Chinese and Chinese-Thai communities are scattered all over Thailand, all celebrating the Lunar New Year every February. It’s a major traditional festival on Phuket, celebrated with a great deal of pomp, ceremony, temple-visiting and vibrant street parades including the famous lion dancers. Firecrackers, delicious street food, brilliant red shop, home and street decorations as well as spectacular fireworks displays all light up Phuket town’s Sino-Portuguese district and Phuket Old Town, giving a kaleidoscope of color and a magnificent festival experience.
Held annually at the end of February, Phuket’s Gay Pride festival runs for four full days, beginning with two nights of partying, the second of which is the grand opening party for the event. The spectacular Gay Pride Parade takes place on the afternoon of the final day, followed by a riotous street party.
This fascinating celebration is a major festival event on Phuket and combines cultural and sporting events in a two-week series of highlights, including spectacular performances of the legends and history of the island. A cast of 700 takes part and the show runs for three nights. Sporting events include a mini-marathon, bicycle races, a takraw contest and a tug-o’-war. A Buddhist ordination ceremony and other unique cultural events, some so rare even the younger Thai generation may not know of them, round off this traditional Thai festival.
The most famous Thai festival of all, Songkran celebrates the date of the traditional Thai New Year in April with water-throwing in the streets and lots of fun for all. Many activities are organized within the event, centered on Phuket town and along all the major beaches, with loud live music and extravagantly colorful stage shows. For an experience of the historic heart of the festival, the traditional Songkran ceremony is held at many of Phuket town’s hotels especially for their guests.
Perhaps the most bizarre festival on the island, and an international eye-opener on account of the gruesome self-piercing that goes on, this festival isn’t just about food. Although a week-long vegetarian fest is central to the celebrations and tradition, this long-running festival is best known for the parades of religious devotees that insist on piercing their bodies, and particularly faces, with anything from pitch forks to bicycle parts and sharp knives. Plan your trip for October and don’t forget your camera!
The history of this beautiful November festival began, according to legend, some 800 years ago during the Sukothai era. Along the beaches and in all the rivers, lakes and streams, lotus-style candle holders are lit and placed in the water as a sign of respect for the water spirits. The thousands of tiny lights gliding along with the flow of the water or bobbing on the waves are a sight never to be forgotten. Buddhist practice plays a part in the festival, with the candles seen as a symbol of the glowing light of the Lord Buddha and bad deeds and thoughts from the previous year floating away on the tiny rafts.
Held during the dry season month of February, this is the biggest temple fair of all on the island and began as a local formers’ celebration of the end of the harvest. The fair changed its date to coincide with the Lunar New Year due to local wishes that the Chinese-Thai community should be able to enjoy it as well. This incredibly crowded event runs for seven days and is a fascinating spectacle full of noise, color and delicious aromas from food stalls and incense wafting from the glittering temple.
Now in its 6th year, this highly popular blues and rock event held on Karon Beach attracts hordes of locals and visitors, with well-known overseas bands and musicians returning each year to take part. It’s a charity event, with its profits donated to organizations such as local Rotary Clubs and similar organizations.
This annual event isn’t just about cricket; it’s about having an absolute ball, according to the many top international players who arrive each April. It’s great for spectators as well, who happily lounge on the sidelines sipping a beer or six while listening for the evocative crack of leather on willow and the occasional yell of ‘Howzat’ from the field.
Lovers of big bikes should head to Phuket in April to drool over the amazing collection of superbikes including Harveys and Hondas arriving for the bike week. This is one of the largest big bike events in Southeast Asia, now in its 17th year, and includes parties, get-togethers, a lot of loud music, charity rides and contests.
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