Elephant Round-Up, Surin
Situated in the northeast of the country, Surin is home to one of the most exciting of all Thai events. Taking place just once a year, on the third weekend of November, Elephant Round-Up involves more than one hundred elephants from all over the country displaying their talents at soccer, tug-of-war and log carrying. The highlight of the festivities is a mock battle between two elephants displaying the talent and the strength of these magnificent animals. The round-up was once a state ceremony but it is now the most popular festival in the region and offers a rare chance to see Thailand’s national animal at its best.
Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival, Yasothon
Held in the second week of May of every year, this is one of the country’s oldest local festivals. In Thailand, the rainy season begins in May and the festival is thought to assist the supernatural powers that help the production of crops in the area. An ancient Thai legend states that there was once a rain god called Vassakan who loved to be worshipped with fire so the locals created a rocket to send to him with their requests. Today rockets are prepared for up to two months before the actual event and when the festival finally takes place there are numerous competitions for the biggest and highest flying rockets as well as the general mayhem which accompanies all the major Thai festivals.
Vegetarian Festival, Phuket
While the origins of this particular festival are unclear, it is thought that it began in China and didn’t actually make it to Phuket until 1825. And, for all you non-veggies out there, don’t worry. Even if you are partial to a bit of meat every now and then, you will find more than enough to entertain you during this highly unusual festival. It takes place at the end of September or the beginning of October depending on the Chinese lunar month and lasts for nine days. While the festival has strict Buddhist traditions which are carried out by the locals, there is also a whole host of events which appeal to tourists including traditional lion dancing, barefoot walking on hot coals, climbing ladders whose rungs are made of knives and numerous exhibitions of body piercing carried out on mediums who are placed in a trance. Interesting to say the least!
International Kite Festival, Bangkok
Kite flying has been a hobby enjoyed by the Thai people for centuries. In 1988 the first international kite festival was held in the country to promote Thai traditional games and culture. In the years since the first festival, the event has been attracting kite groups and enthusiasts from over twenty countries all across the globe. Each country’s kites have their own distinct design making the festival a unique display of creations of all colours, shapes and sizes and absolutely amazing to watch. And, as well as the kite flying there are numerous other events taking place from dawn till dusk ensuring an excellent couple of days.
Long Boat Racing Festival, Nationwide
Throughout the month of September the rivers and waterways in Thailand are awash with traditional vessels and oarsmen taking place in the annual boat racing festival. The best known festivals take place in Pichit, Phitsanulok and Narathiwat but others include Angthong, Ayutthaya, Pathum Thain, Surat Thani and Nan. This unique custom has been traced back to over six hundred years ago when the races were a way to keep young men healthy and fit in preparation for war but nowadays it is regarded as a national sport. Boats are carved from a single tree trunk and can hold up to sixty men dressed in brightly coloured attire. The boats themselves are also decorated with garlands and ribbons making the whole event extremely enjoyable to watch.