Samui Wining & Dining
Notable Dates

Royal events, ghosts and huge explosions dominate
May and June’s festivals and celebrations in Thailand.

 

8Thailand has a rich cultural heritage and the Thai people love nothing more than festivals, fireworks and fun. During May and June, the Kingdom has a whole host of events celebrating the natural world around us. And everyone is invited to join in. Here’s our selection of the top ten hot-spots in the country that deserve more than a passing glance.

 

Sunday the 1st of May is the Jumbo Elephant Banquet at Samphran Zoo, just to the west of Bangkok. First hosted in 1996, this annual event features elephants feasting on tons of their favourite fruits and vegetables. It’s a show of thanks to the elephants for all their hard work and the happiness they bring to the public throughout the year. Visitors are invited to feed the elephants during the banquet and the admission charge is just 500 baht for adults and 300 baht for children.

 

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was crowned as Rama IX, the 9th King of the Chakri dynasty, on the 5th of May 1950. His coronation day is observed by a series of religious rites lasting for three days from the 3rd to the 5th of May. On the last day, a feast is given to Buddhist monks and the King is dressed in full regalia. At noon, the Royal Thai Army and the Royal Thai Navy each fire a salute of 21 guns. Later, decorations are bestowed on officials and civilians who have done meritorious services to the state and society. The King has reigned since the 9th of June 1946, making him the world’s longest reigning current monarch and the world’s longest serving head of state. His coronation though wasn’t until 1950. May the 5th is a public holiday and many of the resorts on Samui will host special events and dinners to mark the occasion.

 

Yasothon is a town around 530 kilometres north-east of the capital. And from the 11th to the 15th of May one of the most important, and loudest, celebrations in the region takes place. The Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival has been strictly observed by the residents of Issan for generations and is essentially an annual ritual to ensure that the seasonal rains fall at the appropriate time in the planting cycle. Highlights of the annual celebrations include a procession of both old-style and modern rockets mounted on traditional carts, a beauty pageant, cheerleader contests, and a traditional ‘Palaeng’ Issan-style dinner. The rockets, which are launched on the last day, vary from simple fireworks to the massive ‘Bang Fai Saen’ which is packed with 120 kilograms of nitrate. As a comparison, the legal NEC (Net Explosive Content) of a UK firework available to the public is two kilograms.

 

May 13th is the date this year for the Royal Ploughing Ceremony at Sanam Luang in Bangkok. And the importance of rice cultivation for Thai people is reflected in this long-practiced ceremony known as ‘Rak Na Wan’. The main objective of the ritual is to predict how the country’s agriculture and economy will turn out. After much pomp and circumstance (and some actual ploughing) two oxen are escorted into a pavilion and offered seven types of food: rice, corn, sesame, beans, grass, rice whisky and water. The oxen’s choice will then be interpreted into the year’s prediction. If the oxen choose to eat rice, for example, that means an abundant harvest. A Brahmin priest evaluates all the omens and the prophecy will be read to His Majesty the King and the public afterwards.

 

From the 30th of May to the 4th of June you can enjoy the 10th Samui International Yacht Regatta. This leading lifestyle and sporting event attracts competitive and social sailors from around the world. It’s one of Asia’s most glamorous sailing events and is also part of the Asian Yachting Grand Prix Championships. Spectator boats will provide a unique opportunity for members of the public to get up close to all of the on-water sailing action. Public tickets will also be available for the legendary off-water parties that occur most evenings during the regatta and that feature renowned bands and fabulous entertainment. (See the article on page 16 for further details.)

 

Starting on the 1st of June, and lasting all month, the Thailand Tourism Festival takes place in Challenger Halls 1-3, Impact Muang Thong Thani Exhibition Centre in Bangkok. At 40,000 square metres, the festival is billed as the country’s largest travel and tourism showcase event that includes a vast range of activities to promote the preservation of Thai culture, traditions and local way of life. Spectacular stage performances and live demonstrations of local arts and crafts add a colourful festive feel to the event. Admission is free for everyone.

 

Also beginning on the 1st of June, and lasting through until the end of August, is the Blooming Krachiao Flower Festival. Also known as the Siam Tulip Festival of Chaiyaphum, it takes place in Pa Hin Ngam National Park in Issan. The unique geographical landscape of Chaiyaphum province in the northeast of Thailand gives rise to a range of natural attractions of exceptional beauty. Of these, the fields of pinkish-purple tulips are considered amongst the greatest.

 

Music lovers can dance their hearts out at the Hua Hin Jazz Festival held on the 12th to the 14th of June in Phonkingphet Public Park in the town centre. The festival draws on the inspiration of HM the King, who has penned a host of jazz compositions and is a fine saxophonist in his own right. Along with 15 Thai jazz bands there will be musicians from the UK, Denmark, Brazil, the Philippines, Japan and Malaysia. Performances during the three-day festival are free and start at 3:30 pm until midnight.

 

Get your credit cards ready from the 15th of June. It’s the start of the month-long Amazing Thailand Grand Sale. This annual extravaganza offers world-class shopping with a diverse selection of quality products and services, special discounts of 10-80 per cent and promotional offers. Department stores, shopping complexes, duty free shops, airlines, hotels, spas, golf courses, online travel agencies, hospitals, jewellery shops and retail outlets are all taking part. Special events will be held in Bangkok and the popular tourist destinations of Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Hua Hin, Hat Yai, Phuket and even here on Koh Samui. Look out for the signs in participating shops around the island.

 

Ghosts and spirits play a large part in Thai folklore. And in Loei province in the north-east of Thailand (bordering Laos) they have their annual Boon Luang Festival from the 24th to the 26th of June. Its origins can be found in the tale of Lord Buddha’s last great incarnation before attaining Enlightenment. In Buddhist accounts, it is said that when Prince Vessandara, the Buddha’s penultimate incarnation, returned to his city, it was such a joyous occasion that the village spirits came forth to join the welcoming parade. A very colourful and vibrant procession is the central focus of the celebrations. And in a lively re-enactment of the tale, the young men of the community dress up as ‘spirits’ wearing long trailing costumes made from colourful strips of cloth. The good-natured, fun-loving spirits mingle amongst the crowd, teasing and amusing all who take part in the procession. Spectators and visitors are welcome to join in the fun and festivities.

 

Johnny Paterson

 


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