Phuket Festivals & Events: HotelRoomsPhuket.com
The festivals of Thailand are a valued and colourful part of the culture enjoyed by all as a way to keep ancient traditions alive. Some of the most famous festivals celebrated in Phuket are described below.
The biggest celebration in the Thai calendar is the wet and wild Songkran Festival. It is the official Thai New Year and takes place from April 13-15, signifying the change of seasons from the cool to hot. Traditionally, during this period Thais took time out of their agricultural duties to pay respects to their elders by sprinkling their hands with scented water. Today the celebration is still a time for family gatherings, but the water sprinkling has become more elaborate to involve water pistols, buckets and powder!
Visiting Phuket during Songkran is such a fun experience. On the first day of the festival, local businesses close, and families spend the day outdoors lining the streets, manning water stations, ready to splash anyone and everyone that passes by. Pick up trucks cruise around with teams of splashers on board ready for the water battle. The atmosphere is alive and extremely friendly, tourists are encouraged to join in the fun and will get wet, there are no exceptions!
The respected vegetarian festival started in Phuket way back in 1825 by the Chinese tin mining community. At this time, the island was still very much jungle and fever struck a travelling opera company. In honour of two Chinese emperor gods, Kiew Ong Tai Teh and Yok Ong Sone, the opera troupe kept to a strict vegetarian diet and performed ceremonies and rituals, and before long found the sickness had disappeared. The local population were so impressed they began to embrace the faith and practiced the festival every year during the ninth lunar month, with the aim of bringing good luck to the community.
The 10 day vegetarian festival is still going strong today and usually falls at the end of September to early October. The island is decorated with yellow flags and Phuket Town comes alive with vendors selling a variety of vegetarian dishes. The food is one draw during the festival, another is the ceremonial side of the proceedings, which appear to get more bizarre each year. Phuket's Chinese temples and shrines display sacred rituals such as walking barefoot over hot coals and climbing ladders with bladed steps. Each morning there is an eye opening procession along the streets, where spirit devotees known as 'Ma Song' pierce their faces with sharp objects. The items that are forced through the cheeks include knives, umbrellas, and even bicycles!
Loy Krathong is one of Thailand's most beautiful festivals and is believed to originate from an ancient ritual of paying respect to the spirit of the waters. On the night of the full moon during the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar (usually November), Thai people float a small decorated raft on rivers and canals, which is symbolic of letting go of grudges and anger in an attempt to start afresh with better luck for the future. It is seen as a fun event for all the family and a romantic gesture for couples to enjoy together. The traditional krathong or raft is biodegradable, made from banana leaves, flowers, candle and incense sticks. Small coins are often included to add to the offering to the spirits.
Chao Le (Sea Gypsy) Boat Floating Festival:
The sea gypsies in Phuket hold their own boat floating ceremony twice a year during the 6th and 11th lunar months, the dates for each community varies with Rawai, Sapam, Koh Sireh and Laem La villages taking part. As night falls the sea gypsies come together for the celebration which begins with a traditional song and dance around a specially made small boat. The customary boat is made of 'rakham' wood, a native tree of Thailand, and is decorated with leaves and flowers with hand crafted wooden people inside. The boat is then set sail in the water to set free bad luck. This is a unique festival well worth witnessing to take some memorable photographs.