(THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - One of the most charming festivals celebrated in Thailand is Khao Phansa, or Buddhist Lent Day, which marks the official start of the rainy season.
It also marks the period when monks traditionally retreat to their temples for a three-month period of study and meditation.
Khao Phansa day itself is a day of special celebration and is held on the full moon of the eighth lunar month which this year falls on July 28. But many of the celebrations to mark the festival will take place over several days during the last week of July.
Here's a rundown of what's on during Khao Phansa 2018 and where.
Ubon Ratchathani International Wax Candle Festival and Wax Candle Procession
Date: July 23-28
Venue: Ubon Ratchathani City Areas
The International Wax Candle Festival and Wax Candle Procession takes place in Thung Si Mueang Park, Ubon Ratchathani.
Teams come from all over the world to compete and the detail on the wax artworks is staggering, with some being colossal in scale.
It is a great place to explore unique local cultures as the locals wear traditional dress and show off their age-old folk dances.
Nakhon Ratchasima Candle Procession
Date: July 26-28
Venue: Thao Suranari Monument
At the Thao Suranari Monument in Mueang Korat, there will be a wax candle contest, a candle parade, and merit-making activities.
Held annually to promote the local art and culture, the festival will also feature a number of cultural activities including Khon, a traditional masked dance performance.
Nakhon Phanom Candle Festival
Date: July 28
Venue: Wat Phra That Phanom
The Lao-influenced culture of Nakhon Phanom gives a different twist to the Khao Phansa celebrations. The festival centres on the iconic local pagoda of Wat Phra That Phanom and there is always a procession of exquisitely carved candles to enjoy as well as the Miss Candle Beauty contest where local beauties hope to be named winner.
Ayutthaya Aquatic Phansa Festival
Date: July 28
Venue: Lad Chado market, Ayutthaya
The ancient capital of Ayutthaya hosts very memorable Khao Phansa celebrations, as the candles are taken to the local temples in more than 200 colourful boats that float down the city's ancient Lad Chado canal. Visitors can also enjoy a taste of rural life, beauty pageants, and local games.
Suphanburi Khao Phansa Candle Procession
Date: July 27-28
Venue: Wat Pa Laylai Woraviharn, Tambon Rua Yai, Mueang Suphan Buri
Students from local art colleges compete to put on the most impressive candle displays. There are huge sculptures depicting creatures and heroes from Thai myth and these are proudly paraded around town.
Visitors also enjoy exhibitions about the ways of life of the local tribal people and colourful displays of folk dancing.
Saraburi Khao Phansa Festival
Date: July 26-28
Venue: Wat Phra Putthabat Ratchaworamahaviharn, Saraburi
During Khao Phansa in Saraburi, people visit the local shrine of the Buddha's Footprint where yellow and white flowers are offered to monks (Tak Bat Dok Mai) as a way of making merit. This has become a big event and now thousands of people join to give alms to the monks as they ascend the steep stairs of the shrine.
Nan Candle Festival
Date: July 29
Venue: Bunyuen Royal Temple, Wiang Sa district, Nan
Visitors can join local people as they offer food to the monks in the morning. Later in the day, they can join the almsgiving of candles to the temple and take part in other merit-making activities that offer insight into the culture of Thai Buddhism.
For more information, call TAT Contact Centre 1672