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Thailand Tourist Attractions

Tour Destinations

The Central Region
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The Central Region Geographically, the Central Region extends from rugged western mountains bordering Burma to the northeast plateau to the east" extends northwards to Nakhon Sawan where the Ping, Wang, Nan and Yom rivers unite to form the Chao Phraya River (River of Kings) which flows southwards to dissect Bangkok before entering the Gulf of Thailand; and southwards to Prachuap Khiri Khan where Thailand is compressed to its narrowest point, some 60 kilometres wide between western mountains and the Thai Gulf.

The Chao Phraya River largely irrigates the Central Plain, one of the world's major rice and fruit-growing areas, and sustains an intricate network of canals that irrigate bountiful orchards and market gardens; host vibrant floating markets-, and support a unique, waterborne way of life.

The Central Region is extremely rich in historical sites. These include Nakhon Pathom, Kanchanaburi, Bang Pa-In, Ayutthaya, Saraburi, Lop Buri and, most important of all, Bangkok, Thailand's capital and major point-of-entry.

Bangkok (click for more travel information)

Briefly, Bangkok's major tourism attractions include the fabulous Wat Phra Kaeo (Emerald Buddha Chapel) and Grand Palace complex; Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn),- Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha),- Wat Saket (Golden Mount); Wat Benchannabophit (Marble Temple),Vimanmek Palace, favourite residence of King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910) and the world's largest golden teak building-, the fabulous royal barges-, the Pasteur Institute's Snake Farm

Where poisonous snakes are fed daily and venom is "milked" from cobras and kraits to make invaluable serum-, Jim Thompson's House Museum which contains a superb collection of Asian objets d'art,- Suan Pakkand Palace's lacquer pavilion which is decorated with medieval gold leaf murals; the world's largest Crocodile Farm; a 200-acre open air museum called the Ancient City,- entertainment and recreational complexes such as Siam Water Park, Safari World, King Rama IX Park and Dusit Zoo-, unrivalled shopping opportunities for some of the world's most admired handicrafts,- exceptionally fine dining in gourmet restaurants featuring the world's favourite cuisines-, and a liberated, almost legendary nightlife.

Beyond Bangkok The Rose Garden, a riverside tropical park/ country club one hour west of Bangkok, boasts an 18-hole championship golf course, fine accommodation and a Thai Village where daily shows feature traditional activities such as folk dancing, the Thai wedding ceremony, a Buddhist ordination and elephants at work..

Nakhon PathomNakhon Pathom, 30 minutes further west (60 kilometres from Bangkok), hosts the world's tallest Buddhist monument, the 380foot high Phra Pathom Chedi, which marks the spot where Buddhism was introduced, some 2,300 years ago, to the Thailand-to-be.

Damnoensaduak, 40 mintes south of Nakhon Pathom, is Thailand's most vibrant floating market where farmers congregate on canals each morning in produce-laden boats.

Kanchanaburi (click for more travel information)Some 130 kilometres west of Bangkok, is famous for the "Bridge Over The River Kwai", an Allied war cemetery, andsurrounding countryside characterised by waterfalls, broad fertile valleys and caves once ingabited by Neolithic man. The Saiyok Noi,SaiyoK Yai, Erawan and Huai Khamin Waterfalls and 12th-century Khmer Prasat Muang Sing are especially worth visiting.

Ayutthaya, some 70 kilometres upstream from Bangkok, was the Siamese capital from 1350 to 1767. Magnificent ruins of temples, palaces and crumbling fortesses provide eloquent testimony of the former capitalOs splenclour. Wat Panan Choeng, Wat Si San Phet, Wat Mahathat, Wat Ratchaburana, Phu Khao Thong and the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum should not be missed.

Bang Pa-In palace, just south of Ayutthaya, was the summer residence of early Chakri kings. The local Wat Niwet Thamaprawat is one of Thailand's most unusual Buddhist temples, the chapel resembling an English Gothic church.

Phra Buddha BatPhra Buddha Bat, Shrine of the Buddha's Footprint, is just north of Saraburi, some 110 kilometres north of Bangkok. The Buddha's Footprint was discovered accidentally some 350 years ago when a deer hunter found that a pool of water in the shape of an enlarged human foot had curative powers.

