Cultural buffs, we bring you five cultural festivals in Phuket not to be missed!
Watch on (if you dare), as participants pierce sharp objects through their cheeks, and brave the burning heat by stepping on fire. If this appears to be too gory and gruesome, indulge in some light-hearted fun by setting off a miniature lotus-shaped float into a sea of flickering lights, or make merry with the locals by getting in some wet and wild fun on the streets.
If you delight in discovering about the cultural traditions and practices of the locals, be sure to check out these five festivals in Phuket:
- 1. Kathu Culture Street Festival
Held in July annually, the Kathu Culture Street Festival attracts thousands of visitors keen on discovering more about Kathu’s unique culture and traditions.
A parade will kickstart the festival held along Wichit Songkram Road. Locals and tourists at the festival can enjoy browsing through street stalls hawking a variety of local food items and products, and view entertaining stage shows, music, exhibitions and traditional games.
Travellers will gain religious and cultural insights into Kathu practices, such as learning about the placements of items on the offerings table for the deities, and the meanings and reasons for offering different kinds of items. They can also catch sight of the locals bedecking themselves in their traditional attires and costumes while they stroll down the street
Do take care to dress conservatively for this traditional event. Ladies should avoid wearing clothing that are too short or revealing.
The historical centre of the Old Town buzzes alive during the Phuket Old Town Festival each year. Roads surrounding the Old Town are turned into walking streets filled with throngs of keen spectators.
There is plenty to see and do during this festival. Visitors can expect to watch colourful cultural parades, catch a free boat ride along the central canals, explore the myriad of street stalls, and enjoy beautiful performances by lithe and graceful dancers.
Festival activities will start at about 3:00 P.M. in the afternoon, and end at midnight.
- 3. Songkran Festival, April
Villa travellers in Phuket, you are in for a wet and wild time during the period of 13th – 15th April!
Marking the start of the solar calendar, Songkran is a widely celebrated event among the locals. For many, it is a perfect reason to arm themselves with plenty of water, and to splash them out at innocent passersby along the streets!
On the first day of the festival, the streets are lined with trucks by noon, and traffic slows down to a snail’s pace. Expect to be doused in icy cold water thrown out by fun-loving locals from the trucks, or to be shot by mischievous imps wielding water guns. Either way, as long as you are outdoors, do not expect to stay dry during this annual celebration!
- 4. Phuket Vegetarian Festival, October
During October each year, participants of the festival gather to celebrate the belief that avoiding meat and certain stimulants during the ninth month of the lunar calendar will bring about health, as well as a peace of mind.
Onlookers at the festival should prepare themselves for a visual spectacle during the festival celebrations. Chance upon the sight of men and women walking across fiery coals, as well as participants puncturing their cheeks with an array of objects, ranging from knives and skewers, to other household items. It may appear gruesome or gory to visitors and passersby, but these participants believe that deities will protect them from harm when they perform such acts.
Visitors at the festival can also savour a wide array of Chinese vegetarian dishes. Many of these dishes contain mock meat items made from vegetarian ingredients, such as soybean. It will be hard to believe that you are not consuming meat, as these items taste and look just like the real thing!
- 5. Loy Krathong Festival, November
The night of the full moon in November promises to be a beautiful sight in Phuket. The moon, round and bright, beams at onlookers from the velvet night sky, watching on as a multitude of people carry out the festival celebrations of Loy Krathong, Thailand’s ‘Festival of Lights’.
On this day, vast expanses of water are filled with the flickering glow of candlelight. These candles are set in miniature floats crafted in the form of a lotus flower. Locals believe that setting off the krathong into the water, and letting it flow along with the outgoing tide helps to bring good fortune in the coming year. It is believed that it is not an auspicious sign if the krathong floats back towards the shore.
The beaches along the western coasts of Phuket are crowded with locals and travellers during the festivities, with Patong Beach and Nai Harn Lake being the most popular sites. Locals will also flock to the surrounding beaches of Kata and Karon to participate in the celebrations.