Thailand's Holidays Are The Best Times To Visit The Country



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When it comes to leisure travel, Thailand ranks among one of the most desirable destinations. The country's unique and alluring culture, geography, activities and splendid accommodations are all reasons that make Thailand an interesting place. In fact, you can visit Thailand all year round and enjoy great times. Nonetheless, it is during Thailand's holidays and festivals that the country's tourism kick into high gear, making them the absolute best time to visit. Join us as we explore some Thai festivals such as Songkran and Loy Kratong and more.

Songkran Festival (April 13 - April 15)

Songkran day (also known as Songkran festival) is definitely one of Thailand's best known dates of festivity. To foreigners and younger generations, it is known as a couple of days of endless water-splashing party. What most people don't know is that Songkran festival has a deep and rich history. First of all, Songkran is in fact the traditional New Year's Day of Thailand and the word "Songkran" is a Sanskrit word which means "to step up", "to grow up", or "to move up". And although mostly associated with Thailand, this date also marks the traditional new years of several other countries such as Laos and Burma.

Before becoming the water festival it is known for today, Songkran is the day in which Thai people will return to their home province to spend time with their family. Traditional Songkran activities includes:

Making Merits by giving food to monks

Thais will get up early in the morning and prepare food for Monks. Usually this will include rice and many side dishes to go along with it as well as some water. People usually wait in front of their house for monks to come by. Alternatively, people can visit temples to make merits as well. Today, housing communities known an Moobans and condominiums may arrange for Monks to come. Upon giving the prepared meal to the monks, Thai people will receive blessing which is considered an auspicious way to start off the traditional new year.

Making sand pagoda

Making sand pagodas is another activity that is traditionally done on Songkran day. Thais will usually go to the temple to make the sand pagoda together. The story behind making sand pagoda is linked to Buddhism whereby it is traditionally done in order to bring back the sand that sticks to people's feet as they leave the temple - reflecting the Buddhist concept of karma. This is one activity that is rich with history and is undoubtedly fun.

Watering Buddha Statue / Sculptures

On Songkran day Thais will traditionally water buddha statue or sculpture by sprinkling or gently pouring onto a Buddha statue. This is the reason why during the Songkran festival you will find Buddha statues placed in many public venues complete with water dippers to allow the general public to easily water the Buddha wherever they go.

Songkran Beauty Pageant


Image Source: sakhononline.com

Beauty pageant has always been a part of Songkran festival. Thai women who enter this pageant will be dressed in traditional Thai garments. Almost every province in Thailand will hold this type of pageant and it is widely enjoyed by all.

Releasing Birds and Fishes

Songkran is a day that many Thais will go to temples and release birds and fishes to their natural habitats. In the old days, the birds and fishes that gets released are those sold in markets and would otherwise be killed. In modern times, fishes and birds as well as other animals such as animals are readily available for sale at the temple.

Pouring water onto the elderly for blessing

And of course, the activity that has grown into the water festivities that is known world wide today: pouring water. Traditionally, pouring water on songkran is done by Thais towards their elderly. This would usually include parents, grand parents, and elderly siblings. Through the ages however, this activity has grown into the water splashing festival known the world over!

Modern Songkran Festivals:

Songkran festival has adapted to the modern world extremely well. Nowadays Songkran day is associated with fun festivities and water parties full of day round splashing, dancing, and upbeat music. Songkran has indeed become a festival that is known around the world. Some venues even hold songkran party non-stop day and night for the entire holiday season.

Nowadays during Songkran, younger generations will equip theme selfs with water pistols, water buckets, or even water hose and go on a country wide water war. People with pickup trucks will load their vehicle with water tanks and make-shift fun-oriented water weapons as well as the tried-and-tested splashing cans. These pickup trucks will usually turn on loud music as they go on their splashing tours. Many people will still wipe white powder on their own and their peer's face and scent their water with aroma: the two most prevalent traditions that has carried on to modern times. Many roads will be blocked off for the occasion and turned into a water humongous water party area.

Popular Songkran Venues in Bangkok:

Kao San Road

Kao San Road is one of the most well known venues for Songkran day partying. The road its self is very popular in Thailand both among locals and foreigners even during non-holiday seasons with its many chic shopping and diverse dining offers. Nonetheless, Songkran is when Kao San Road turns into another entity altogether. The entire road will be cordoned off just for the festivities and it will be jammed packed with party goers.