Lop Buri, an ancient city dating from the 9th century, and some 150 kilometres north of Bangkok, contains Hindu and Khmer ruins and the imposing Ramratchaniwet Palace built by Ayutthaya's King Narai during the 1600s as a summer retreat. Major ruins include the Khmer Phra Prang Sam Yot, the Hindu San Phra Kan, and Wat Phra Si Mahathat.

Phetchaburi, 120 kilometres southwest of Bangkok, is well known for exotic sweets, the Buddha-filled Khao Luang Caves, the hilltop Phra Nakhon Khiri palace, the lovely Wat Suwanaram with its Ayutthayan meeting hall, murals and scriptural repository, and the mountainous, scenically arresting Kaeng Krachan, Thailand's largest national park.

Cha Am (click for more travel information)
773 kliometres southwest of Bangkok, has a popular beachside resort hotel and public beach.

GDWBETHua Hin (click for more travel information)
198 kilometres from Bangkok, is Thailand's oldest beach resort and has been the Thai royal family's summer residence since the 1920s. A genteel Edwardian ambience characterises a resort with a fine beach, excellent accommodation and opportunities for swimming, sailing, riding, windsurfing, waterskiing, parasailing, snorkelling, fishing, playing tennis and golf.

Sam Roi Yot National Park, one hour south of Hua Hin, occupies some 60 square kilometres of coastal land.

Prachuap Khiri Khan, some 280 kilometres from Bangkok, is a fishing town with a scenic bay and the beachside Khao Chong Krachok (Mirror Mountain) which supports a small pagoda and a resident monkey tribe.

The North
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Bordered by Burma and Laos, characterised by forested mountains - - lower extremities of Himalayan foothills - - and fertile river valleys, northern Thailand encompasses part of the fabled Golden Triangle and was the cradle of Thai civilization where, several centuries ago, small independent kingdoms held away.

In 1238, the aptly named Sukhothai ("Dawn of Happiness") became the first truly independent Thai kingdom where the Thai alphabet was created and nascent art forms developed.

Diverse elements, including crisp mountain scenery, exotic hill tribes, forests worked by elephants, colourful festivals, invigorating Cool Season weather, ancient cities, exquisite northern Thai and Burmese style temples, and friendly people contribute to northern Thailand's enduring charm.

Sukhothai, 427 kilometres north of Bangkok, is notable for massive sentinel stone Buddha images that preside over ruins within the old city walls. The largest temple, Wat Mahathat, and Wat Si Chum, with its massive seated Buddha measuring some 11 metres from knee to knee, merit special attention.

Phitsanulok, some 60 kilometres south of Sukhothai, is famous as the site of the riverside Wat Phra Si Rattana Maha That which enshrines the venerated Phra Buddha Chinarat, cast in 1357, and commonly regarded as Thailand's most beautiful Buddha image.

Si Satchanallai, 55 kilometres north of Sukhothai, was the ancient seat of Sukhothai's viceroys, and is noted for several magnificent ruins, including Wat Chang Lom and Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo.

Lampang, 600 kilometres north of Bangkok, is the sole provincial Thai capital where horsedrawn carriages remain in daily use. Lampang is noted for several Burmese-style temples, including Wat Phra Kaeo Don Tao and Wat Si Chum, the magnificent Wat Lampang Luang, and a Thai Elephant Conservation Centre.

Lamphun, 670 kilometres from Bangkok, is famed for beautiful women, bountiful orchards and the stunning Wat Phra That Hariphunchai, a classic example of northern religious architecture.

Chiang Mai (click for more travel information)
The principal northern city, some 700 kilometres north of Bangkok, was founded in 1296 and is located in a fertile valley some 1,000 feet above sea level.

Chiang MaiChiang Mai is famous for beautiful women, historic temples dating from the 1300s, crisp mountain scenery, distinctive festivals and handicrafts, and several formerly itinerant hill tribes of Tibeto-Burman origin.

Wat Phra Sing, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Suan Dok, Wat Ku Tao and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep merit visits.

The Bor Sang-San Kampaeng area is particularly rich in cottage industries which produce handicrafts such as parasols, silks, cottons , jewellery, woodcarvings, silverware, ceramics and lacquerware.

Doi Inthanon, Thailand's highest mountain, lies to the west. A 90 kilometre drive from Chiang Mai brings the visitor to the 8,514 footsummit, passing the beautiful and popular Mae Klang, Wachirathan and Siriphurn waterfalls.

