebrate Loy Krathong Festival in Thailand?
The evening of Loy Krathong is one of the most picturesque festivals in Bangkok. It’s when people gather around lakes, rivers and canals to pay respects to the goddess of water by releasing beautiful lotus-shaped rafts decorated with the folded leaves of banana, flowers, candles and incense sticks., decorated with candles, incense and flowers onto the water.
Before putting the basket in to water, light the sticks, blow the candles then make a wish and place the basket on the surface of river water with care. People there have a believe that if they are going to place a strand of hair, a coin or clipping of a nail into the basket before putting the basket into water, it will keep the bad and negative things away from their life. If you want to launch your own krathong, remember to buy them made of natural materials, including banana leaves, banana tree bark, spider lily plants and so on instead of glossy paper, plastics and Styrofoam.
4. Where are the best places to celebrate Loy Krathong Festival?
Sukhothai is believed to be the birthplace of Loy Krathong Festival and it is still one of the best places to experience the colorful festival. In addition to floating lights to the river, you will see parades, beauty contest, folk music performances and light and sound shows in Sukhotai Historical Park.
Bangkok is also a great Loy Krathong destination. The city has many waterways and ponds in the public area where families, lovers, and friends gather together and release their krathongs. Wat Yannawa and Wat Arun are good places for releasing krathongs down the Chao Phraya River. Asiatique is one of the best areas for celebration as well.
If you happen to arrive in Bangkok during the festival, seize the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local festival atmosphere!
Chiang Mai is especially attractive because it is the right place where Loy Krathong meets Yi Peng Festival, a floating lantern festival in northern Thailand. The sights of thousands of candlelit lights floating down the river and the paper lanterns are flying in sky is really amazing. These two festivals attract lots of tourists every year to enjoy the celebrations of the city’s most incredible parades, firework display, launching sky lanterns, listening to Thai-Western fusion music, and Traditional Lanna Dance Performance in public places.
Phuket is the ideal place to launch your misfortunes along with your krathongs right to the ocean. People gather together in the most popular beaches such as Patong, Kata and Karan Beaches to release their krathongs.
---Yee Peng Festival---
1. What is Yee Peng Festival?
Yee Peng festival is a unique northern Thailand traditional festival, which is on the same dad as the Loy Krathong Festival. You might have seen those incredible photos of thousands of brightly lit lanterns rising into the night’s sky over Chiang Mai, that is the iconic image of Yee Peng Festival. The act of releasing the lantern symbolizes letting go of all ills and misfortunes in the previous year, and Buddhists also believe that if you make a wish when you set off the lantern, it will come true in the coming year.
2. When is Yee Peng Festival?
Yee means two and Peng means full moon day, therefore Yee Peng is celebrated on the second full moon of the Lanna calendar. The second full moon of the Lanna calendar is also the 12th full moon of the Thai lunar calendar, which means the Loy Krathong festival is also happening. Although the exact date of the Yee Peng festival changes every year, it usually falls in the month of November in the Western calendar and the same day as the Loy Krathong Festival.
3. How do people celebrate Yee Peng Festival in Thailand?
To celebrate the Yee Peng Festival, locals may dress up for this occasion and wear their best Lanna outfits, many go to the temples to follow Buddhist traditions such as offering lanterns to the monks, listening to the monks pray, and meditating. But the most known practice is the launch of khom loy, or lanterns, into the night sky.
As part of this festival of lights, there are also plenty of other activities that happen all over Chiang Mai. These include traditional Thai dance shows, the official ‘Yee Peng Parade’ around the Old City gate and down Tha Phae Road, live music, and handicraft sessions. You can also expect lots of food vendors setting up, firecrackers, fireworks, and hordes of tourists with selfie sticks (particularly around the Tha Phae Gate area).
4. Where are the best places to celebrate Yee Peng Festival?
Chiang Mai is especially attractive because it is the right place where Loy Krathong meets Yi Peng Festival. Both the two festivals attract lots of tourists every year to enjoy the celebrations of the city’s most incredible sights of thousands of candlelit lights floating down the river and the paper lanterns are flying in the sky.
During Yee Peng Festival, there are many places for free lantern releases in Chiang Mai, this may be a good idea for budget travelers, and for those who wish to get incredible photos of thousands of lanterns floating in the sky, it should be a must-do thing to join a paid mass lantern release event at Mae Jo University or CAD.
Best Place in Chiang Mai for Free Lantern Releases
Tha Phae Gate
Tha Phae Gate is one of the most popular landmarks of Chiang Mai and it is also a popular place where the major events take place during Yee Peng Festival. The area is where the festival’s opening ceremony held, and also the Grand Krathong Parade begins their parades. You can release sky lanterns here at night, and you will find Tha Phae Gate is the most crowded area in the city throughout the period of the festival.
The Narawat Bridge across the famous Ping River is one of the best spots to release sky lanterns at night. Here you will see vendors selling sky lanterns of various sizes and colors, priced from 30 - 50 Baht ($1- $2) each.
Three Kings Monument
The area surrounding the Three Kings Monument is definitely the most colorful place you will see in Chiang Mai during the festival period. Not just the colorful hanging lanterns and flag decorations, but also thousands of lighting candle trays.
There is also a ceremony where hundreds of dancers of all ages performing the Lanna Traditional Dance on the first day of the festival.
