This year, the Ok Phansa festival will take place during 4-16 October with provinces nationwide set to celebrate the occasion on different days and in distinctive styles, depending on their locality and tradition.
In the Northern region, the charming province of Mae Hong Son has scheduled to mark the Ok Phansa festival at Wat Doi Kong Mu in Mueang district during 4-16 October, at Wat Uttayarom in Mae Sariang district during 5-7 October and in Pai district during 7-8 October. The highlight is the spectacular ‘Chong Phara’ procession of the Tai Yai ethnic group, the colourful parade of beautifully-decorated wooden castle replicas, merit-making activities, candle procession, a fair of local products and food, as well as cultural performances.
In the Northeastern region, at least six provinces have announced that their celebrations to mark the Ok Phansa will be the biggest ever yet. Nakhon Phanom, Sakon Nakhon, Nong Khai, Bueng Kan, Loei and Chaiyaphum are all known for their distinctive cultures and traditions.
Nakhon Phanom has scheduled its Lai Rue Fai or Illuminated Boat Procession festival on 1-9 October on the bank of the Mekong River and in front of the City Hall. The ancient tradition of the illuminated boat procession, organised for generations to celebrate Ok Phansa, will take place on the night of 8 October.
Other highlights include a Red Cross fair, cultural performances and rare traditional dances.
Sakon Nakhon is set to mark Ok Phansa with a spectacular wax candle procession, exhilarating long- boat races, and fun-filled cultural events and activities during 6-7 October at Suan Ming Mueang and Suan Somdej Sri Nakarin Park.
From 8-10 October, the enchanting provinces of Nong Khai and Bueng Kan are expected to once again be mesmerised by the annual natural phenomenon when fireballs of various sizes burst from the bottom of the Mekong River. Locals strongly believe that these fireballs belong to Naga, a serpent deity in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. The three-day festival also features floats and illuminated boats contest, and long-boat races.
Chiang Khan district, Loei is all set to showcase the grand wax castle procession, Thai-Lao long-boat races, cultural performances and a beauty contest during 7-8 October. Meanwhile, Chaiyaphum invites all visitors to witness the province’s most unique ‘Ti Klee (fireball croquet)’ competition, local and international sports tournaments, and lantern releasing at night.
The Central Region of Thailand is also packed with the most unique traditions in celebrating the end of the Buddhist rains retreat.
Samut Prakan is well-known for the annual Rap Bua (receiving lotus) at Khlong Samrong in front of Wat Bangphli Yai Nai. This year, the ritual will take place on 8 October. While at it, visitors can join locals to worship the highly-revered Luangpho To Buddha image, enjoy several fun-filled cultural events, try local cuisine and shop for local products.
Synonymous to Uthai Thani is the annual ‘Tak Bat Devo’ ceremony at Wat Sankat Rattanakhiri in Mueang district. This year, on 9 October, more than 500 Buddhist monks are expected to carry the Buddha image and descend down from Sakae Krang mountaintop to receive alms and food offerings from devotees. The event symbolises the Buddha’s return to Earth after spending three months preaching his mother in heaven.
Nakhon Nayok is another province with a unique tradition of celebrating Ok Phansa, especially several merit-making activities in which locals offer specially-made sticky rice and dried food for Buddhist monks at Wat Khao Nangbuat in Mueang district. This year, the activities will take place during 8-9 October alongside other highlights; such as, cultural performances and Thai traditional costume contest.
In the Southern region, several provinces are famous for their unique Chak Phra, Lark Phra or Hae Phra ceremony, where high-revered Buddha image is carried on beautifully decorated floats and hauled in the river or on the road, allowing Buddhist devotees to join in making merit.
Surat Thani in the Thai Gulf is set to celebrate Ok Phansa festival from 5 to 13 October at the Tapi river section on Na Muaeng Road and Ban Don Road. The annual Surat Thani Chak Phra Festival and Long Boat Races highlights spectacular procession of the hauling of Buddha images in the river and on land, Phum Pha Pa offering ritual, light and sound presentations on the Tapi River, cultural performances, and the exciting long boat races. Read more on: Surat Thani Chak Phra Festival and Long Boat Races, an experience of a lifetime.
Phatthalung is also celebrating Ok Phansa with the colourful procession of Chak Phra or the hauling of Buddha image in the river and on land. Other key highlights are Tak Bat Devo,Pon – traditional drum beating contest, Rue Phra celebrating ceremony, beauty contest and many more. The Pon Drum Competition and Lark Phra Festival is scheduled to take place from 1-10 October, in front of Office of Phatthalung Municipality.
The tradition of Chak Phra or Lark Phra (the hauling of Buddha image) in the river and on land is also practised in the Andaman province of Trang. This year the 14th Trang Laak Phra Festival and Cultural Fair 2014 is set to take place from 9-16 October at Rue Phra field, Trang Municipality Sport Stadium. This year, more than 85 temples will take part in the spectacular procession of Lark Phra ritual and merit-making to RuePhra (boats carrying Buddha images). Other highlights include local cultural performances and traditional sport competitions.