Visakha Bucha Day
The date of Visakha Bucha Day varies from year to year, because it relies upon the lunar calendar. Specifically it occurs on the full moon day of the sixth lunar month, which is usually in May or June.
In 2017 Visakha Bucha Day will be held on May 10th. In 2018 it is scheduled to take place on May 29th.
Visakha Bucha Day might be the single most important event in the Buddhist calendar. It’s a national holiday, and due to its religious nature sales of alcohol are restricted (although some bars and restaurants will still serve you, if you keep quiet about it).
Buddhists across the country make an extra effort to follow the precepts, and they flock to their temples in droves to pay their respects to the Buddha. I’ve outlined some of the best places in Thailand for you to take in Visakha Bucha Day in the ‘Where’ section.
Visakha Bucha Day marks the occurrence of three of the most significant events in the Buddha’s life, all of which fell on the same day.
Firstly, this is the day on which the Buddha was born. Secondly, 35 years after his birth, it was the day when the Buddha reached enlightenment. Finally, it was also the day on which the Buddha died, aged 80. In a country as devoutly Buddhist as Thailand, you can see why Visakha Bucha Day is such a special occasion.
Being such a massive event, Visakha Bucha Day is celebrated in temples up and down Thailand. As with most Thai events, however, the largest celebrations can be found in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai offers perhaps the most unique way in which to experience the day. The broad mountain of Doi Suthep looms over the entire city, atop which sits a golden temple; Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The day before Visakha Bucha Day, huge crowds hike the 11km from the city center up to the temple. Once there, after darkness falls, they circle the pagoda three times with lighted candles, and make various other offerings. Some even stay up there all night, and watch the sun rise together the next morning to mark the beginning of Visakha Bucha Day itself. Thai experiences don’t get much more magical.
If you’re in Bangkok, the biggest crowds gather at the city’s two most famous temples: Wat Phra Kaew, better known to tourists as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha; and Wat Pho, the oldest temple in the city, which is located just across the road from the Grand Palace.