Whether you are a Thai expat or someone who wants to visit Thailand, you should never miss out on seeing some of the unique cultural festivals that are celebrated in Thailand. How many festivals on this list have you attended?

When most people think about Thailand, the first thing that comes to mind is the spicy local food. In as much as the food in Thailand is to die for, there is so much more that tourists can enjoy here. For instance, there are a variety of cultural festivals in Thailand that are not seen elsewhere in the world. If you are an expatriate in Thailand, there is no reason why you should not be taking time to see some of the most amazing festivals that are happening in the Land of Smiles. Here’s a list of them:

Bun Bung Fai (Held in Yasothorn)

Also known as the Rocket Festival, it is held between May to July each year. If you love explosives and loud noises, then this is where you need to be. This festival is held by the farming communities just before the planting season where they launch big rockets to encourage the gods to release enough rains to water their rice crops. Teams of different rocket builders come together to showcase their rockets and each team tries to outdo the other by building the biggest rocket and the one that launches successfully and flies the highest wins a sum of money that is collected and set aside.

Before the launching day, the festival starts by teams parading their rockets around the villages accompanied by live music where everyone is free to join and dance. Both locals and tourists get to enjoy local rice wine and beauty pageants organised just before the launch of the rockets.

Candle Festival (Held in Ubon Ratchathani)

This is considered to be one of the largest festivals held in Issan’s biggest city which take place in the month of July every year. A team of international artists come together to create up to 10 huge sculptures made from wax to create abstract creations mixed with traditional art. A group of traditional folks and dancers accompany these sculptures as they get paraded around on floats. This festival is considered religious and it is associated with Asahna Bucha and Buddhist Lent.

However, even though it is a religious festival, it does not seclude anyone from joining in the celebration and the whole city is filled with a party atmosphere. On Buddhist holiday days, no alcohol is allowed to be served. However, you can stock up your favorite drink a day before the festival and enjoy your drink discreetly out of respect for Buddhism.

Songkran (Held Across the Country)

Who wouldn’t know Songkran, the most epic festival in Thailand that commemorate the start a new Thai year? The month of April is considered to be the most exciting in Thailand as people from all over the world come together for a three-day water splashing fest. Many reports have identified Songkran as the biggest festival in the world where parts of a city get transformed into a battleground where water is used to create endless hours of fun for revellers.

Revellers use whatever they can find including buckets, water guns and hose pipes to participate in the water fights. There’s also lots of music, drinking and dancing as people get wet. For the Thai people, certain traditions are followed such as washing the feet of seniors at home to signify the asking of forgiveness for all faults being done the past year.

Wing Kwai (Held in Chonburi)

Also known as the Buffalo Racing Festival, this festival is considered to be one of the most unique in Thailand. The Buffalo racing tradition has been taking place for over ten decades. This festival attracts both locals from different cities as well as tourists from all over the world which makes it a very exciting event. Crowds cheer on their favourite jockeys as they race on buffalos and you’d be amazed on how fast these animals can run. The festival is accompanied with good music, drinks and food as the revellers socialise and have fun.

Monkey Banquet (Held in Lopburi)

Ever heard of the term “It’s a monkey business”? Well, this festival is certainly all about monkeys. The festival takes place in November in a central temple situated in Lopburi. This temple is run by over 3,000 monkeys and on this particular festival a banquet of fruits and vegetables is laid out for these animals to enjoy. For animal lovers, this is a surreal moment as they get to interact one on one with these monkeys. You need to be extra careful with your personal belongings as these monkeys are known to get pretty close to the people and even take valuables.

Vegetarian Festival (Held in Phuket)

Although it is held in Phuket, many parts of Thailand actually observe this tradition with the local Thais going on strict vegetarian diets during the month. You should not be fooled by the name of the festival as it is only attended by the brave at heart. This festival sees the locals exercise religious painful demonstrations by piercing through their cheeks and other body parts for gods to protect them from harm. The ceremonies take place in six different Chinese temples scattered all over Phuket. You certainly cannot un-see what you have seen here!

If you are a Thai expat and have not been to these festivals yet (well, at least we know you have certainly participated in Songkran), it’s time to make some time and travel to some of them this year. For those of you who are looking to make Thailand your new home, either on a long term stay or as a retiree, you can certainly look forward to these festivals when you move here!