Mae Hong Son (click for more travel information)
A 35-minute flight northwest of Chiang Mai, is the tiniest and most isolated northern provincial capital, nestling in a valley surrounded by mountains containing several hill tribes and Burmese style temples.

Chiang Rai (click for more travel information)
Northeast of Chiang Mai, and 785 kilometres from Bangkok, lies in the very heart of the Golden Triangle and is particularly famed for majestic mountains and many highaltitude hilltribe villages. Popular attractions include Chiang Saen, an ancient capital facing Laos across the Mekong River, and the mountaintop Wat Phra That Doi Tung which commands a spectacular view of surrounding mountains , and several Akha hilltribe villages.

Nan, some 790 kilometres from Bangkok, is the site of famous annual boat races, and several historic temples, including Wat Chang Kham, Wat Chae Haeng, Wat Phra That Khao Noi and Wat Phumin with its undulating Naga balustrades and famous murals.
The Northeast
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Known by Thais as I-San, the sprawling Northeast Plateau is bordered to the north and east by the Mekong River and Laos, and to the south largely by Kampuchea.
The Northeast is a distinctive region thanks to a topography of lovely forested mountains and national parks and rolling farmland-, to its colourful inhabitants who speak their own melodious dialect, have a delicious highly spiced cuisine, and a hospitable, vibrant and
oftentimes boisterous folk culture; and because of archaeologically significant excavations and shrines - - such as Ban Chiang where the world's oldest Bronze Age civilisation flourished some 5,600 years ago,- and venerable prasat hin (stone castle) temples, legacy of I-San's former importance to the Angkor-centred Khmer empire.

Khao Yaii National ParkKhao Yaii National Park, northeast of Saraburi and some 200 kilometres from Bangkok, covers parts of four provinces at an average elevation of 800 metres. Khao Yai is some 540,000 acres in area, has a highest peak of 1,351 metres and contains within its rain forests and high grasslands numerous species of protected wildlife, such as deer, bears, tigers, elephants, giant hornbills, sunbirds and silver pheasants. The park is laced with hiking trails, and has 10 rapids and waterfalls.

Nakhon Ratchasima, 259 kilometres northeast of Bangkok, is the gateway to I-San. 56 kilometres to the northeast of provincial capital lies Phimai, site of an 11 th-century prasat hin temple, one of the loveliest examples of classical Khmer architecture found outside Kampuchea. The complex occupies land within boundary walls measuring 250 x 280 metres and was sufficiently important to have been connected by road with Angkor.

Khon KaenOther major I-San attractions include Khon Kaen, a university town some 450 kilometres from Bangkok in I-San's geographic centre and famous for its Mat Mi silk; Loei province's Phu Kra Dung National Park, a crisply beautiful forested plateau between 1,000 and 1,350 metres where night-time temperatures sometimes drop to near freezing point, and the Kaeng Khut Khu rapids at Chiang Khan; the scenic Si Chiang Mai to Nongkhai road which largely parallels the Mekong River; Udon Thani's Ban Chiang village and museum which house priceless Bronze Age jewellery and pottery excavated from local burial mounds; Nakhon Phanom'sPhra That Phanom, the most revered Northeast shrine, the spire of which dates from the 9th century; Ubon Ratchathani, 629 kilometres from Bangkok, which introduces the annual Buddhist Rains Retreat with a lovely Candle Festival, and the pre-historical rock paintings at Pha Taem in Khong Chiam district near the Mekong River; Yasothon, where, each summer, massive homemade rockets are ceremoniously fired into the air to "ensure" bountiful rains; Surin, where an annual Elephant Round-Up each November attracts visitors from all over the world; and Buri Ram's Prasat Hin Phanom Rung, a lovely hilltop Khmer sanctuary once connected by road with Angkor.

The East Coast
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Beyond Bangkok, from the estuary of the Chao Phraya River, the East Coast unfolds in a series of bays and beaches to the ThaiKampuchean border. Many popular resorts, including Pattaya , Asia's permier beach resort, occupy a coast characterised by cliff-hidden bays, palm-fringed beaches, innumerable fishing communities, lovely islands and largely tranquil Gulf waters. The region is rich in natural resources, including rubber, rice, fishing, orchards and gemstones, and scenically arresting with several national parks containing waterfalls, virgin forest and uninhabited, remote islands.

