A good time at the festivals of Chiang Rai
Aside from the usual holidays of all Thai nationals there are a few outstanding ones which though commonly celebrated among Thai people around the country are also a few that are unique to the province of Chiang Rai. These festivals of Chiang Rai are the Thot Kra Tin (which is a merit making ceremony at the temples of Chiang Rai), the Visakha Puja (which is the full moon celebration in May), the Ahsa Puja (which is the full moon celebration in late July), the Klum Fai Candle Balloon celebration, the Khao Pansa (the starting point of Buddhist lent period), the Heh Tian Candle Festival in mid-August and the Awk Pansa (which is the end of the Rain Retreat). These festivals are celebrated by fireworks, lighting of candles, floating lighted lanterns, merit making and music celebrations as well as food fests.
The highlight festivals of Chiang Rai are the Songkran festival in April where you get to throw buckets of water at passing motorist and pedestrians, which is very much like being a child again and off course being splashed in return! This is celebrated for a week in Thailand throughout and it is actually a Thai New Year so aside from the usual fanfare there would also be plenty of food and delicious delicacies on sale which can be enjoyed by all. It is also when vendors and street stalls are all setup for the biggest water fight of the nation with plenty of colorful water guns of all sizes for sale! This is a kid’s galore festival and you can see small kids and adults alike trying to buy the biggest gun available or if all else fails, there is always a great big water pipe to splash you with!
For the vegetarian, they would love the vegetarian festival in November which is for ten days. This is the time when normal food vendors will sell mostly only vegetarian dishes and the best place to get a good variety is actually from the street stalls that sell economy rice. They have close to thirty or even forty different vegetarian dishes to suit your palate and you can indulge in this for a whole ten days! The vegetarian food is known as “Jai” and vendors selling vegetarian dishes are indicated with a little yellow triangular flag with red letterings and they are surprisingly inexpensive to buy so it is a good watch not just for your waist line but also your pockets.
The most celebrated and beautiful of all festivals in Chiang Rai and around Thailand is off course Loy Kratong which is in November. The kratongs are made from banana stems and leaves with intricate flower decorations, incense sticks and candles. The night of Loy Kratong will see people holding these kratongs at the edge of water ways, lakes, rivers etc and offering a prayer for good wishes and to appease the water Goddess Mae Khong Kha. Even tourists take part in this colorful celebration and make their own little wish and to ward off bad luck! All this is accompanied by float processions either on the streets or on gaily decorated floating barges, traditional dances and performances, fireworks and finally releasing of the floating lanterns into the night sky which will make the whole sky afloat with gleaming candle light as each lantern is released by the hundreds and thousands. This whole festival is a picture perfect time for those snap happy cameramen and you would do well to mark this date in your tour travel itinerary for Thailand!
The people of Chiang Rai love their festivals and they are the highlight of the province. Coupled with festivities from the hill tribes and the local Thais, there are such a variety of festivities year round for all to enjoy. The cold weather during the moths of November to February is also enjoyed along with the festivities and this is the time which is a peak season for traveling to Chiang Rai. Booking early for accommodation and tour packages to Chiang Rai is best done in advance during this period as hotels are rather limited and traveling is done not only by foreign tourist but also the locals alike. Another highlight in Chiang Rai is the local Chiang Rai Food Fair where you can view the many varieties of local produce, buy the different types of snacks and dishes to much till your heart is contented and your belly filled to the brim or if that is not enough, pack for a take-away to indulge in later! So, if you are planning for a visit to Chiang Rai, make sure you plan early and make all your travel booking for Chiang Rai in advance with a good guide in hand to show you around!