Thai Festivals and Special Events: Introduction
As well as western celebrations and festivals, there are a number of special events and holidays that which specific to Thailand and this region.
Here’s our guide to the highlights – these are well worth considering when you’re planning your gap year Thailand agenda.
Songkran - Thai New Year Celebration
Most people who have lived here would agree that this is the biggest day of the year!
Songkran is the Thai New Year celebration, and normally occurs around the middle of April. On the mainland, the festival lasts for several days – here on Koh Tao it's mostly kept to one day, but that certainly doesn’t detract from the event!
So how do the Thais celebrate? It’s basically a big water festival! People wander round with buckets of water, hoses, water pistols, bottles – basically anything they can find which lets them throw water over each other.
Expect to get continually soaked all day long. Plus the Thais like to smear prickly heat powder and talcum powder over everyone, so pretty quickly it turns into a big mess.
It’s actually a lot of fun, and the water and powder give some welcome relief to our sizzling April temperatures, which often get up around 40°C.
Normally everyone starts on the streets and by afternoon moves down to the beach, enjoying a few cold beers in the sunshine. Everyone gets involved so it’s a day not to be missed.
Loy Kratong is another Thai festival toward the end of the year usually around the middle of November. Loy means to float, a Kratong is a small ornate boat usually made of fruit and flowers, with a candle mounted on top. The Thais light the candle and launch their Kratongs, making a wish as they do. It’s not as spectacular as Songkran, but still nice to witness.
Koh Tao Underwater Festival / Save Koh Tao Festival
Koh Tao holds it’s own festival, usually during February or March each year. The aim of the festival is raising awareness of how fragile and valuable our environment is, so there’s lots of fund raising activities for good local causes.
And in typical Thai fashion, a stage is built to host a long cabaret of entertainment.
This typically includes live music, Mr/Miss Koh Tao competitions, traditional Thai dance performances, productions by the local school children and more. It usually ends up with music or a DJ and a few drinks!
Kind of a ‘get-together’ for the whole island.
Image: Mr & Miss Koh Tao Competition at the Annual Save Koh Tao Festival
Koh Phangan Full Moon Party
Check out our Full Moon Party page for full details. In brief, monthly party on neighboring Koh Phangan, involving loud music and an excess of everything.
Chinese New Year
Thailand prides itself on never having been overthrown by an invading force, with many Thai people maintaining an air of superiority concerning their pure heritage.
Yet the truth is a massive portion of the population is made up of Chinese-Thai mixed race people.
Rather than a direct invasion, it seems the Chinese worked their way into the Thai infrastructure through trade and business, and now control countless businesses in all of Thailand’s major cities.
Needless to say, the Chinese New Year is widely celebrated due to the large number of Chinese descendants living here in Thailand.
Early morning firecrackers, and lots of fireworks as night falls.
Christmas & New Year
After Songkran, then next biggest parties of the year must be Christmas and New Year's Eve. Especially on the evenings, everyone heads down to the beach to enjoy the atmosphere. Lots of fireworks, and the beach bars bustling with people.
And for Christmas Dinner take your pick! Many restaurants on the island offer traditional Christmas dinner, or for something a bit more tropical why not enjoy a poolside barbecue in the sunshine? Bet you don't do that much in the UK!