Bangsaen, 100 kilometres southeast of Bangkok, is the capital's nearest resort. A cool palm-lined promenade separates Bangsaen's long crescent beach from seafront bungalows, a water amusement park and a modern hotel.

Khao Khiao Open Zoo, 15 kilometres inland from Bang Phra, occupies a 1 200-acre hillside setting. Favourite Asian, African and European mammals occupy spacious enclosures. Thailand's most spectacular aviary, nestling against a forested hillside, contains several rare Asian species.

Si Racha, 15 minutes further down the coast from Bang Phra, is a fishing community famed for a delicious, tangy sauce and excellent seafood.

Pattaya (click for more travel information)
147 kilomatres southeast of Bangkok, is Thailand's "Riviera" and internationally famous beach resort. All manner of watersports, motor-racing, offshore coral islands, luxury accommodation and a vibrant nightlife comprise Pattaya's main attractions.
Pattaya

Bang Sare, fishing village, from where game fishermen seek marlin, sharks, king mackerel, tura and other Gulf denizens, and Sattahip, lie within 30 minutes to the south.

Rayong (click for more travel information)
Rayong is best known for its Ban Phe fishing village and the narrow, 6-kilometre long Samet island. Ko Samet has some 15 bays and lovely beaches, Coral reefs and limpid waters ideal for swimming. snorkelling, scuba-diving and fishing are found on the island's east coast.

Chanthaburi, is famous for historic sites, Thailand's largest Christian church, locally mined star sapphires, bountiful orchards and the Khao Khitchakut and Namtok Phlui national parks which contain attractive waterfalls.

Trat
, the province bordering Kampuchea, is best known for the 52-island Ko Chang Marine National Park which is dominated by Thailand's second largest island.

The South
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Lush tropical islands, dazzling palm-fringed beaches, coral reefs teeming with colourful marine life, picturesque fishing villages with distinctive hand-painted boats, remote national parks, forested mountains, waterfalls, historic cities, ubiquitous rubber estates, scenic wildlife sanctuaries, the juxtaposition of temples and mosques clearly define the region's visual appeal.

Geographically, southern Thailand extends through the Kra Isthmus from Chumphon, 460 kilometres south of Bangkok, to the ThaiMalaysian border, and is bordered in the east by the Gulf of Thailand, to the west by the Indian Ocean.

Chumphon has several lovely beaches, birds' nest islands and excellent scuba diving waters, particularly around Ko Tao.

Ranong, to the southwest, 568 kilometres from Bangkok, has a Hot Spa Health Resort drawing water from Thailand's sole potable Geo-Thermal Mineral Water Spring.

Surat Thani, is best known for the beautiful Ko Samui, Thailand's third largest island, 268 nautical miles south of Bangkok, and jewel of a sparkling archipelago that contains the lovely Angthong (Golden Bowl) Marine National Park.

Nakhon Si Tharnmarat, 780 kilometres south of Bangkok, is an ancient city, home of the historically important Wat Phra Maha That, and is the major centre of southern Thai handicrafts such as black and gold neilloware, yan lipao basketry and intricate shadow-play figures.

Songkhla Songkhla (click for more travel information)
950 kilometres from Bangkok, a medieval pirate strong-hold, is a historic, albeit sleepy town with a thriving fishing community and the lovely Samila beach. The Great Songkhla Lake hosts the 520-square-kilometre Khu Khut Waterfowl Park, home to some 140 species.

Pattani, some 100 kilometres further south, has Thailand's most beautiful mosque and innumerable fishing communities with handpainted, lavishly decorated boats.

Narathiwat, further south, bordering Malaysia, is noted for its Ba Cho Waterfall, a massive seated golden Buddha at Wat Khao Kong, and the border town of Sungai Golok with its liberated nightlife.

Hat Yai (click for more travel information)
933 kilometres from Bangkok, is southern Thailand's principal commercial, communications and entertainment centre and regularly attracts visitors from nearby Malaysia.

Phatthallung, some 95 kilometres north of Hat Yai, has the Talay Noi Nok Nam bird sanctuary at the northwestern end of the Songkhla Great Lake.

Trang's Khao Chong Nature Reserve, some 65 kilometres further west, contains one of southern Thailand, sloveliest waterfalls.

Krabi's (click for more travel information)
Major attractions are the beautiful Phi Phi islands, the 75-million-year-old Susan Hoi shell graveyard, one of the only three in the world, and the sweeping Noppharat Beach.

