Thailand is a country rich in traditions, and Phuket is a good example of it. Blending the various customs since the ancient into the modern times, it gave birth to several festivals, both of historical and modern origin. While some of the festivals are celebrated country-wide, some others are specific to Phuket, either due to its particular history, natural geography or even its modern culture. Here we have a look at six of the major festivals that take place throughout the year in Phuket, although there are many more smaller ones that we will mention later.
This is probably the most famous festival of Thailand, and indeed it's also considered by the locals to be the most important. It's such a major event it actually is the longest "non-working" period in the whole country. Taking place in mid April, everyone celebrates this festival by an abundant use of water to splash each other, which can be seen everywhere. The most entertaining area to celebrate it is definitely Patong, but while the splashing can last for a whole week in the northern provinces, in Phuket it's limited to one day, to lessen the effects on the traffic flow, which can become quite dangerous as people splash each other. This is probably the most fun festival in Asia!
Another country-wide festival, Loy Krathong is a beautiful traditional festival, where the locals pay respect to the water spirit by launching small floating crowns with elaborate decorations such as flowers and candles. It takes place on the full moon of the 12th month of the Thai Lunar Calendar, which is in November. The locals celebrate this festival in Phuket everywhere there is a natural water feature throughout the island. The best places to participate in this enchanting event are at the Laguna complex, or the Bang Maruan Public Park, where a show depicting the traditional Phuket lifestyle is set up everywhere. The sight of the floating lights on the rivers and lakes is really beautiful, and nowadays people also launch flying lanterns, which although from a totally different tradition, blend together magically.
Phuket's most famous festival is undoubtedly the Vegetarian Festival, which takes place for nine consecutive days every year in October. Unique to the island, this festival seems to originate from the healing of sickness by fasting for nine days by a group of Chinese migrants, which succeeded and therefore has been celebrated ever since. During the festival, the participant locals will wear white clothing, abstain from eating any meat or animal products, and make offerings to the Chinese divinities at the various shrines in Phuket. The most spectacular part of this festival is where the "mediums", or "ma-song", invoke the gods by various frightening ceremonies, such as body piercing, blade ladders, and walking on fire, among others. They will walk from shrine to shrine in a procession-like fashion, with thousands of followers, and a trail of fire-crackers, which is an impressive sight to witness.
Phuket Bike Week
A more modern festival is the Phuket Bike Week, the ideal time for bikers and large motorcycle enthusiasts to give wings to their passion. Every year in mid April, the sunniest period of the year, bikers from all nations join together to ride around the island. Even if you don't yet have a big bike, you will still enjoy the exhibition part of the festival, which showcases the very best models of the world's best brands such as Harley Davidson and BMW. The main event usually takes place in Patong at Loma Park, and features concerts, shows and many other activities, which are very entertaining even if you aren't a rider yourself. It's also the perfect time to take some awesome photos, whether of the motorcycles or the models next to them.
King's Cup Regatta
With its world-class marinas, yacht maintenance facilities and breathtaking seascapes, Phuket has become South-East Asia's new marine hub, but its yachting tradition dates far behind the current modernization of the island. Since 1987, the King's Cup Regatta is organized every year during December, where the local sail yachts will enter a dazzling competition on the turquoise blue waters surrounding the island. Together with the competition there is also plenty of partying throughout the southern coast of the island, as well as a beautiful ceremony held to celebrate His Majesty the King's birthday. The sight of the competing sail yachts is really a great photo opportunity and with the large parties held after the races there is no excuse to miss this event.
Old Town Festival
Following the Chinese New Year, the roads of the Old Town area of Phuket turn into walking streets, with plenty of attractions to enjoy and discover. From rickshaw rides, traditional Phuket-Chinese dresses to the variety of local street food, you'll never get bored during the three days of this festival. There is a large cultural side to this event as it will make you discover the island's history and local customs. It's actually the perfect time to also visit the Thai Hua Museum.