Thai people love a party and they have some of the most original festivals in the world. It would be impossible to list all of them, but here are two of the best to join on Samui.
Songkran on Koh Samui
This festival occurs from April 13th to 15th. The word ‘Songkran’ comes from the Sanskrit words meaning ‘New Year’ and it is also commonly known as the ‘Water festival’. The playful nature of the Thai people took this New Year celebration, which it is thought to have originally began with Monks blessing the people by dripping a small amount of water onto them, and turned it into the epic water fight it is today.
Though Songkran is traditionally a religious holiday and a time for Thai families to come together and feast, as well as prepare their homes for the New Year by cleaning and washing sacred images, it is the water fight aspect of the event that has made Songkran world famous.
Many areas of the country literally come to a grinding halt as the people take to the streets armed to the teeth with water pistols, buckets and hoses.
Be warned, that no one (with the possible exception of uniformed police) is exempt from a drenching, and foreign visitors will be encouraged and expected to participate. The traditional ‘invitation’ usually consists of a thorough dousing, minutes after leaving your hotel. It hardly needs to be said, that if facing repeated liquid muggings as you wander down the street isn’t your idea of fun, then you might want to stay in your room with a book for this one. You will need a lot of patience, sense of humour and, of course, a water pistol!
Loy Kratong on Koh Samui
This occurs on November 14th in 2016. The full moon night of the 12th lunar month (normally November) Known as the ‘festival of light’, Loy Kratong is probably the most eagerly awaited festival in the Thai calendar, after Songkran.
Loy is the Thai word meaning ‘to float’, with the word Kratong being the name of the small craft that are painstakingly made by the locals. If made in the traditional fashion, the Kratong will usually be crafted from banana leaves or strips from the banana plant’s trunk, but nowadays the building process and materials used can be far more creative. Inside the Kratong will be offerings including money, candles, food, flowers and incense sticks.
The candles and incense sticks are lit and then the craft is given to the water, be it at the sea, the local river or even in some large cities, the hotel swimming pool.
On the island, the sight is spectacular as thousands of people gather at the beach in the moonlight and countless small Kratong light up the seas off Koh Samui. The people will then often stay for hours to watch their Kratong mingle with the others. As well as being visually beautiful, Loy Kratong is also known for its romantic ambience, and couples should especially enjoy the moment.
Another enchanting aspect of this festival is the ‘kormbs’, which are small rice paper hot air balloons that glow as they take to the sky – releasing the past sins of the year. To see dozens of these floating off into the night sky is truly charming.
It is known that the festival was born in the 13th century with the ancient kingdom of Sukhothai flourishing. Many legends exist to explain how Loy Kratong began, with many believing it to be an offering to the Buddhist goddess of water, Phra Mae Kongka. As many local people on the island earn their living from the seas the festival takes on special significance on the island, and is one of the best places in Thailand to view the spectacular event. Often at other times of the year there are low key festivals which occur at the popular beach areas, in the local town of Na-thon and within communities, where food, music, cultural displays and commercial activities are ever present.
Full moon parties
These take place monthly on Koh Pha Ngan and have become world famous as one of the largest monthly beach parties on the planet. Roughly 10,000 ravers show up even in the low season for this all-nighter on Haad Rin Beach, which can be seen from Samui’s Big Buddha. Accommodation becomes scarce on the island so it’s advisable to stay on Samui and ferry over (one hour) for this bash that’s still going strong 20 years later. Find out more in our Koh Pha Ngan section.