Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival
The Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival takes place across two days, in the middle of July. The exact dates depend on when the moon waxes in the eighth lunar month.
In 2016 the festival happened on the 19th and 20th, but dates for 2017 are yet to be confirmed.
The Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival consists of two processions; one on the evening of the first day, and another on the morning of the second day, with the second procession being the larger of the two.
Artisans from across the province, and sometimes from around the world, take part. Their creations – which are displayed on floats that are carried along in the parades – are absolutely spectacular. You won’t believe the wonders they can work with wax.
When you hear ‘candle festival’, you probably just picture a load of thin, stick-like candles being carried along. In reality, the artisans are able to carve vast, incredible sculptures out of wax. They can create whole castles, or intricate scenes depicting the Buddha and his followers. These creations are paraded down the street with great crowds both sides, and accompanied by local music and dancers showcasing Isaan culture. This is a festival that truly needs to be seen to be believed.
The Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival is held to mark the beginning of Khao Pansa; the Buddhist Lent.
From the beginning of Khao Pansa, monks will remain in a monastery, observing all of the precepts and focusing on their meditation, for three whole months. When this originally began there was obviously no electricity, meaning that candles were the only source of light. Originally, these candles would be given as gifts by well-wishing locals. Over time, the tradition has grown and grown, until it became a big religious occasion across the country. The best way to observe it, however, is undoubtedly the Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival.
Ubon Ratchathani is one of the four main cities of eastern Thailand (Isan), and Ubon Ratchathani province is the furthest east in the whole country. It has a long border with Laos to the east, and a shorter one with Cambodia to the south.
The city of Ubon Ratchathani is extremely easy to reach from all around the country. There’s an airport there, which you can fly to from Bangkok (regularly); and Chiang Mai and Phuket (less regularly). You can also take a sleeper train there from Bangkok, or get a bus to Bor Kor Sor (BKS) station from major destinations around the country.