Phang Nga's major attraction is the eerily beautiful Phang Nga Bay where verdant limestone islands, honeycombed with caves and aquatic grottoes, soar perpendicularly to heights of 300 metres and more from almost perpetually calm waters.

PhuketPhuket (click for more travel information)
862 kilometres from Bangkok, is Thailand's largest island (the approximate size of Singapore). Phuket is a resort of international stature, is blessed with a wide variety of magnificent beaches, hidden coves and secluded bays, and has probably the best seafood in Thailand.

Special Interests

Buddhist Meditation

Suan Mok, a 120-acre forest temple in Chaiya district, Surat Thani province, some 580 kilometres south of Bangkok, attracts and accepts meditators from all over the world. Meditation opportunities are also found in Bangkok, particularly at Wat Mahathat (facing Sanam Luang), \A/at Pak Nam, Wat Chonprathan Rangsit, Wat Phrathammakai and Banglamphu's Wat Bowon Nivet where English-language instruction is available.

Elephant Training

Thai Elephant Conservation Centre, 28 kilometres outside Lampang on the main highway to Chiang Mai, has replaced the former Elephant Training School at Ngao. Logging training sessions for young elephants are held daily at 9.00 AM in an attractive forest setting, and visitors are welcome.

Jungle Treks

Most popularly originating from Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, these 2-6 day treks take visitors through forested mountains and high meadows in what are, actually, the lower extremities of Himalayan foothills. Major attractions are remote hilltribe villages. Mountains surrounding Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai host seven major, once-itinerant hill tribes of Tibeto-Burman origin - - the Meo, Lisu, Lahu, Yao, Akha, Lawa and Karen. Each has distinctive dialects, costumes and customs.

Orchid Farms

Several establishments in the suburbs of Bangkok, and in Chiang Mai and Chon Buri province welcome visitors who may wish to admire, purchase or learn more about these fabled blooms.
Orchid Farms

Traditional Thai Massage

Courses are taught principally in Bangkok's Wat Pho, "home" of traditional Thai massage. Thai massage is also offered in Wat Mahathat and Wat Parinayok, both in Bangkok.

Wildlife Sanctuaries National Parks

Thailand has some 50 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries covering more than 25,000 square kilometres. Evenly spread throughout the kingdom, such places afford nature lovers opportunities to enjoy Thai flora and fauna in unspoiled surroundings. The most popular in
terms of convenient accessibility and immediately visible attractions are as follows:

Khao Yai National Park lies some 200 kilometres northeast of Bangkok, covers more than 540,000 acres, has an average elevation of 800 metres and a highest peak of 1,351 metres. The park supports elephants, tigers, bears, giant hombills and other protected wildlife, countless species of wild flowers, trees and spectacular waterfalls.

Doi Inthanon National Parkin Chiang Mai province covers Thailand's highest mountain (2,565 metres). Forest above 1,800 metres is covered with lichens and wild orchids while at lower levels several lovely waterfalls share the mountainside with Meo and Karen hilltribe villages.

Ko Sametin Rayong province is the focal point of a Marine National Park. The narrow, 6 kilometre long island numbers among Thailand's most beautiful islands and is fringed by splendid beaches, dazzling coral reefs and limpid waters ideal for snorkelling and scubadiving.

Erawan National Parkin Kanchanaburi province is extremely popular. The mountainside forest setting contains the seventiered Erawan Waterfall, widely regarded as one of Thailand's loveliest cascades.

Sam Roi Yot National Park in Prachuap Khiri Khan province provided major settings for the award-winning movie The Killing Fields. A multi-peaked, thinly forested limestone mass rises majestically from coastal marshes that host numerous waterfowl species. Caves, islands, fine beaches and frequently seen wildlife comprise major attractions.

Khu Khut Waterfowl Park in Songkhla province occupies 520 square kilometres of the Great SongkhIa Lake and hosts some 140 resident and migratory species.

Ao Phang Nga National Park in Phang Nga province featured prominently in the James Bond movie The Man With The Golden Gun. Verdant limestone islands, honeycombed with caves and aquatic grottoes, soar perpendicularly from almost perpetually calm waters. Major attractions include prehistoric rock paintings and a stilted Muslim fishing village.

