In this guest post, our two Bangkok experts, Stefan from Fascination Southeast Asia and Florian from Flocblog, tell you everything about celebrations and festivals in Bangkok. Which annual events should you know about and which ones might also be of interest to you?
Stefan and Florian are fans of Asian metropolises and especially Bangkok.
Thailand’s capital is Florian’s adopted home and Stefan’s annual travel destination. Bangkok has so much variety and sights to offer like no other metropolis.
Culture capital Bangkok
Bangkok is the capital of Thailand, and also the cultural center of the kingdom. You have probably heard of the Royal Palace and the countless temples in the old town, one more fascinating than the next. But there is also a wide range of museums, art galleries and street art. Bangkok is the largest city for Theravada Buddhism, which is widespread in Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
But Bangkok is not just about Thai culture. Here the west meets the east. You will notice this everywhere in the city and especially in the cultural enclaves from Chinatown to Little India to the Arab quarter.
But old buildings are not the actual cultural highlights in Bangkok. Rather, it’s the colorful festivals. On major holidays you experience culture you can touch and the city really comes to life.
Almost every weekend, Bangkokians find a reason to celebrate big or small. But that only applies in the dry season from November to April. The festival calendar pauses in the rainy season.
Visiting Thailand gets even better if you manage to attend one or more of the colorful festivals.
The most beautiful festivals in Bangkok
As I said, there is actually something going on in Thailand’s metropolis every weekend. Thais love to party, but of course there is not a celebration with the meaning of Songkran every weekend.
Here is a list of must-see Bangkok festivals for each month in the dry season. These are holidays that we particularly like and for which it is worth rescheduling your Thailand vacation.
The exact dates are often based on the lunar calendar and can sometimes also fall on the following month. Find out about the corresponding calendar year. Admission to all events is free.
If you don’t know where to see a festival in Bangkok, go to the Sanam Luang in front of the Royal Palace. Most of the celebrations take place here or on Ratchadamnoen Street next door, Bangkok’s “Champs Elysee”.
Tourism Festival in January
The tourism festival is very new, but has already established itself as an annual highlight on Bangkok’s festival calendar. If you as a culture fan can only see one festival, let it be this one.
At the end of January, Lumpini Park is transformed into a wonderland of Thai culture for five days. In traditional villages from all five regions of Thailand and one Chinese village there are stages for evening dances and performances. There are also parades and a large show stage.
Nobody has to go hungry thanks to countless food stalls with traditional dishes from all regions of Thailand. If you see a line that is way too long in front of a food stall, there is probably a celebrity chef at the wok.
If you feel like shopping, you can grab souvenirs and handicrafts. Sometimes there is the opportunity to watch the artisans at work at the stands.
The festival is called Tourism Festival because it is supposed to stimulate cultural tourism in all Thai regions. Most of the visitors are Thai and you come across as a Farang, as western foreigners are called in Thailand, like a discoverer of Thai culture.
Magha Puja in February
Magha Puja is one of four major Buddhist holidays in Thailand, along with Visakha Puja, Asanha Puja, and Ok Phansa. No alcohol may be sold or served on any of the four days.
It is actually a very relaxed holiday. Many believers visit their house temples and at sunset there is a candle procession in almost every temple.
Particularly spectacular in Bangkok is the mass ceremony at Wat Dhammakaya with many thousands of believers.
The Buddhist sect is known for its gigantomania and that is especially true on this day.
Around 100,000 monks and believers meditate in peace at sunset. Then they circle the center of the temple, which looks like a UFO. At the end there is a fireworks display.
The Magha Puja ceremony at Wat Dhammakaya is about as photogenic as the mass launch of sky lanterns for the Yee Peng Festival in Chiang Mai. Both events are hosted by the same Buddhist sect.
Magha Puja is based on the lunar calendar and in some years falls on March.
Kite Festival, Elephant Day in March
In March there are stronger winds in Bangkok than in other months. Children and the young at heart then come to the Sanam Luang and fly thousands of kites.
The sky over the green meadow in front of the Royal Palace is brightly dotted with numerous traditional and modern kites throughout the month.