Wat Phan Tao
You will feel magical upon stepping into this beautiful 14th-century wooden temple with a decorated garden area. Come here at night when all the lanterns and candle trays are lit. The monks lighting the candles, chanting, giving blessings, and lighting the lanterns are simply magical!
Wat Lok Moli
If you prefer somewhere quiet and away from the crowded locations for releasing sky lanterns, Wat Lok Moli will be a good choice for you. Located near the Chang Phuak Night Market, Wat Lok Moli has a big ground outside the Buddhist temple decorated with colorful lanterns and hangings, where you can enjoy releasing the sky lanterns without crowds.
Best Place in Chiang Mai for Paid Mass Lantern Releases
Mae Jo University
The most famous location to experience the mass sky lantern releases is Mae Jo University, it is about half an hour outside Chiang Mai city center. The sights of thousands of paper lanterns are flying in the sky is really amazing. This massive sky lantern release at Mae Jo University used to be for locals, but now it’s more for tourists. It is not the authentic Yi Peng festival but privately arranged by some Buddhist organizations, tickets for this event ranged from $100 - $300.
Cowboy Army Riding Club (CAD)
Another big lantern release event is at the Cowboy Army Riding Club in the Mae Rim District. The schedule of both the lantern release events at the Mae Jo University and the CAD are almost the same. You will get to witness the Lanna culture and sword dance, as well as boxing and Lanna sword-making shows before the paper lantern releasing.
Sample Itinerary of the Mass Lantern Release Event at Mae Jo University & CAD
16:00 - 17:00 Pick up from the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center and transfer to the event.
17:00 - 18:00 Arrival at the event.
18:00 -19:30 Enjoy Thai Boxing show, Traditional Sword Dance, Lanna Culture Show, Music Show, and authentic Lanna food buffet. The buffet includes unlimited free food, non-alcoholic drinks, and Thai desserts.
19:30 Enter the ceremonial area to start the Yee Peng ritual.
20:30 All guests enter the ceremonial area; Monks will lead the chanting and meditation ceremony.
20:45 Simultaneous release of thousands of lanterns.
21:30 End of the ceremony and return to the city. Return to the city around 22:30.
---Full Moon Party---
1. What is the Full Moon Party?
It said that long time ago, a group of tourists found that the most beautiful moon was in Koh Pha Nga. They arranged a party along the crescet-shaped beach of Haad Rin to celebrate the Full Moon night. From then on, people from all over the world come to join the celebration.
Now adays, the Full Moon Party becomes a gaint festival-like party that attracts 10,000-30,000 tourists at the party on Koh Pha Ngan each month. There are also some smaller scaled full moon parties held in Phuket.
2. When is the Full Moon Party?
The clue is in the name – it’s a party that’s organized on a lunar cycle to take place when the moon is full. However, be aware that there are sometimes important Buddhist holidays these days and the consumption and sale of alcohol are banned, the date of the Full Moon Party may be postponed by one to two days. If you miss the Full Moon Party on Koh Pha Ngan, there’s also Half Moon Party, Black Moon Party you could consider about. In addition, there’s also a full-moon party, a half-moon party, and a new-moon party every weekend in Phuket.
If you would like to experience the most famous Full Moon Party on Koh Pha Ngan, please check the schedule below before planning your trip. If your visit doesn’t coincide with the full moon on Koh Pha Ngan, you can choose to experience a relatively smaller full moon party in Phuket. Just remember that the Full Moon Party in Phuket was held every Saturday on the paradise Beach!
3. What to expect at a Full Moon Party in Thailand?
A Full Moon Party is all about alcohol, party, dancing, sex and drugs. Each bar has its own sound system, so you’ll hear different music loudly blasting onto the beach every few feet. The beach itself is lined with people selling alcohol, fire dancers putting on shows, and little booths selling glow-in-the-dark face paint.
4. Where are the best places to experience the Full Moon Party?
Koh Pha Ngan Haad Rin Nok Beach
A visit to Thailand wouldn’t be complete without attending the world-famous Full Moon Party of Koh Phangan. Experience partying under the glow of the full moon, and dance along with the DJs and dancers until the sun comes out! Be amazed by the fire dancers as they put on awe-inspiring performances! Enjoy all the drinks available to quench your thirst throughout the night. The entrance fee of the Full Moon Party at the Haad Rin Nok Beach is 100 Bath, you can choose to book you accommodation on Koh Pha Ngan in advance, or just to stay on Koh Samui and take a ferry boat to join this party!
Phuket Paradise Beach
The Full Moon Festival at Phuket Paradise Beach has been around for a while. It is modeled after the successful Full Moon Party on Koh Pha Ngan. Even though it is smaller than the Koh Pha Ngan Party, but it is more upscale, well organized, and easy access. It is gaining popularity in recent years.
Paradise Beach has parties take turns almost every weekend, parties for a full moon, half-moon, and new moon. If your visit doesn’t coincide with the full moon on Koh Pha Ngan, you can simply choose any weekends (normally on every Saturday) to experience this famous party in Phuket.
The entrance starts at costs 800 baht or 1,000 baht with a ‘Premium Bucket’ or 2 Chang beers. Then there are many other inclusive offers, up to 1,700 baht with tee shirts, more drinks, and lockers. The Paradise Beach is close to the famous Patong Beach, and there is an all-day/all-night free transfer from and to Patong by bus every 30 minutes. So you don’t have to plan long in advance: you can get there when it happens.
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