Monkey Banquets & Great Balls Of Fire – 6 Bizarre Festivals in 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…
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!
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)
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)
4. Phuket Vegetarian 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)
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)