Festivals & events in Bangkok

Five New Year celebrations, two royal birthdays and one Fat Festival

Festivals & events in Bangkok Chinese New Year - © Mark Parren Taylor/Time Out
By Time Out editors

Thais are an irrepressibly festive people, whether it’s royal anniversaries, Buddhist rites, youth culture or simply sanuk (fun).

They even celebrate foreign festivals, from Halloween to Christmas. Malls often develop promotions into events with music, performance, exhibitions, fashion shows and, as at every function, food.

What’s going on reflects Bangkok’s monsoon seasons. Outdoor activities favour the cool, dry ‘winter’ (Nov-Jan). Things happen more indoors in the hot season (Feb-May) and the erratic, humid early rainy season (May-Jun), with less happening all round from July to September due to frequent afternoon and evening storms. We’ve given future dates for lunar religious festivals. Dates highlighted in bold are public holidays. Advance information is often incomplete or changes suddenly, so check with venues, tourist offices, listings media or online.

January

Concert in the Park

When: (see Dec)

Beer Gardens

When: (see Nov)

New Year’s Day

When: 1 Jan
Thais make merit at shrines and wats.

National Children’s Day

When: 2nd Sat in Jan
Doors usually closed to the public are opened (8.30am-4pm), including the inner Grand Palace, Defence Ministry and Government House. Zoos, theme parks and many other sights are free.

Bangkok Fringe Festival

When: Jan & Feb
Where: Patravadi Theatre
A showcase of dance, drama and music of East and West, in traditional, modern and fusion forms. The weekend evening shows are mostly intelligible to non-Thai speakers.

Chinese New Year

When: 23 Jan 2012
Rites and festivities citywide by Thai-Chinese. Chinatown fills with lion and dragon dances, firecrackers, lanterns, Chinese opera and even more food stalls than usual. 2012 is a dragon year.

February

Concert in the Park

When: (see Dec)

Chinese New Year

When: (see Jan), 4 Feb 2010, 3 Feb 2011
2010 is a tiger year, 2011 the year of the rabbit.

Temple Fairs

When: late Jan or early Feb
Where: Wat Hualumphong, 728 Thanon Rama IV; Wat Phlubphlachai, 5 Thanon Mitreejit
Two of the most central folk fairs occurring around Chinese New Year.

Elle Fashion Week

When: Feb
Where: Central World
Tel: Elle magazine 0 2240 3700 ext 1703
Since 1999, Bangkok’s original catwalk fest for emergent labels, now twice yearly at Central World. Some public runway seats are available.

Makha Bucha

When: 28 Feb 2010, 18 Feb 2011
Thais circle temples at dusk to mark when the star Makha illuminated 1,250 disciples who gathered spontaneously to hear Buddha’s last major sermon. Alcohol banned all day.

March

Makha Bucha

When: (see Feb), 7 Mar 2012

Bangkok International Fashion Week

When: mid Mar
Where: Siam Paragon
Tel & website: www.Thailandfashion.net
Four days of catwalk shows by Thai designers, several of whom have international reputations. Some public seats are available, but only fashionistas get to crash the parties.

April

Chakri Day

When: 6 Apr
Royal rites at the Chakri dynasty pantheon, which is in Wat Phra Kaew, and also at the statue to King Rama I at Memorial Bridge.

Songkran

When: 13-15 Apr
The indiscriminate water throwing that goes on during the Thai New Year evolved from gentle bathings of reverence and purification, as still happens today with elder monks and Buddha images such as the Phra Buddha Sihing, which is brought to Sanam Luang. Thais also clean the house, make sand chedi in temples, crown Miss Songkran and party wildly with water, talc and booze. Officials try to confine excesses to peak areas like Patpong and Thanon Khao San, where shows are staged. Bangkok is eerily empty.

Naris Day

When: 28-29 Apr
Where: Baan Plainoen, Thanon Rama IV
Tel & website: 0 2249 4280
Descendants of King Rama V’s bro-ther Prince Naris – artist, architect and designer – commemorate his birth in 1863 by opening his traditional house for an afternoon of classical Thai dance followed by a free open day.

