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Culture

Thailand Festivals, Cultures, Traditions and How to Experience Them

Rockets For Rain – Rocket Festival (Bun Bang Fai)

Back to the giant rockets, in the Northeastern provinces of Chiang Mai, Yasothon and Isaan, the climate gets pretty dry. As the saying we just made up goes: “without rain, there’s no rice”.

So it is annual tradition for the residents of these provinces to gather up into teams and construct projectiles made of bamboo. These bamboo rockets spanning some 20 feet in length are launched, fuelled by a concoction of sulphur and charcoal, into the air to remind the god Phaya Thaen of his promise to provide rain.

Held in May each year, celebrations are rounded off with street performances, cultural shows and beauty pageants. Information on the celebrations can be found via the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Monkey Business – Monkey Buffet Festival in Lopburi

Lopburi is an ancient city. To provide a context for ‘ancient’: the city was developed during the Dvaravati period that lasted between the 6th to 13th centuries (we are in the 21st)!

Residents of Lopburi include men, women, children … and monkeys.

The citizenship of Lopburi’s monkeys dates back to a time when Hanuman, the monkey deity was believed to have saved a god’s daughter from a demon.

The monkeys, presumed to be descendents of Hanuman, have taken welcomed residence in Lopburi ever since.

Hanuman was a deity known to bring good fortune and prosperity. It makes absolute sense to find favour with him by honoring his descendents. So every year, a great buffet is held in the local Phra Prang Sam Yod temple, exclusively for the population of approximately 4,000 monkeys.

Tables of food are laid out as the human population watch the animated primates feast on fruit (and even Coca-Cola), anticipating the good karma that will be bestowed upon them.

Light Up The Night Sky – Chiang Mai Yi Peng Lantern Festival

So you read my previous piece about Loy Krathong, and you’re all ready to book your tickets to see the lanterns. What if I told you: you get double the lanterns in Chiang Mai?

See, Loy Krathong is a major nation-wide event, but in Chiang Mai, there is another local festival. The Yi Peng Lantern Festival is celebrated one day before Loy Krathong. There are two major differences between Yi Peng and Loy Krathong:

1. Loy Krathong is mainly seen as a communal tribute to the water goddess, while Yi Peng is more symbolic of the individual letting go of anxiety and worry.
2. Unlike Loy Krathong, Yi Peng’s lanterns are paper hot-air balloons (khom loi) that are released into the night sky.

The result is nothing short of mesmerising with hundreds, if not thousands of lanterns dotting the inky stratosphere.

Being a localised festival, details of Yi Peng are more difficult to get a hold of, being released only a few weeks before . But this, in my opinion, only makes it all the more gratifying to witness.

Great Balls of Fire! – Mekong Naga Fireballs

Thai folklore tells of the existence of mythical serpent-like creatures living in the depths of the Mekong River called the Phaya Naga. The tales hold that the Naga wield divine powers, and are responsible for a strange phenomenon that occurs on the surface of the Mekong.

Each year in October, during a period of 90 days knows as the Buddhist Lent, reddish-pink balls of light can be seen rising from the surface of the Mekong’s waters and into the sky.

‘Rise’ is the only word that can be used to describe these balls of light, because no sound or explosions or any tell-tale signs of human intervention are anywhere to be heard.

The Naga Fireballs have taken on a viral personality as YouTube videos and social media try to document the allegedly supernatural event. The locals accredit this to the Naga paying tribute to Buddha.

Scientists theorise that this is caused by combustion of flammable sulphur rising out from the Mekong River. You be the judge.

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Steven

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