Some people prefer Kao San Road to other venues because it has many more accessible entrants making it more convenient. The Road also has many small sois for water adventurers to venture into. Most importantly, many people feel that Kao San is the safer of the more popular venues.

Silom

The normally congested business-oriented Silom Road is extremely popular as a Songkran Festival venue. The entire road is also blocked off for the occasion and it is popular with both locals and foreigners. Some may say that the crowds here are usually younger though that claim is admittedly hard to quantify. One main advantage that makes Silom Road an alluring venue is the fact that Bangkok's sky train (BTS) is overhead and casts a shadow on the party throughout most of the day, making it much more comfortable than other places. And also because the BTS station is right on the road, Silom is one of the most accessible venues. Songkran at Silom goes on right into the night as well. If you plan to visit, the best way to get there is via BTS via Saladaeng station or via MRT (Bangkok's subway) via the Silom station.

RCA

RCA (Royal City Avenue) is one of the oldest venues to hold Songkran Festivals and usually one of the most crowded. This venue is one which has the highest proportion of locals to foreigners. One thing to take note is that RCA is one of the few places that will charge you an entrance fee, although this may vary from year to year. Since RCA has many bars and clubs, its Songkran festivities is unique in that other than playing on the roads people can go into each clubs and enjoy the festivities inside as well.

Source / Further Reading:

https://pantip.com/topic/30363306 (Thai)

Siam

Siam has long been known as the shopping and lifestyle district of Bangkok. Come Songkran and Siam takes on a whole new character. In fact, Siam has just recently emerged as a venue for Songkran partying. Last year, Siam Square organized an event during the festival that included concert and appearances by many local celebrities.

Central World

Not far from the aforementioned Siam is the famed Central World. This is the venue that holds the Guinness Book World Record for highest number of people splashing water at any one place within a ten minute span. Although the venue is small when compared to other places it is no less fun. This venue will almost always also hold concerts by many famous local bands. If you can plan carefully you can easily enjoy Songkran both at Siam and Central World.

Songkran Festival held in almost every province in Thailand, notable locations includes:

  • Bangsaen
  • Pattaya
  • Konkaen
  • Chiang Mai
  • Songkhla
  • Phuket

In fact, every province's Sonkran festival will are a little different from each other and each are interesting. If you have time, plan to also join in festivities in venues outside of Bangkok for a fuller Songkran experience.

Source / Further Reading:

http://travel.sanook.com/1265150/ (Thai)
Tips:
  • No Matter which venues you choose, it is highly likely to be extremely packed. Be very careful of your personal belongings.
  • Make sure electronics and other belongings that cannot get wet (such as books) are carefully sealed in plastic bags or some sort of water-proof containers - or simply left in your accommodation.
  • For some people the festival still means business as usual and are not prepared to be splashed. Please be mindful.
  • Plan extra carefully for transportation and travel routes as traffic and commute becomes absolutely crazy during the festival.
Source / Further Reading:

http://www.rakluke.com/ (Thai)
Source / Further Reading on all Bangkok Venues:

http://www.painaidii.com/diary/diary-detail/000166/lang/th/ (Thai)
Source / Further Reading on Songkran in general:

http://www.manager.co.th/travel/viewnews.aspx?NewsID=9570000039971 (Thai)

Loy kratong


Image Source: scoop.mthai.com

Loy Kratong is another Thai festival and holiday that is known throughout the world. Since this date is set by a Thai Calendar which works on a different system from western ones the date of this festival varies from year to year but it is almost always in November. In 2017 this day will fall on November 3 while in 2016 the festival was on November 14. In contrast to Songkran which occurs during the summer, Loy Kratong is a winter festival and in cold climate province and areas such as Khao Yai or Chiang Mai one of the festival's allure is the cold weather.

Loy Kratong is a festival that centers around rivers. There are many school of thoughts as to the traditional purpose of the festival is however the consensus is that the Loy Kratong ceremonies aims to give thanks to the river goddess Khong Kha as well as to apologize at the same time. The gratitude is to the river being the giver of life and crops among many other things and the apology is for polluting the water. Another popular belief is that floating kratong is symbolic of floating away all the misery and sadness in one's life, leaving only happiness and well being.

