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Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon Festival 2024
03 July 2024 | Written by Chris Alexander

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has confirmed the annual Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon Festival will be held this year from 7-9 July in Dan Sai district, which is in the north-eastern province of Loei. The celebrations, which include colourful parades and iconic masks, are always popular with international visitors. This year’s show is expected to be bigger and better than ever before. 

Along with the famous Bun Bang Fai rocket festival, Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon Festival is one of the major highlights in the Isan events calendar, which always draws large crowds. The main attraction of Phi Ta Khon is a parade of local people wearing enormous, goulish masks crafted from the trunks of coconut trees and topped with elaborate wicker decorations. This colourful procession winds through the town and culminates in the Phi Ta Khon mask dance competition. 

In addition to the masked parade, Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon Festival includes several other activities, traditional rituals and Buddhist ceremonies, many of which are centred around Wat Phon Chai. This includes a reading sermons which describe the early life and learnings of the Lord Buddha. Visitors will also be able to explore a series of local markets selling food and handicrafts, and enjoy a wide range of live music performances and cultural shows. 

On the first day of the festival, people begin by offering food and other tributes to monks at the temple. Next, a traditional ceremony is intended to summon ancestral spirits. This is then followed by a series of cultural performances and ceremonies. On day two, the official opening ceremony is held in front of Dan Sai District Office. This is followed by the grand Phi Ta Khon parade, which is accompanied by spectacular bamboo rockets. On the third and final day, 13 consecutive Buddhist sermons will be held at Wat Phon Chai and in locations throughout Dan Sai District. 

The festival has its origins in ancient history. It tells the story of Buddha-to-be Prince Vessandorn, who returned home after being presumed dead. Legend has it that the celebrations were so loud they woke up the dead, who duly joined in the festivities. To this day, the costumes, rituals, colours and dances are intended to honour this heritage, while also creating an unforgettable spectacle in the here and now. For visitors to Thailand this month, it’s an occasion that’s not to be missed.