There is also a fair atmosphere with mini ferris wheels, food stalls and other stalls. Of course, you can also buy and fly a kite yourself.
On some days there are competitions with particularly clever stunt kites. You can turn anything into a competition, even kite flying.
A visit to the Sanam Luang on the national elephant day on March 13th is particularly worthwhile. Then the royal elephants are demonstrated on the Sanam Luang, including two particularly important white pachyderms.
Songkran: Thai New Year in April
The water fight at the Buddhist New Year is world famous. During the day you fight each other with super soakers. After sundown, it goes on with alcohol.
As with New Year’s Eve, Songkran in Bangkok is spread across several locations:
- the mass spectacle on Silom Road around the BTS Sala Daeng
- the second mass spectacle in front of the Centralworld with a bubble bath
- the official Songkran on Sanam Luang with cultural demonstrations and a parade
- the absolute water fight for party people around the party mile Khao San Road
- the traditional Buddhist celebration in the temple of the reclining Buddha Wat Pho
The Thai New Year Festival Songkran officially takes place from April 13th to 15th, but the days before are also part of it.
If you miss Songkran, there are 2 later alternative dates around Bangkok
The Wan Lai Festival in Chonburi follows directly on from Songkran. On Bang Saen Beach there is a sandcastle building competition, water boxing and of course water fights.
The Mon minority in Ko Kret and Bang Krachao celebrate Songkran exactly one week later. There’s a big traditional parade, an election for Mister and Miss Songkran, and of course, water fights.
Navaratri and Vegetarian Festival in October
One of the most important festivals in North India is Durga Puja. In Bangkok it is celebrated under the name Navaratri. It is the largest festival of the Hindu community in Thailand.
For nine days there are ceremonies at the colorful Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Silom. On the last day, the festival culminates in a colorful parade based on the South Indian Thaipusam festival.
More than 100 temporary shrines then line Silom Road. Lots of coconuts are thrown onto the street in front of the passing chariots. That brings luck, try it yourself.
At the same time or shortly afterwards, the Chinese community celebrates the Taoist vegetarian festival. In Bangkok, however, there is no self-torture through oversized piercings like on Phuket.
The center of the vegetarian festival is the southern Chinatown in Talad Noi for nine days.
At the Chow Sue Kong Shrine below the Riverview Guesthouse, Chinese operas are performed amid countless vegetarian food stalls.
Flower festival in November
A lesser-known festival is held from November 1st to 10th in honor of the late King Rama IX on his birthday in early November. The fairground is the Rama IX Park far outside the city center.
Flower festival sounds boring, but the beautiful flowers are a minor matter, except for selfie friends. The Rama IX Festival is more of a cultural festival than a botanical attraction.
On two weekends and the week in between you will find several stages spread over Bangkok’s largest park. The performances are very different from traditional dances to live music.
A highlight for families are shows such as muay thai, water boxing and rope pulling by boat.
These competitions, which are not meant to be entirely serious, take place in a beautifully situated floating market.
Rama IX Park is a twenty minute taxi ride from Hua Mak Airportlink Station, about 80 baht by meter. A visit is worthwhile even without a flower festival. Find the five-tier waterfall.
From Thursday to Sunday the park can be easily connected to Bangkok’s largest night market, Talat Rot Fai Srinakarin.
A songthaew drives from the west entrance of the park to the main street, from there it is only a 5-minute walk.
New Year’s Eve in Bangkok in December
The international countdown to the new year is also important in Thailand. On New Year’s Eve there are several celebrations with local fireworks all over the city.
Some places to celebrate the New Year in Bangkok are:
- the mass spectacle in front of the Centralworld with a large stage
- the official celebration on the Sanam Luang in front of the Royal Palace the spectacular fireworks on the river at the Asiatique commercial night market
- the traditional Buddhist celebration in the Temple of Dawn Wat Arun
- the mother of all parties in the party mile Khao San Road until the early hours
- the relaxed alternative with dignified live music at the Changchui artist night market
Sky-train, subway and buses run until 2 a.m. on New Year’s Eve. The first hours of the new year, however, there is a total traffic collapse in Bangkok because everyone tries to come home after the fireworks. It is best to stay near the party that interests you most.