Tarutao Marine National Park in Satun province, 31 kilometres off the southern Thai coast near the Thai-Malaysian Indian Ocean maritime border, is a 51 -island cluster covering some 1,400 square kilometres, and offers some of Southeast Asia's best scuba-diving waters.

Ko Samui (click for more travel information) and Ang Thong Marine National Park, covering an area of over 250 square kilometres, is located in Surat Thani province and composed of various islands noted for silvery sand and colourful coral reefs. Access to the islands can be made either from Ban Don, Surat Thani or Don Sak in Nakhon Si Thammarat.

Thai Fruits

Thai fruits - - including mangoes, mangosteens, clurians, pineapples, watermelons, papayas, rambutans, longans, lyches, tamarinds, pomegranates, palm fruits, oranges, pomeloes, jackfruits and more than 20 kinds of bananas- - are available all year round.

Thai Fruits From January to April, grapes, jackfruits, java apples, tangerines, watermelons and pomegranates are in season. Next come mangoes, lyches, pineapples, clurians and mangosteens.

From July on, longans will ripen, and also langsats, jujubes, passionfruits, pomeloes, rambutans, sugar apples and again tangerines, grapes, watermelons, bananas, coconuts, guavas and papayas are available thoughout the year.

Some harvests are celebrated in style, with colourful festivals, sometimes featuring a pageant of local beauties.

In early April, the Paet Riu Mango Festival is organized in Chachoengsao. Probably the most popular and typical of Thai fruits, the mango deserves this honour.

In May, Songkhla promotes its fruits with a bazaar, fruit carving demonstrations and a Miss Southern Thailand Pageant.

In June, Chanthaburi exhibits delicious provincial fruits, including the king of them all, the exquisitely delicious durian.

In September, to honour pomeloes, a fruit and floral float procession is held in Nakhon Pathom, near Bangkok.

Arts and Crafts

During 1976, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit established the Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques, popularly known as SUPPORT, with the object of giving rural Thais alternative sources of income and also of reviving some of the kingdom's traditional crafts. The result has been a variety of beautiful items available in Thailand through a chain of outlets called Chitrlada Shops.

Five Chitrlada Shops are located in Bangkok.on the ground floor of the Decorations Pavilion in the Grand Palace; in the Oriental Plaza shopping centre,- in the shopping arcade of the Hilton International Bangkok Hotel; in the compound of Vimanmek Mansion; and at Don Muang International Airport. Others can be found at the Rose Garden in Nakhon Pathom province, in South Pattaya,and at the Chiang Mai Airport.

Arts and Crafts

Among the SUPPORT products to be found in these shops are handwoven silks from the Northeast, particularly in subtle designs known in Thai as mat-mi; elegant yan liphao handbags, made from a vine that grows in southern Thailand and often adorned with gold fittings; jewellery in distinctive designs; supple Thai cotton in classic patterns;. T-shirts with motifs designed by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn; and numerous moderately-priced souvenirs. All funds raised from the sale of these crafts go to the SUPPORT project.

Festivals and Annual Events

Thais are fun-loving, sentimental people and annual festivals, both commemorative and celebrative, play important roles in Thai life.

Many Thai festivals are joyful, colourful events that invite visitors' participation. Others feature solemn, eminently photogenic ceremonial. Whatever their character, whether dazzling processions, Buddhist devotion, uninhibited merriment or exotic ritual, each affords the visitor pleasant memories and insights into the cultural heritage that makes Thailand Asia's most exotic country.

Most festivals are connected either with Buddhism, the annual rice-farming cycle, or commemorations honouring Thai kings. Some occur on fixed dates. Others, particularly those associated with Buddhism, are determined by the lunar calendar. Many merit national holidays.

Chronologically, Thailand's major festivals, and events, are as follows:

Magha Puja

Full-moon day, February National holiday This commemorates the occasion when 1,250 disciples spontaneously gathered to hear the Buddha preach. Merit-making, such as offering food to monks, and freeing captive birds and fishes, is interspersed with sermons throughout the day. After sunset, Buddhist monks lead the laity in a lovely triple candlelit circumambulation of Buddhist chapels throughout the kingdom. Each person silently carries flowers, glowing incense and lighted candies in homage to the Buddha, his teaching and his disciples.

Flower Festival

Usually early February

At Chiang Mai,700 kilometres north of Bangkok. This annual event features displays, floral floats, and beauty contests when the province's temperate and tropical flowers are in full bloom.

