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Website home>Newsletters>August 2003>Thai Festivals

Dive in Thailand Newsletter

Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Celebration: mid-October

Something to do when not scuba diving in Phuket, this celebration is held during the 9th month of the Chinese calendar when Thais with Chinese ancestry undergo a 10 day vegetarian diet and perform various rituals at Chinese temples. The 9 day event (this after 10 days of eating vegetables) is usually held in late September or early October.

According to locals, the festival originated from the Fujian Province in Southeast China. Devout Chinese Buddhists dress it white, convert to vegetarianism and observe 10 rules in order to purify their minds and bodies. They also perform incredible acts of self-mortification such as climbing knife-blade ladders, walking on hot coals and a street procession which they do so whilst in a trance with their cheeks and bodies pierced and spiked with various extremely sharp and potentially lethal objects. Don't try this one at home.

Longboat Racing, Nationwide

Celebration: September/October

This traditional race is held to mark the end of the Buddhist Rains Retreat when the water level in the rivers is at its highest. Considered a national sport, the history of longboat racing in Thailand can be traced back to 600 years ago.

Racing boats are usually made from dug out tree trunks and can accommodate up so 60 oarsmen sitting in a double row. The provinces of Phichit Phisanuloke, Nan, Angthong, Pathumthani, Surat Thani and Ayuttaya are most famous for this race.

Rambutan Fair, Surat Thani

Celebration: August

What's a rambutan, you might wonder? It's a small, hairy little fruit, red or yellow when ripe, green when not. Its flesh is white, and reminds most of a lychee.

The story goes that the first rambutan tree was planted in Surat Thani in 1926; since then the Thais have celebrated the arrival of the rambutan with exhibitions of local produce and ornamental plants, rambutan and fruit floats and demonstrations of trained (presumably Thai) monkeys harvesting coconuts.

The Queen's Birthday, Nationwide

Celebration: August 12

Thais have a tremendous amount of respect for their Royal Family. Woe betide any tourist, western or otherwise, that belittles them.

The Queen's birthday is celebrated with pomp and splendour throughout the country. Buildings are covered with lights in honour of H.M. Queen Sirikit, with the most spectacular in the national capital of Bangkok, along Ratchadamnoen Avenue and the Grand Palace.

Rocket Festival, Northeastern Thailand

Celebration: May

Usually held during the second week of May in the provinces of Yasothon and Ubon Ratchathani, the "Boon Bang Fai" festival is not so much a celebration as it is a request to the rain god for plentiful rains during the rice planting season.

Legend has it that the rain god Vassakan, who preferred to be worshipped with fire (despite being a rain god!), would bless paddy farmers who send him offerings of fire. In modern times, farmers send home-made rockets to the heavens (where the god obviously lives).

An average rocket is about 9 metres in length with 20 to 25 kilogrammes of gunpowder in it. Needless to say, there's always lots of singing and dancing before take-off!

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