An ancient Thai legend tells a story of when the Buddha, in one of his past lives as a prince, made a long journey and was presumed to be dead. However he did return, to the surprise and joy of everyone. The celebrations that were held upon his return were so loud and raucous that they woke the dead!
This is the origins of the Phi Ta Khon Festival in Thailand, otherwise known as the Ghost Festival. The word “Phi” means ghost and “Khon” means mask.
It is a lively event that takes place at some point between March and July, the exact date is determined every year by the mediums of the town. The festival is held in the small town of Dan Sai in Loei Province and most of the festivities take place at Wat Pon Chai, which is the temple in the main street of the town. During the Ghost Festival, the locals will take part in a colourful procession wearing masks and hats made from rice steamers, coconut leaves, rice husks and patchwork fabric.
These costumes are meant to be “ghosts” and they can be quite visually striking! The “Ghosts” really get into playing their part and they tend to dance around, tease the crowds and scare people as well as having a few drinks. They will also wave around wooden phalluses and wear bells, the goal being to invite protection from Phra U-Pakut, who is the spirit of the Mun River. The phalluses are fertility symbols and they represent fertility of the land and the hope for a large harvest that year. Sometimes the procession will include phalluses that are as large as cannons, transported on wheels.
This festival also incorporates costume and dance contests, more parades and rocket launches, as well as sermons from the Buddhist monks. The monks traditionally recite the thirteen sermons of Prince Vessandorn during this festival.
Tips for Attending the Festival
Are you planning on attending the Phi Ta Khon Festival? Here are some important things to know::
- The dates of the event are different every year and the 2014 event will be held from the 27th of June to the 29th.
- Dan Sai is a 130 km drive from Chiang Mai and a 500 km drive from Bangkok. It is recommended to plan a self-drive holiday, so that you can explore this region independently.
- It is also possible to fly there from Bangkok on Nok Air, or take a bus from the Mo Chit terminal in Bangkok.
- If you plan to attend the festival, book your hotel in advance because they fill up fast during this popular time.
- Make sure that you check out some of the other attractions in the area, such as trekking in Phu Rua National Park or visiting the Chateau de Loei vineyard.
Have you ever been to the Phi Ta Khon Ghost Festival in Thailand? Let us know your travel experiences in the comments below!