Wan Awk Phansa is an important festival for devout Thais as it marks the end of Lent and 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 2023 Buddhist Public Holiday Dates, Chiang Mai
The visit often involves returning 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 closer, the boats often transport flowers and candles, usually taking on a religious or patriotic theme.
For visitors to Thailand, perhaps nothing beats the giant Naga Fireballs. This fantastic show of lights is thought to be the work of igniting gases spontaneously, releasing fireballs that soar to the sky. The breathtaking 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 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 time. It is advisable to make bookings in advance if you plan to attend this event.