Thailands Unforgettable Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon Festival is Coming Soon!

Thailand's Unforgettable Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon Festival is Coming Soon!

Annually, the Dan Sai district in Loei province, northeastern Thailand, hosts a vibrant cultural celebration known as the "Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon" festival. 

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Written by ANH Dang Updated on 01-07-2024
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Phi Ta Khon is a vibrant Thai cultural festival that is part of a joyous tradition called the Boon Luang Festival (บุญหลวง), an important event for merit-making in northeastern Thailand (Isaan). This tradition is celebrated annually in the Dan Sai district, Loei province, during the rainy season, from late June to early July. This year, the unique Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon festival will be held from July 7th to 9th.

 Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon Festival
Phi Ta Khon Festival

The main ceremony takes place at Wat Phon Chai Temple. This costumed and masked procession attracts numerous curious visitors and tourists each year, who come to enjoy the three days of festivities.

 Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon Festival
Wat Phon Chai Temple

The most iconic aspect of Phi Ta Khon is the colorful parade of locals wearing enormous, intricately carved masks made from coconut tree trunks. These masks are topped with woven sticky rice steamers, giving them a larger and more grotesque appearance.

 Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon Festival
Phi Ta Khon Mask Material

 

Good to know: According to the Buddhist Jataka tales, Prince Vessantara is the Bodhisattva's last incarnation before being reborn as Gautama Buddha. The legend states that "Phi Ta Khon" derives from "Phi Tam Khon" (ghosts following people), referring to the scene where the generous Vessantara and his wife Madri leave the forest for the city. To bid them farewell, forest angels, ghosts, and animals disguise themselves as humans and mingle with the villagers to accompany them.

 

 Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon Festival
Parade through the streets of Wat Phon Chai

Apart from the distinctive masked procession that parades through the town, several additional activities are organized. These activities include traditional rituals and Buddhist ceremonies that take place at Wat Phon Chai. A prominent feature of these events is the recitation of the thirteen sermons of Phra Vessandorn, which narrate one of the Lord Buddha's earlier lives.

 Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon Festival
Costumed participants of Phi Ta Khon at Wat Phon Chai

This extraordinary celebration is enhanced by various competitions, such as the captivating Phi Ta Khon mask dance contest. Special markets showcase local culinary delights and handmade crafts, while concerts and vibrant cultural performances captivate visitors, creating a rich tapestry of experiences that celebrate the region's heritage.

 Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon Festival
Dancing at Wat Phon Chai

On the first day, activities typically include offering food to the temple monks, a spirit invocation ceremony, as well as cultural ceremonies and theatrical performances.

 Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon Festival
Almsgiving, an original practice of Buddhism, Wat Phon Chai

On the second day, the festival's official opening ceremony will take place in front of the Dan Sai district office. This will be followed by a spirit invocation, the grand Phi Ta Khon parade, and merit-making activities. To conclude the day, there will be a mesmerizing launch of bamboo rockets.

 Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon Festival
Phi Ta Khon Parade, Wat Phon Chai

On the third day, thirteen consecutive Buddhist sermons will be delivered at Wat Phon Chai, followed by sermons from all the villages in the Dan Sai district.

 Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon Festival
Ancestral prayers, Wat Phon Chai

The tradition of Phi Ta Khon reflects the profound bond of the Thai people to nature and their ancestors, expressing their respect for the spirits and angels of the town. Later integrated into Buddhism, it has now also become a tourist attraction for Loei, while remaining a joyful celebration that unites the community and inspires peace and hope.

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