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July 5, 2009updated Feb 08, 2013

International Wax Sculpture Festival

By Pardhasaradhi Gonuguntla

One of the grandest festivals in Thailand and the only one of its kind in the world, the International Wax Sculpture Festival takes place every July during the Buddhist Rains Retreat,or Khao Phansa, in the province of Ubon Ratchathani. The event includes a show of fascinating carved beeswax sculptures – many over two meters tall – and an International Candle Carving Competition by wax artists from around the world. Guests can also enjoy the local specialty food Pha Khao Laeng, prepared especially for the event, and the traditional alms-giving Buddhist ceremony, Asalha Puja. The Buddhist Rains Retreat, or Buddhist Lent, is when Buddhist monks withdraw to their temples for three months to focus on meditation. The casting of these wax sculptures is done as a sign of respect to Buddha and these Buddhist monks, and the sculptures are presented as a gift to local temples at the end of the ceremony.

The annual Hua Hin Regatta takes place in the oldest and most traditional resort in Thailand, Hua Hin, which is considered the home of the country’s sailing community. Sailors from all over the country gather for three exciting days of competition, and winners are awarded trophies by the Thai royal family, who are all present for the event. His Majesty the King is a sailing enthusiast himself, and this annual regatta is held in his honor.

Celebrated in Sanam Luang, an open field and public square in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Her Majesty the Queen’s birthday is a unique day full of celebrations and festivities. Highlights include an alms-giving ceremony in the morning, followed by a vibrant festival of music and Thai culture in the afternoon. Ratchadamnoen Avenue, the royal passage linking the Grand Palace and the Dusit Palace, is magnificently decorated for the occasion as well.

The-Illuminated Boat Procession is an enchanting celebration that takes place in I-San, the northeastern region of Thailand, and marks the end of the Buddhist Rains Retreat. As night falls, illuminated “fire boats”, elaborately adorned with flowers, incense sticks, candles, lanterns and an assortment of ritual offerings, are set afloat down the Mekong River, creating a gorgeous sight against the darkness of the moonlit night. Originally performed as a way to pay respect to Buddha, this later developed into a competition, adding additional excitement to the event. Additionally, a colorful street procession and various cultural performances take place during the day.

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is an annual nine-day event held by the Thai-Chinese, with the purpose of purifying mind and soul through meditation and by refraining from meat consumption. Local residents of Chinese ancestry strictly observe a vegetarian or vegan diet during this festival, and visitors can enjoy specially prepared vegetarian cuisine, available in street stalls and markets around the island. Unusual spectacles include large street processions where participants walk in a trance; daring feats by local residents such as walking barefoot over hot coals, body piercing and climbing an eight-meter ladder with sharp blades; and sacred rituals performed at various Chinese shrines and temples.

Loi Krathong is celebrated annually throughout Thailand on the full moon of the 12th month in the Thai lunar calendar historically as a way to honor Buddha. Loi means “to float” and Krathong is a small raft traditionally made from a banana tree trunk and decorated with elaborately folded banana leaves, flowers, candles and incense sticks. During the night of the full moon, thousands of people gather to float these Krathong onto the waterways of the city, symbolizing the letting go of one’s grudges and negativity in order to start life afresh. Larger and more elaborate rafts are also released and judged in contests, and other highlights include a Krathong design contest, a beauty contest, a light and sound presentation, fireworks and vibrant cultural performances. Additionally, a multitude of Lanna-style sky lanterns, or khom fai, are launched into the air, which is believed to help rid the locals of their troubles. Geoffrey Weill Associates Informational material is disseminated on behalf of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Additional information available at the Department of Justice.

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