In the Land of Smiles, any reason to throw a party is a welcomed occasion. Residents of this predominately Buddhist country unofficially commemorate many foreign and Western holidays, in addition to their own festivals centered around Thai history, food, and music. Foreigners are almost always welcome to revel with locals, but before you plan a trip, double-check your dates. Many Buddhist celebrations are determined by a lunar calendar, and so the official dates changes from year to year. By far, the crowning festival in the Thai calendar is the New Year celebration of Songkran. Lasting for a full week in April, Thai people gather with their extended families to rejoice. If a full-on water fight sounds like fun to you, this holiday is not to be missed. Prefer your trip sans water guns? It’s best to avoid Thailand this week because Songkran activities echo throughout the country with large parties from Chiang Mai to Phuket.
For a week every April (Thailand’s hottest month) to celebrate the New Year, Bangkok transforms into a mysteriously empty and almost traffic-free city as the entire country participates in friendly water fights where tourists and businessmen are often top targets. Pack a Super Soaker and join in the fun.
The King’s Birthday
At this December 5th celebration, witness the reverence and adoration the Thai people have for their monarch, who has been the King of Thailand since 1946. Fireworks are traditionally released near the Grand Palace in an impressive display, and the streets of the city’s center are decorated in his honor.
On the night of the first full moon in November, the Thai people send small decorative floats, often on banana leaves, into the water as a symbolic offering to the gods to cleanse bad luck. Ask at your hotel for the most popular spot to watch this beautiful nighttime ritual.
International Festival of Music & Dance
Starting in mid-September or early October (depending on the year), this annual arts festival brings acclaimed opera, ballet, jazz, and performance artists from around the world to Thailand. Previous years have hosted everything from “The Nutcracker” to a Michael Jackson tribute show, and tickets range from $15 to $90 per show.
Chinese New Year
A weeklong celebration in late January, the lunar New Year brings together the Thai-Chinese people. Visitors during this time who stop by Chinatown will find traditional dragon parades, acrobat performances, and firework shows. The Thai-Chinese see this week as a time to rest and celebrate, and as such, many businesses are closed during the holiday.