Pattaya Festival

Early April

Thailand's premier beach resort celebrates with beauty parades, floral floats, and special events. Highlights include a spectacular beachside firework display.

Songkran Festival

April 13 - 15

National holiday, April 12 - 14

Songkran is the traditional Thai New Year and is celebrated with special elan in Chiang Mai where because it occurs during a time of relative leisure, it becomes a 3-5 day carousel of religious merit-making, pilgrimages, beauty parades, dancing and uninhibited, good-natured water throwing.

Songkran Festival, Amphoe Phra Pradaeng

The second week of April

The Mon community of Phra Pradaeng district, Samut Prakan province, just south of Bangkok, celebrates Songkran with similar festivities.

Royal Ploughing Ceremony

Usually early May, at Bangkok's Sanam Luang

This ceremony marks official commencement of the annual rice-planting cycle. Presided over by His Majesty the King, elaborate Brahman ritual and ceremonial combine to provide predictions concerning the forthcoming rice crop.

Rocket Festival

The second weekend of May, and best seen in Yasothon, northeast Thailand. Prior to the annual monsoons, Northeast villagers construct gigantic rockets to fire into the sky to "ensure" plentiful rain during the forthcoming rice season. The Rocket Festival is traditionally a period for letting off steam before ardous field work begins in earnest, and features beauty parades, folk dances, ribald and high-spirited revelry before the rockets are ceremoniously launched.

Visakha Puja

Full Moon day, May

National holiday

Visakha Puja is the holiest of all Buddhist holy days, and marks the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death. Merit-making and ceremonial are identical to Magha Puja.

Fruits Fairs Countrywide

Fruits Fairs Countrywide These annual fairs feature delicious provincial fruits-including rambutan, durian, jackfruits and pomeloes, and feature cultural displays, exhibitions and folk art.

Major provinces that celebrate fruits fairs include Rayong, Chanthaburi, Chachoengsao and Hat Yai in Songkhla.

H.M. the Queen's Birthday

August 12

National holiday

Nationwide celebrations find particular focus in Bangkok where government buildings are decorated and illuminated at night with colcured lights.

Ok Phansa & Thot Kathin

During October

Ok Phansa celebrates the end of the Rains Retreat and introduces the Kathin period when, throughout Thailand, the Buddhist laity present monks with new robes and other items
deemed necessary for the monkhood's upkeep during the forthcoming monastic year.

Vegetarian Festival

During October

Phuket islanders of Chinese ancestry commit themselves to a vegetarian diet for nine days. The festival's first day features a parade of white-clothed devotees and several ascetic displays.

Boat Races

October

The Kathin period marks the official end of the Rains Season and is the time for country fairs, many of which feature regattas. Nan, 790 kilometres north of Bangkok,has famous boat races. Other noteworthy regattas are held in Surat Thani, Phichit, Nakhon Phanom and Pathum Thani.

Loi Krathong

Full-moon night of November

This is Thailand's loveliest festival when under the full moon, Thais float away onto rivers and waterways, Krathongs, small lotusshaped banana-leaf boats containing a lighted candle, glowing incense, a flower and small coin to honour, it is believed, the water spirits, and to wash away the previous year's sins.

Elephant Round-Up

Third weekend of November, Surin, nort east Thailand

Some 100 elephants participate in this popular event. Between folk dances and traditional cultural performances, these versatile behemoths star in displays of time-honcured wild elephant hunts, demonstrations of intelligence, strength, gentility and obedience, and the spectacular re-enactment of a medieval war elephant parade.

River Kwai Bridge Week

Late November, early December, Kanchanaburi, western Thailand

Features a thrilling son et lumiere show at the world-famous bridge. Archaeological and historical exhibitions, sparkling folk culture performances and rides on trains hauled by World War 11 vintage steam locomotives number among other attractions.

H.M. the King's Birthday

December 5

National Holiday

On December 3, the elite Royal Guards swear anew their allegiance to His Majesty King Bhumibol in a colourful and stirring ceremony in Bangkok's Royal Plaza.

On December 5, festivities occur throughout Thailand. Customarily, government buildings and houses are decorated with spectacular illuminations at night. Night-time Bangkok, particularly in the Ratchadamnoen Avenue and Grand Palace area, becomes a floodlit fairyland of coloured lights.




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