If you think those large, lumbering buffaloes you see all over rural Thailand—lingering on the side of the road or wading in muddy water—aren’t fast on their feet, then think again! At the annual Chonburi Buffalo Races visitors are treated to a combination of sport and rodeo-style entertainment as they watch jockeys clad in nothing but t-shirts and shorts guide their cattle 100 metres down a dirt track, with mud and dust billowing out behind them. Around the corral onlookers stomp and cheer, and there’s even a “Miss Buffalo” beauty contest to add to the fun.
Held during the 9th lunar month of the Chinese calendar, the Phuket Vegetarian Festival is an annual event that ends up being much gorier than the name would suggest. During this time, local people of Chinese ancestry strictly observe a 10-day vegetarian or vegan diet for the purpose of spiritual cleansing and merit making. People also tend to wear white clothing during the ceremonies, but what might shock visitors is the practice of body piercing and self-mortification, as participants puncture their cheeks with knives, skewers, and other sharp items. Not recommended for the faint of heart.
Check out Banyan Tree Phuket for their special vegetarian set menu, and one-hour tour of the island’s festivities during the festival.
In Nakhon Phanom—located in the Northeastern part of Thailand—the Illuminated Boat Procession is celebrated (known in Thai language as Lai Ruea Fai). Beginning from the 15th day of the waxing moon, and continuing till the first day of the waning moon (in the 11th lunar month of the Buddhist calendar), this dazzling annual event marks the end of Buddhist Lent, or Ok Pansa. The boats are decorated in lights, incorporating Buddhist motifs, and in addition to the boat procession there are street parades, various shows, a food fair, and traditional boat races.
Sakon Nakhon Wax Castle Festival
Held during the 12th-15th day of waxing moon in October, to mark the end of Buddhist Lent, the Sakon Nakhon Wax Castle Festival is an exciting showcase of Thai artistry and craftsmanship. On the evening of the 1st day, people will join together in decorating the wax castle at Ming Muang Field. The 2nd day, beautiful wax castles from different temples will join the procession, roaming the municipality to Wat Phra That Cherngchum Woravihara. In this region of Northeastern Thailand, the spiritual objective behind this event is to pay homage to Phra That Choeng Chum and to wish for life in a happy home, such as a castle, and the wish for wealth if they reincarnated in human form.
In Nong Bua Daeng district, Chaiyaphum province, the Hae Krathup Tradition is the biggest ceremony of the year. Townsfolk light krathup (incense) as an offering to the Lord Buddha (following his return to Earth after preaching to his mother in heaven). The incense is made from local materials, including Om leaf and Niam leaf, and coloured paper is used to decorate the finished product. Bound with palm leaf and attached to a bamboo stick device, the finished form resembles an umbrella. The candlelit procession takes place on the End of Buddhist Lent day.
The annual lotus receiving festival, known as the Rap Bua Festival, takes place in the morning at Bang Phli, in Samut Prakan province (on the outskirts of Bangkok). People line up along the Samrong canal to throw lotus flowers onto an elaborately decorated boat carrying an image of the Lord Buddha. The tradition, which has passed through generations, is a way of showing the local people’s munificence and generosity to the village’s newcomers. It takes place annually on the day before the waxing moon on the 11th month of the lunar calendar.
If you are tempted to make a jaunt down to Koh Pha Ngan for one of the island’s notorious full moon parties, but you want to do something healthy before the serious partying begins, then the Full Moon Marathon 2016 might be just the ticket. Runners of all ages and levels can join in on this unique marathon, which travels along the island’s beautiful beachfronts. The event is organized by Teelakow, with the theme “run under the moonlight”, and after finishing the race runners can join the legendary Full Moon Party for free.