Thailand’s bumper-packed festival calender

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iol travel sept 22 thailand monk REUTERS Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival: This day marks the beginning of the rainy season retreat for Buddhist monks.

Bangkok - Whether travelling to Thailand to enjoy a world-class shopping and dining experience in the bustling metropolis that is Bangkok, taking time-out to unwind on one of Phuket’s many beautiful beaches, or taking a trip to Chiang Mai’s tribal villages set in and amongst towering mountain ranges and lush hillsides, there is certainly no shortage of activities and excursions for travellers to enjoy throughout the year.

Not to be forgotten however are the multitude of colourful, lively festivals celebrated by the Thai nation throughout the year.

Thamanoon Kuprasert, general manager of Central, Eastern and Southern Africa for Thai Airways International recommends that in addition to arranging excursions with tour operators travellers should also consult the Thai Festival Calendar to make sure they don’t miss out on one of the multitudes of colourful and lively festivals celebrated by the Thai nation in various provinces throughout the year.

“A total of 28 events are listed in the calendar of festival and events for 2013, ranging from annual marathons to music fests and martial arts. Travellers looking for new and interesting things to do on their holidays to Thailand should definitely take the time to attend one of the festivals they will not be disappointed,” he says.

Whatever the season or month, Kuprasert says there is certain to be a festival taking place in one of the provinces, allowing travellers unique insight into and an opportunity to experience and immerse themselves in the local culture.

“While the better known and more widely celebrated festivals include the traditional New Year’s Countdown, Songkran festival, and Loi Krathong festival, there are a wide array of colourful and unique festivals occurring monthly throughout the year that many travellers are not always aware of,” he comments.

Below are some of the varied festivals that Kuprasert recommends travellers include in their itineraries:

- Chinese New Year Festival - 8-17 February 2013, Bangkok, Suphanburi, Nakhon Sawan, Phuket, Hai Yai. In Chinese tradition people buy presents such as decorations, materials, food, and clothing for family and friends. It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly clean their house, to wash away any ill-fortune and make way for good luck.

- Trang Underwater Wedding Ceremony -13 - 15 February 2013, Koh Kradan, Trang Province. The event has gained worldwide popularity and sees couples tying the knot in a unique underwater ceremony.

- Elephant Back Wedding Ceremony - 14 February 2013, Elephant Study Center, Surin Province. Held annually on Valentine’s Day, the ceremony also known as the Sud Tae ceremony, is the traditional wedding of the local Guay tribe.

- Pattaya International Music Festival - 15-17 March 2013, Pattaya Beach, Pattaya, Chonburi Province. One of the biggest international beach music festivals in Asia.

- ASEAN Barred Ground Dove Festival - March 2013, Suan Kwan Muang, Yala Province. The festival brings together dove owners from the surrounding regions to honour these creatures, which are seen as symbols of peace and purity and are thought to bring good luck to those who rear them. Attractions include dove cooing competitions, cage-making competitions and a market selling a variety of local wares.

- Songkran Festival - 12-21 April 2013, Nationwide. The traditional Thai New Year celebration also called the Water Festival and people shower each other with water which is believed wash away all the bad omens.

- Yasothon Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival - 11-12 May, 2013, Phaya Thaen Park, Yasothon Province. Locals create a rocket or Bang Fai to send to heaven, and bless their rice crop with plentiful rain.

- Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon Festival - 28-30 June 2013, Dan Sai district, Loei Province. An annual masked procession celebrated on the first day of a three-day Buddhist holiday known in Thai as Boon Pra Wate.

- The Amazing Thailand Grand Sale - 15 June - 15 August 2013, Nationwide. Experience and enjoy discounts of 10-80%, as well as many other special offers at participating department stores, shopping malls, King Power Duty Free shops, jewellery shops, golf courses, spas, as well as leading airlines and online travel agencies

- Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival - 22-23 July 2013,Muang District, Ubon Ratchathani Province. Largest religious ceremony in Ubon Ratchathani, which held on Asalha Bucha Day and Khao Phansa Day every year. This day marks the beginning of the rainy season retreat for Buddhist monks. During the cerebration, huge candles are prepared and then paraded through the city on floats.

- Vegetarian Festival - October 2013, Muang District, Phuket Province. This is an annual event held during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar. It is believed that the vegetarian festival and its accompanying sacred rituals bestow good fortune upon those who religiously observe this rite. During this time, local people of Chinese ancestry strictly observe a 10-day vegetarian or vegan diet for the purposes of spiritual cleansing.

- Nakhon Phanom iIIuminated Boat - October 2013, Muang Nakhon Phanom Municipality, Nakhon Phanom Province. The iIIuminated Boat Procession or Lai Reua Fai which literally means to set a boat on fire is celebrated by the northeastern people. It has been practiced for centuries to mark the end of Buddhist Lent.

- Surin Elephant Round-up and Elephant Show - November 2013, Surin Elephant Performance Ground and Si Narong Stadium, Surin Province. Surin, the northeastern province, also known as the Land of Elephants, has been celebrating this festival for over 50 years. Now an internationally recognised event, it begins with an elephant parade through the streets, and the famous ‘elephant breakfast’. Thereafter activities include: elephant talent competitions, capturing and training demonstrations, a display of ancient elephant warfare techniques, strength and skill displays, and football and a tug-of-war games between men and elephants.

- Loi Krathong Festival - 17 September 2013, Nationwide. Held annually it is a time when locals come out to pay homage to the goddess of waters as the full moon of the twelfth lunar lights up the night sky in November each year. Visitors can expect to be enchanted by the sight of hundreds of thousands of ornately decorated candle-lit krathong or traditional banana leaf floats set adrift in rivers and waterways in one of the Kingdom’s oldest and best-preserved traditions.

- Hatyai Lantern Festival - 1 November 2013 - 30 September 2014, dHatyai Park, Hatyai District, Songkhla Province. The Hatyai Lantern Festival also known as ‘colours of the south’ is one of the most colourful festivals sees a multitude of lanterns of all colours, shapes and sizes lighting the streets at dusk.

- Thailand’s New Year Countdown Celebrations - 31 December 2013 - 1 January 2014, Nationwide. Western New Year celebrations in Thailand are always action packed and include activities such as concerts, stage performances, firework displays and a variety of mass countdown locations to welcome in the New Year.

Thai Airways travellers can take advantage of the Thailand & Asia Pacific Delight Promotion and purchase an air ticket to Thailand and Asia Pacific destinations such as Malaysia, Singapore, Bali, China, Indo-China, Australia & New Zealand until March 31, 2013. For more information, visit www.thaiair.co.za or phone (011) 268 2580.

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