When it comes to celebrations in Thailand, Songkran (Thai New Year and a giant water fight festival) and Loy Kratong (a light festival on the river) are the two stand-out dates on the calendar. However, there are plenty of other events throughout the year which are all as unique and fascinating as the next. For mass monkey feeding, head to the Monkey Buffet in Lop Buri, or if you want to see something truly outlandish, there is a magical tattoo festival held every year just outside Bangkok.
Also known as the ‘Rose of the North’ due to its abundance of plant life, Chiang Mai plays host to the country’s annual Flower Festival. Throughout February the city blossoms into life, with colorful displays and parades. Suan Buak Haad Park is also transformed into a huge flower expo, showcasing the pick of the bunch.
The Sak Yant Festival is a one-day tattoo extravaganza held at Bang Pra Temple, just outside Bangkok. Specifically for devotees, the event is a chance for many to get inked up with Sanskrit scriptures - all from the end of a sharpened Bamboo stick. Expect to see some weird and wonderful, almost magical things!
April 13-16 annually
In April, Thailand comes to a standstill for Songkran Festival, the Thai New Year. Armed with water-guns, people take to the streets for a mass water fight. Water symbolizes the end of the dry season and also its ability to cleanse the soul, though don't expect to feel too 'cleansed' after three days of this all-out water party.
May 9-11 annually
At the start of the rainy season, many Northeastern Thai provinces make, decorate and ultimately launch their home-made rockets into the sky. This is part of the three-day Bun Bangfai festival, in which rockets are used to symbolize a 'reach-out' gesture to the Buddhist Gods up in heaven, who hopefully will deliver good fortune in return.
June 10 2016
From the weird to the wonderful, the three-day Pi Ta Khon festival in the picturesque Thai province of Loei showcases a wide range of unique Buddhist rituals for both locals and tourists to enjoy. Don’t be surprised if you witness muddy men roaming around, large phallus parades or bizarre dances in equally interesting costumes.
July 11-21 annually
This beautiful and quaint candle festival marks both the start of rainy season and the Buddhist Lenten period. On Asanha Bucha day, candles (which are supposed to dispel gloom with their light) are decorated and then paraded through town, eventually ending up at various temples. Expect celebrations around town for two weeks in July.
October 15-23 2016
During the ninth month of each lunar year, many Buddhists make a pledge to not eat meat in the hope of improved fortune. On the island of Phuket, this is excuse enough for an all-out celebration. Two action packed weeks see huge parades and carnivals through the streets, fireworks and of course, plenty of delicious vegetarian food.
October 11-16 annually
Over several nights in October, something mysterious happens along the Mekong River at Nong Khai. Crowds flock to see huge fireballs erupting out of the water, with many claiming it's the work of the mythical serpent ‘Naga’ (others suggest it's a buildup of methane). This is a truly unique phenomenon that even scientists can’t explain.
November 20-27 2015
This multi-day festival in the Northeastern province of Surin celebrates the country’s national symbol: the elephant. The event showcases the raw strength and intelligence of these majestic animals, with spectacles such as elephant tug-of-war and ball games, as well as a huge procession through the streets of this otherwise sleepy town.
November 25 annually
If anybody has ever visited or traveled through Lopburi, just north Bangkok, they’ll have noticed one rather peculiar thing about this town: its abundance of monkeys! As an act of appreciation, one day in November sees over 6,600 pounds of fruit, veg and sweets being donated for the primates to well and truly gorge themselves on.
November 14 2016
Loy Kratong (floating decoration) is undoubtedly the prettiest festival in the Thai calendar. On the full moon of the 12th lunar month, locals flock to the river to release their homemade floats, containing flowers and candles. Over the surrounding three or four days, the night skies are brilliantly lit by lanterns and fireworks.
December 5 annually
His Majesty King Bhumibol of Thailand is currently the longest reigning monarch in the world, and probably the most widely revered. His birthday also Father’s Day, sees admirers flock to Bangkok for celebrations. There is street entertainment, parades, fireworks, candle lighting and mass singing of the King’s anthem.