May

National Labour Day

When: 1 May

Coronation Day

When: 5 May

Royal Ploughing Ceremony

When: 13 May 2010, 10 May 2011/12
Where: Sanam Luang
Brahmin priests use sacred oxen to forecast the year’s rainfall and harvest in costumed royal pageantry. Farmers then rush in to gather the blessed seeds. A holiday only for state workers.

Visakha Bucha

When: 28 May 2010, 17 May 2011
Buddhism’s holiest date commemorates the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. Devotees bring lunch to monks, then in the evening process around temples by candlelight. Alcohol banned all day.

June

Visakha Bucha

When: (see May), 4 Jun 2012

La Fête

When: June
Website:
www.lafete-bangkok.com
This French-backed, multi-venue arts festival includes Thai collaborations.

July

Asanha Bucha & Khao Phansa

When: 16-17 July 2010, 15-16 July 2011
The anniversary of the Buddha’s first sermon after attaining enlightenment is observed with temple rituals and giant candle offerings. Next day, Khao Phansa, the monks’ three-month rainy season retreat begins, a time of many ordinations. Alcohol banned all day.

August

Asanha Bucha & Khao Phansa

When: (see July), 2-3 Aug 2012 

Queen’s Birthday

When: 12 Aug
Citywide shrines, illuminations on Thanon Ratchadamnoen and candle-holding crowds in Sanam Luang celebrate Queen Sirikit on what is also Mother’s Day.

Short Film & Video Festival

When: mid Aug
Where: Bangkok Art & Culture Center (BACC)
Tel & website: www.thaifilm.com
An influential free showcase of Thai indie film that also has some global and gay programming.

September

Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

When: 22 Sept 2010, 12 Sept 2011, 30 Sept 2012
Mooncake promotions herald this Chinese festival, during which Chinatown fills with stalls.

International Festival of Music & Dance

When: Sept & Oct
Where: Thailand Cultural Centre
Tel & website: www.bangkokfestivals.com
Bangkok’s biggest annual arts festival stages top or second tier opera, dance, ballet, jazz and classical music.

Bangkok International Film Festival

When: late Sept
Website:
www.bangkokfilm.org
Run by TAT at various downtown multiplexes, this 10-day feast of film spans countries and tastes, with a major regional contingent. It’s date keeps changing from year to year.

October

International Festival of Music & Dance

When: (see Oct)

World Gourmet Festival

When: early Oct
Where: Four Seasons Hotel
For ten days, leading foreign chefs prepare feasts, classes and wine tastings.

Bangkok Design Festival

When: early Oct
Tel & website: www.bangkokdesignfestival.com
Citywide exhibitions, events, talks and sales, focusing on TCDC and BACC.

Elle Fashion Week

When: (see Feb), mid Oct

Navaratree Hindu Festival

When: 8 Oct 2010, 28 Sept 2011, 16 Oct 2012
Where: Maha Uma Devi
A Ganesha procession and Hindu rites precede the dramatic Uma procession, passing dozens of petal-carpeted shrines around Silom and Sathorn, with fevered rites, blessings, mediums and self-mortification. To fit in, you should wear white.

Vegetarian Festival

When: Oct
Yellow pennants indicate food stalls and restaurants going veggie for this ten-day Chinese purge of meat and heating foods by white-clad devotees. Chinatown explodes with activity and Chinese opera around shrines, notably in Charoen Krung Soi 20.

Ork Phansa

When: 23 Oct 2010, 12 Oct 2011, 30 Oct 2012
The rainy season officially ends, and with it the three-month Buddhist Lent, with wat rituals such as the shaving of monks’ scalps and brows. It’s followed by the Kathin month of robe giving and temple fairs.

King Chulalongkorn Day

When: 23 Oct
Where: Royal Plaza
Thousands gather to worship at his equestrian statue.

World Film Festival of Bangkok

When: Oct or Nov
Website:
www.worldfilmbkk.com
Run by the Nation newspaper, this major cinefest focuses on auteurship, Asian films and themes.

Bangkok Pride Festival

When: Oct or Nov
This week of cabarets, parties and events around Silom has faded quite badly, so ‘Pink in the Park’ at Lumphini Park pool and the closing parade may not happen in the future.

November

Beer Gardens

When: Nov-Jan
Lager-laced al fresco fun with food stalls and live bands at plazas, bar strips and malls like Central World.

