Since it is already 2008, or 2551 on the Thai calendar, it is time to take a look at the Thai holidays so that you can plan your trip accordingly. Some people want to be in Thailand when there is a holiday and partake in the celebration and others want to avoid some holidays (i.e. Songkran) like the plague.
Traditional New Year has already come and gone (today is January 6, 2008) but there are many other days to celebrate in Thailand.
Here are a few words of caution for the unwary traveler. Many of the holidays involve celebrating with large quantities of alcohol and the traffic death toll increases dramatically. This is mainly during the celebrating of the various New Years. Many of the holidays are family-oriented requiring people to return back to the nest to celebrate with the rest of the family. Therefore, traffic on the roads can be horrendous.
Here are the main holidays for 2008. Use them as a guide for your travel plans.
Chinese New Year will be celebrated on February 8th. This is the start of the lunar year and is primarily celebrated in the various Chinatowns throughout Thailand. There will be some business closures but it is not a national holiday.
February 21st is Makha Bucha Day which celebrates the Buddha’s first sermon given to his disciples.
April 6th, 2008, is Chakri Day and this day commemorates the founding of the Chakri Dynasty. This dynasty is referred to as Rama I. Since this falls on a Sunday, businesses may be closed on Monday the 7th.
Songkran, Thai New Year, is celebrated from 13 – 15 April and even longer is some of the tourist spots, like Khaosan Road in Bangkok and Pattaya. This is a traditional water festival, so if you are in town, expect to get wet. This is also the time of year for most road deaths. Alcohol and wet roads don’t mix.
Labor Day is celebrated on the 1st of May and is a national holiday but most folks just look at it as a paid day off.
The 5th of May is a holiday to honor the day when the current King of Thailand was crowned. It is officially called Coronation Day.
Another Buddhist Holy day is observed on May 19th. This is Visakha Bucha and is the holiest Buddhist holiday celebrates Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and entry into nirvana.
Buddhist Lent begins on July 18 and is celebrated as a national holiday. Monks retreat to their temples and celebrate a time of year when new life comes forth.
The Queen’s Birthday, or Mother’s Day, is celebrated on August 12th and is a highly honored, national holiday.
Chulalongkorn Day is observed on October 23 honoring one of Thailand’s most revered kings.
Loy Krathong will be celebrated on 13 November coinciding with the 12th lunar full moon. Thais celebrate by floating small rafts, called krathongs, in the river, lake or ocean. This is to pay respect to the goddess of the water – with candlelit offerings floating away the bad and bringing good luck to lovers. This is the best holiday to observe firsthand.
His Majesty the King will celebrate his 81st birthday on December 5th. This is a national holiday celebrated throughout the country and also doubles as Father’s Day.
The 10th of December marks the day in 1932 that the country was given its first Constitution. This is also a national holiday.
The last day of the month will celebrate the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. The Thais celebrate the traditional western New Years especially in Bangkok and other tourist areas.
That covers the main holidays but no specific elections. Elections can pop up at anytime so you have to keep current with Thai online news. They don’t have much effect other than the occasional bar closure. There you have it – plan your vacation accordingly.