Wan Awk Phansa is an important festival for devout Thais as it marks the end of lent as well as the start of a new season following the end of heavy rains.
The holiday is recognised as a public holiday in Thailand and is marked on the full moon day of the eleventh lunar month.
Wan Awk Phansa 2017 Buddhist Public Holiday Dates, Chiang Mai
Often, the visit involves heading back to the temple of one’s birthplace. This is often accompanied by candlelit gatherings where the locals walk around the temple carrying a candle, a lotus bud and three incense sticks.
It is not uncommon to see boat processions carrying the Thai faithful. During the day, some places will hold boat races. As the day draws to a close, the boats will often be used to transport flowers and candles, usually taking on a religious or patriotic theme.
For visitors to Thailand, perhaps nothing beats the giant Naga Fireballs. This amazing show of lights is thought to be the work of igniting gases spontaneously, releasing fireballs that soar to the sky. The breath-taking show has special meaning for the locals and is a surreal experience for foreigners. They can best be viewed along the Mekong River for over 20km between Pak-Ngeum district, about 80km south of the Laos capital Vientiane, and Phonephisai district in Nong Khai province, Thailand. Otherwise, you can stay in Chiang Mai where the locals organise their own events.
As with major events in Chiang Mai, Wan Awk Phansa draws tourists to the city in large numbers. For this reason, accommodation becomes strained, albeit for a short period of time. It is advisable to make bookings in advance if you plan to attend this event.