Golden Mount Temple Fair

When: Nov
Bangkok’s best loved fair rings Wat Saket for ten days around Loy Krathong. Other fairs during this period are less crowded.

Loy Krathong

When: 26 Nov 2010, 10 Nov 2011, 28 Nov 2012
Thais crowd waterways to cleanse sins by offering the water spirit a delicate, candlelit Krathong float made from banana tree trunk, leaf, incense and flowers. This is a magical night, with many temple fairs.

Fat Festival

When: 1st weekend in Nov
Tel: 0 2641 5234
Run by Fat Radio, this effervescent indie gathering attracts youth tribes with dozens of bands, art installations and countless stalls of homemade books, art, music and fashion.

Bangkok Theatre Festival

When: Nov
A charming mixture of modern and traditional performance at Santichaiprakarn Park and city venues. It’s partly free and fairly accessible to non-Thais.

Ploenchit Fair

When: late Sat in Nov
Where: Shrewsbury International School
Huge expat charity event with funfair, bars and shows run by the British embassy since the 1950s.

Bangkok Marathon

When: late Sun in Nov
Tel & website:
National Jogging Association (0 2628 8361, www.bkkmarathon.com)
Full, half and mini-marathons are run through the old town.

December

Beer Gardens

When: (see Nov)

Trooping the Colours

When: 2 Dec
Where: Royal Plaza
The Thai armed forces march past royalty arrayed in plumed dress uniforms of brilliant hues.

King’s Birthday

When: 5 Dec
The Thai people’s deep reverence for King Bhumibol is on display on what’s also Father’s Day (and a national holiday). The king addresses the crowds at Royal Plaza in the morning. Thousands light candles after dark in Sanam Lung, where fireworks, and traditional music and dance carry, on until late. There are decorations strewn along Thanon Ratchadamnoen and throughout the city.

Constitution Day

When: 10 Dec
Rites at Democracy Monument.

Miss AC/DC Pageant

When: early Dec
Tel & website:
www.missacdc.com
Spoof drag queens ‘represent’ some 70 countries in ‘national costumes’, gowns, talents and philosophising. Resuming in 2010.

Concert in the Park

When: Dec to Feb
Tel & website:
www.bangkoksymphony.org
Free late-afternoon Sunday picnic concerts in parks by Bangkok Symphony Orchestra, with light folk, pop and classical tunes. Picknicking listeners can forage at various stalls.

Indy Festival

When: mid Dec
Where: Santichaiprakarn Park
Tel & website: www.thaiwriternetwork.com
This open-air ‘free space’ enables ‘indy’ youth to present their publications, music, artistry and short films.

New Year’s Eve

When: 31 Dec
Say ‘Sawatdee phi mai’ at parties citywide, the Central World countdown or while watching the fireworks at Sanam Luang and riverside hotels. There are late bar hours and, a real help, the BTS/MRT run all night.

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By Thailand Breeze - Nov 10 2011

Nice collection of events!

Thanks for sharing.

For the updates of the events, you can call tourism authority of Thailand at 1672.

Today is Loy Kratong day in Thailand. Here are the places that arrange big Loy Kratong festival: Chaing Mai, Sukhothai, Hatyai (Songkla), Amphawa (Samut Songkram) and Taak.

Due to the floods in Bangkok, it's not encouraged to float the lanterns in any water way since they can cause problem to the water draining system.

Enjoy this colorful festival!

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By Ricky Gui - Sep 14 2011

My first Loy Krathong in Bangkok, magical.

Check out some of the pictures i capture during the festive. http://captureasia.photoshelter.com/gallery/Loy-Krathing-celebration-in-Bangkok-Thailand/G0000mJXac7Mwbe8/

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By M.Leahy - Nov 21 2010

Loy Krathong: In Thai "Loy" means to float and "Krathong" means a circular floating object with decoration of banana leaves, flowers, a candle and incense sticks. All these are related to Loy Krathong, the date is on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month, usually in November. In 2010 Loy Krathong Day will be celebrated on November 21. - I have phoned a special friend in Thailand today :-)

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By The Newt - Oct 11 2010

I see you have Loy Kratong as 26 November 2010. Other sites have it listed as 21 November 2010. Which date is correct? or are both correct some way?

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