6 Bizarre Festivals in Thailand<br />

Monkey Banquets & Great Balls Of Fire – 6 Bizarre Festivals in Thailand

Nov 5, 2023 | Thailand

From a monkey banquet to great balls of fire, festivals in Thailand never fail to amaze and surprise! Every month there is a religious ceremony or ancient event that provides a glimpse into the kingdom’s rich culture and traditions. While some are mainstream, others are just plain bizarre! So if you want to add something a bit different to your travel plans, read on… 

Bangkok river

1. Songkran Festival

Songkran is Thailand’s wet and wild new year celebration. It is the country’s biggest and most important festival and is celebrated for three days from 13 April to mark the start of the Thai New Year according to the Buddhist calendar. Traditional celebrations include water pouring ceremonies in which scented water is poured onto Buddha images to represent purification – or the washing away of the previous year to welcome the New Year. Younger people also pour water over the hands and feet of their elders as a mark of respect. However, outside of the temples, festivities have metamorphosed into raucous water fights involving water guns, water hoses, buckets of icy water and boisterous street parties. No one escapes a soaking!

Monkeys in lopburi

2. Lopburi Monkey Festival

The historic city of Lopburi is home to a large population of mischievous long-tailed macaques – and for one day of the year every November, these monkeys are treated to a gigantic party in their honour. A lavish banquet of fresh fruits, vegetables, rice and even desserts is laid out for the macaques to feast upon. An array of street food stalls and vendors serving delicious Thai dishes are also set up to keep the humans fed! Long-tailed macaques have been roaming the streets and the ancient temples of Lopburi since the 11th century. They are believed to be descendants of the Monkey King, Hanuman, and are said to bring good fortune and prosperity.

(Image source: Time & Leisure / SOPA Images)

Ghost Festival

3. Ghost Festival

Phi Ta Khon, also known as the Ghost Festival is held every year in the province of Loei. This scary celebration is said to have spiritual roots and is based on a tale of the Lord Buddha returning from a long journey – his followers, who had previously thought him to have died, celebrated so loudly that it was said to have woken the dead. During the three day festival, locals dress up in elaborate ghost costumes and vibrant masks – usually white with long noses – and parade through the streets while clanging cow bells. Throughout this thrilling and joyous festival there’s plenty of merry-making and noise with street parties, concerts, cheering, singing and dancing.

(Image source: TAT newsroom)

Phuket Vegetarian Festival

4. Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Also known as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival, this innocent sounding festival is a colourful combination of tradition and shock factor. Held in September or October each year, the festival celebrates the Chinese community’s belief that abstinence from meat and various stimulants will help them obtain good health and peace of mind. Considered by many to be the most bizarre and extreme of all festivals in Thailand, the celebrations see participants proving their devotion by carrying out self-mutilation. Some of the feats performed include piercing cheeks with swords and walking on nails and hot coals. This rather brutal festival is definitely not for the faint hearted!
Rocket Festival

5. Rocket Festival

Held in May each year, Yasothon’s Bun Bang Fai Festival is a merit-making ceremony which involves firing gigantic home-made rockets into the skies to appease the rain gods and ask for plentiful rain. The ancient three day festival includes float processions, folk dancing, shows and merit-making ceremonies. But the highlight is the launching of the rockets. Villagers light up their homemade bamboo rockets, some mounted on huge carts, and fire them towards the heavens. The rockets that misfire are disqualified, and its owner is either thrown into a puddle of mud or covered entirely in it.

(Image source: Fan Club Thailand / credit Visun Khankasem shutterstock)

Mekong Naga Fireball Festival

6. Mekong Naga Fireball Festival

Thailand’s most mysterious festival takes place every year in October or early November when a bizarre event occurs on the Mekong River in Isan province near the border with Laos. Thousands of red glowing orbs shoot up from the Mekong River and light up the dark sky for a few seconds before disappearing. Local believe that this bizarre occurrence is caused by the Naga, a mythical giant serpent, while scientists believe it could be due to the discharge of phosphine gas from the marshy river bed – however neither explanation has been proven. During the festival, people assemble at this magical place between Thailand and Laos to see the mystifying light show.

(Image source: Thailand NOW)

Our Hotels & DMCs in Thailand

ICS Thailand
Rembrandt Hotel & Suites Bangkok
137 Pillars Bangkok
Paresa Resort Phuket
The Slate Phuket
The Nai Harn Phuket
Pimalai Resort & Spa Koh Lanta
Villa Mahabhirom Chiang Mai
137 Pillars House Chiang Mai