The kratongs themselves are stories and obsessions of their own. Many provinces and local groups such as universities and schools as well as public companies will hold competition for the most beautiful and elegant kratongs. There was a time when kratongs were mostly made of Styrofoams but since that turned out to cause too much waste problem combined with increased environmental awareness, most kratongs today are made from banana tree cuttings. Also gaining in popularity are kratongs made of bread which fishes love. Loy Kratong is also famous for the beauty pageant that is part of the festival.

What Loy Kratong is most known for is the activity of floating Kratongs - floating objects usually made of banana tree cuttings decorated with folded bamboo leafs completed with candle and incense. Since the date is always the day of full moon, the sight of the moon reflecting on water together with the many candle-lit Kratongs is a wonder to behold. Although kratongs will floated in almost all water ways including canals, lanks, ponds, and even pools, the biggest and most festive venues are along major rivers such as the Chao Phraya. Many of Bangkok's riverside hotels will also hold grand events during the festival.

Popular venues for the Loy Kratong festival around Bangkok includes:

Asiatique

Asiatique is one of Thailand's newer lifestyle shopping mall and is fast becoming one of the most popular. Although Bangkok has a grand river, too few modern tourist destinations make use of it and Asiatique is one of the few that does. The Loy Kratong here is very lively and trendy completed with gorgeous view of the river and lighting decorations.

The Rama 8 Bridge

This bridge is one of Thailand's most beautiful and every year the Loy Kratong festivities here is made even more beautiful by the lighting and decorations that accompanies it. The event here is organized by Thailand's Tourism Authority and will usually feature shows and presentations about the history of Loy Kratong.

Golden Mountain Bangkok

The festivities here is top notched and varied. Going to Loy Kratong here includes a bonus of praying at the famous temple inside.

Lumpini Park

One of Bangkok's most popular public park, the Lumpini Park, is extremely popular as a Loy Kratong venue. This is mostly credited to the big lake inside the park together with the unique scenery where lush greenery is punctuated by high rise buildings in the background. The buildings' light will reflect into the lake at night and when that is combined with lights from the kratongs, the scene becomes magical.

Chinese New Year

Because a large proportion of Thai people have Chinese backgrounds, Chinese New Year is very significant in Thailand. So much so that even though it is not an official holiday as recognized by the government, so many people consider it a holiday that the country as a whole generally count the occasion as a day of festivities and holiday. Like many of Thailand's holidays, the exact date of Chinese New Year is determined by a calendar system that is different from the western calendar and therefore the exact date shifts from year to year though it is always in January. In 2017, Chinese New Year was on January 28.

Chinese New Year is typically divided into three days which are:

Buying Day: Which is the day that Thai Chinese will go out and purchases every items necessary for Praying Day.

Praying Day: This is the day that Thai Chinese will pray and make respect to the spirit that watch other their land and property and then again to their ancestors according to their customs and beliefs.

Traveling day: This is an auspicious day for Thai Chinese and they will only say good things and do good deeds. This is usually the day when Thai Chinese family will go out and celebrate together.

The best place to experience Chinese New Year is undoubted at China Town such as Yaowarat.

Source / Further Reading:

http://event.sanook.com/day/chinese/ (Thai)
https://www.dmc.tv/ (Thai)

Maka Bucha Day (February 11)

Maka Bucha day is a significant religions holiday in Thailand. This is the day when 2,500 years ago 1,250 Buddhist monks came together to see Lord Buddha without any prior arrangements. On this day many Thais will wake up early and give offerings of foods to Monks (Tak Batt) and later on in the day will travel to temples to arrange food for monks there (Sangkatarn). At night, Thais will go to temple to listen to Buddhist teachings and then walk around Buddhist temples three times in what is called "Wien Tien".

New Year Festival (January 1)

New Year day is a very significant holiday for Thai people and is the day many look forward to. Companies will usually allow for 3 to 4 days off during this season and combined with Saturday and Sunday brings the total day of festivities to about a week or 10 days. Many Thais will travel back to their hometown during this period and people in Bangkok will usually travel to another province to spend their break there. Bangkok roadways will be surprisingly free of traffic. Thais will usually make merits on this day and visit their elder to ask for blessing. Many companies will hold new year parties for their staff. The country as a whole will be festive and happy during this season of joy.

 
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