Songkran Water Festival April 8-14 (Thai New Year)
The Songkran (New Year) water festival beings April 8, and water guns, balloons, canons, buckets, and anything that holds water can be used to take part in the festivities. The Thai government declares “water play zones”, where you can celebrate by throwing or spraying people with water as a fun and friendly gesture.
The Songkran Water Festival exists to honor a old Thai tradition. As a sign of respect, children and young people would gently pour water over the hands of their elders to bring in the new year.
Over the years Songkran transformed into a week-long event across Thailand where festivals, fairs, and gatherings of families celebrate with baby powder and water. The baby powder is gently rubbed on the face and body to ward off evil spirits and bad luck for the upcoming year.
The water, while mostly just fun play, represents the washing of the body, cleansing it of the bad omens from the previous year.
Wat Chalong Festival
Wat Chalong is the most revered Buddhist temple in the south of Thailand. Every year, at the end of January, the Wat Chalong Fair commences and runs for 8 days.
The largest temple in the complex, called “Chedi”, is where the finger bone of Buddha is kept. Thai people and tourists gather at the festival for fun, games, food, shopping and to socialize. Many Thai people will make an offering as a way to show respect for their religion.
At the main temple they will lay flowers, light incense and candles, and say a prayer. The entire Wat (Temple) transforms with radiant lights, traditional music, and the smell of fresh BBQ roasting in the air. Vendors sell goods in canvas tents and stalls, offering a wide variety of items such as bags, hats, jewelry, cosmetics, flowers, ceramics, and an impressive selection of sweets and snacks. The experience at the temple during the 8 days of festivities is an excellent way to better understand the Thai people and their culture.
Like any festival for fair, entertainment areas are set up all over with water-dunk tanks, dart games, shooting games, games of chance and more. For the children, there are large playground areas with cushioned slides, train rides, ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds. Needless to say, the festival makes a great family event.
The fairgrounds are large and it takes a lot of walking to get around. At the front there are restaurant and patio areas for people to dine. Specialty dishes from all over Thailand are available; from southern Thai to Issan cuisine. The fair is a great way to try food from all over the country.
Every year the Wat Chalong Festival grows more popular and expands on its attractions. Vendors are always finding new and intriguing things to sell, like orchids and exotic koi and goldfish.
Muay Thai boxing matches are held every few days along with “Reekay”, which is a cultural Thai dance and special musical entertainment. During the last 3 days of the fair, popular Thai singers put on concerts that attract more than 15,000 people. Regardless of when you come, the Wat Chalong Fair makes for a wonderful experience with great fun and excellent food and shopping bargains to be had.
Wat Chalong is one of the most respected and revered temples in Thailand, and a popular tourist attraction in Phuket. It sits in the shadow of the Buddhist monument on top of Karon mountain.
The temple is home to a special “Chedi” building that holds the finger bone of Buddha. Because of this, Wat Chalong is considered to be the most treasured and respected Wat in southern Thailand.
There are several beautiful buildings in the temple compound. Thai and foreigners come to make merit and offerings at the central temple.
Before offering a prayer, Thai and foreigners will usually light incense and lay down flowers before lighting a candle. Occasionally a monk will offer you a small string to tie around your wrist. This gesture and the string brings good fortune and is a reminder to be a good Buddhist.
Also in the complex is the main crematorium where the Thais are cremated after death. A large cone shaped building stands next to it where firecrackers can be placed inside, creating loud and echoing blasts to scare the evil spirits away. The Wat Chalong temple is considered the most important temple in Phuket and visitors to Phuket will always stop at the temple for prayer and to show their respect to the Buddha.
The Wat Chalong Fair is held at the end of every January. The 10 days of festivities bring lots of entertainment, games, concerts, restaurants, Muay Thai boxing and other social events. It is a favorite time of year for locals and tourists.
Phang-Nga Buddha and Cave Monk
A large buddha monument can be seen as you travel along the highway from Phuket to Phang-Nga. Phang-Nga is a beautiful seaside province of islands, and home to gorgeous beaches, mountains, and is a popular place for adventurous excursions that is but a short trip from Phuket island and a favorite spot of adventure trips for TMT guests and visiting James Bond island..
Living 120 meters up a solid limestone wall, an elder monk spends the rest of his years in meditation while protecting and watching over the 20 meter high statue. The monk rarely leaves his cave only for supplies and for instructions to caretakers on taking care of the large Buddha statue that sits in front of the large rock wall face.
The Buddha sits guarding a small mountain pass and is an excellent spot to take pictures on your way to and from Phang-Nga or Krabi.