Thailand is a culturally diverse country that attracts travelers to both its buzzing metropolitan sites as well as its historically rich destinations. This multifaceted identity is most evident when looking at the range of festivals that occur not only in Bangkok, but throughout the country; from stunning religious ceremonies full of inspiring traditions, to international events that attract the greatest artists from around the world. Here is an example of some of the best events taking place around Thailand in Autumn and Winter.
Dance & Music | Bangkok’s International Festival of Dance & Music
Bangkok: 11 September-18 October 2015
Now in it’s 17th year, Bangkok’s International Festival of Dance and Music was founded with the objective to ‘improve the standard of performing arts in the country by exposing the youth to the best from around the world’. With a major increase in the number of ballet schools, opera companies and dance institutions since its beginning, the festival has been a sure success. The largest annual performing arts festival in Thailand, this event sees thousands of internationally acclaimed performers and artists take to the stage, presenting a beautiful selection of works in opera, ballet, dance and music. Furthermore, with the National Ballet of Uruguay having celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2015, this was significantly showcased at the Bangkok festival this year.
Culture | Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Phuket: 13-21 October 2015
Linked to Chinese history, the Vegetarian Festival takes place in many cities across Thailand; however, Phuket stands out as the most famous of these celebrations. A nine day event that begins on the ninth lunar month in the Chinese calendar, the festival is founded on Taoist Lent traditions. The Phuket Vegetarian Festival includes colorful parades with music and fanfare, as well as somewhat gruesome displays of devotion such as facial piercings with swords and fire walking over hot coals.
Culture | Nakhon Phanom Illuminated Boat Procession
Nakhon Phanom: 20-28 October 2015
While Phucket is the most famous destination for Taoist Lent, Nakhon Phanom is recommended by many travelers for its end of Buddhist Lent celebrations. During this time period, many festivities take over Nakhon Phanom, and one that stands out is the Illuminated Boat Procession. Involving boats that are decorated with lights, flowers, lanterns and incense, this festival lights up the the Mekong River and pays respect to the Lord Buddha. Visitors can also enjoy cultural performances and street processions while this beautiful display is taking place.
LGBT | Bangkok Pride Festival
Bangkok: Late October-early November 2015
Often dubbed ‘the gay capital of Asia’, Bangkok’s LGBT scene is famous around the world. Living up to this reputation, the Bangkok Pride Festival was the first of its kind in Southeast Asia and the festival sees thousands of people join together for a celebration like no other. Usually taking place in either late October or early November in Bangkok’s Silom area, the festival is defined by the stunning parade and extravagantly decorated floats, attracting both local and international crowds to join in with the revelry.
Design | Bangkok Design Festival
Bangkok: 4 September-11 October 2015
Founded in 2007, Bangkok Design Festival is an event that celebrates the talents of the world’s most acclaimed and up and coming designers. Featuring a range of exhibitions, lectures and award ceremonies, this event is an international attraction for both professionals and enthusiasts alike. Following Thailand’s tragic flood in 2011, the event that year was delayed until 2012, and therefore held a particular poignancy when it did take place, investigating some of the stories and perspectives of the devastating disaster. Since then, attendees have awaited with anticipation to see what subsequent years would bring – and 2015 certainly did not disappoint! See the full festival line-up here.
Culture | Yi Peng Festival
Chiang Mai: 25 November 2015
Coinciding with Loi Krathong, which sees thousands of floral displays in the shape of lotuses floating on water, Yi Peng is a world renowned event that takes place in Chiang Mai and has spectators look to the stars as a sky of lanterns ascend to the heavens. Although both festivals hold different historical significance to the Thai and Lanna kingdoms respectively, today they are somewhat united as a celebration of appreciation and respect, allowing visitors of Chiang Mai to witness the awe-inspiring sights of a sky and sea of lights.
Film | The World Film Festival of Bangkok
Bangkok: 13-22 November 2015
Presenting a captivating list of independent movies from filmmakers from around the world, The World Film Festival of Bangkok focuses on both emerging talents and acclaimed cinema masters. Screening films from within the genres of short films, experimental movies, documentaries and animation productions, the festival is centered on the ‘non-mainstream’ side of the industry, and its program includes notable events such as master class workshops and talks with industry professionals.
History | River Kwai Bridge Week
Kanchanaburi, River Kwai Bridge: 26 November-5 December 2015
Built as a part of the ‘Death Railway’ that connected Thailand and Myanmar, the River Kwai Bridge was constructed under the supervision of Japanese military during the Second World War. A commemoration for those who suffered and died during the construction, this event sees the bridge lit up with fireworks and multimedia displays, while cultural and historical performances and exhibitions explore themes of war and peace.
Music | Bangkok Jazz Festival
Established in 2003, the Bangkok Jazz Festival was first created to celebrate the love of jazz of Thailand’s longest serving and current king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, himself an accomplished jazz musician and composer. The festival takes place in Sanam Suea Pa Dusit District, Bangkok, and brings together the best jazz players from around the world for a gala of music and entertainment. Attracting thousands of people to the bustling metropolitan Bangkok, this festival is an absolute must for all jazz lovers.
Culture | Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya World Heritage Fair
Ayutthaya: 13-19 December 2015
This fair looks to the fascinating history of the country, celebrating the 417 years that Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand. Set in the UNESCO world heritage listed Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historical Park, the festival features an eclectic and exciting program of events including exhibitions, cultural performances, beauty pageant contests, food fairs and mesmerizing light and sound shows.
By Andrew Kingsford-Smith