Songkran, the Thai new year, is about to hit the whole of Thailand in a weeks time. Phuket is gearing up for the event as usual. Once again Phuket Big Bike Week is at the same time as Songkran. This year is the 20th anniversary of Big Bike Week, Phuket. The 2013 Songkran festival was one without any road fatalities in Phuket, except a few accidents. That was a feat in itself. Of course the Thai police are hoping for the same this year.
Within the Big Bike Week there will be loads of parties, memorabilia to buy at auction, merchandise stores set up and big bikes on sale of course. Not forgetting the Miss Phuket Bike Week Contest that's been a highlight year on in.
If you're headed to Phuket, beware that the bike week itself is expecting crowds of up to 50000 people in Patong alone. Not to mention the nightmare that the Phuket Airport will be facing as it is the end of high season so many are leaving and as many are entering. So book your Phuket hotels well in advance and plan your journey for all there is to experience during Songkran.
Once again it is that time of year when bikers will gather on the island of Phuket. This year is truly special. PHUKET BIG BIKE WEEK 2014 “ASEAN Ride Together”, the Asian biggest motorcycle event, will celebrate the 20th anniversary on 11th -19th April 2014. This event will be the large gathering of 40,000 visitors from 25 countries and expected expecting to draw over 8,000 motorcycles to Phuket. The fanfare of Big Bike Week 20th Anniversary will take place in the similar grounds of Loma Park at Patong Beach on 11th -14th April 2014 and later move to the island's capital of Phuket Town on 18th-19th April 2014. Similar to 2013 Bike Week last year, it clashes with the Thai new year, the Songkran Festival (Water Festival) so its going to be a wet & wild party in Phuket.
The highlights of Phuket Bike Week 2014 are ;
11-14 APRIL 2014 At Loma Park, Patong Beach , Phuket
Day 1: Friday 11 April 2014
15.00 – 24.00 Motorcycle Festival.
16.30 – 18.00 Riding convoy around Patong .
17.30 – 18.30 Live music by rock band.
18.30 – 19.00 Cowboys & Indians show.
19.00 – 19.30 Show from Miss PBW2014 contestants.
18.00 – 19.00 Welcoming motorcycles convoy. Local culture show.
19.30 – 20.30 Opening ceremony Phuket Bike Week 2014.
21.00 – 01.00 Music Festival & Beach Party
Day 2 : Saturday 12 April 2014
15.00 – 24.00 Custom bike competition & Motorcycle festival.
18.00 – 19.00 Live music by rock band.
19.00 – 20.00 Tattoo competition.
19.00 – 22.00 VIP Grand Dinner (at Phuket Graceland hotel)
20.00 – 01.00 Music Festival & Beach Party
Day 3 : Sunday 13 April 2014
12.00 – 18.00 Celebrate Sondkran Fest (Thail new year) with bikers
18.00 – 19.00 Live music by rock band.
19.00 – 20.00 Cowboys & Indians show.
20.00 – 01.00 Music Festival & Beach Party
Day 4 : Monday 14 April 2014
15.00 – 24.00 Motorcycle festival.
19.00 – 20.00 Miss Phuket Bike Week 2014 Contest.
20.00 -- 21.00 Thank you Party hosted by Pra-yai (Bid Budha) rider bike club.
21.00 – 01.00 Music Festival & Beach Party
Day 5 : Friday 18 April 2014
13.00-24.00 Motorcycle Festival
14.00-17.00 Safe riding demonstration
18.00-19.00 Thai culture show
19.00-20.00 Welcome speech by Bike Club president.
20.00-24.00 Music Festival
Day 6 : Saturday 19 April 2014
13.00-15.00 Motorcycle Festival, Gymkhana and Stunt show
16.00-18.00 Riding convoy around Phuket old town then ride to Thai Royal Navy’s port
17.00-18.30 Custom bike competition.
19.00-20.00 Live music by Rock band
20.00-21.00 Opening Ceremony and speech from Mayor of Phuket province and authorities of Phuket town.
21.00-21.30 Show from Miss Phuket Bike Week 2014
21.30-23.45 Music Festival and Live concert by Carabao band
18-19 APRIL 2014 At Sapan-hin, Phuket Town
Loy Krathong Festival
So it looks like the Phuket scene is gearing up for Loy Krathong day this 28th November 2012. Loy Krathong is celebrated not only in Phuket but all over Thailand. So what is the meaning of the Loy Krathong festival. It is said that the festival had it's origins in Sukhothai, north of Bangkok, approximately 800 years ago. It falls on the twelve month of the Thai calender which, in a normal calender, is November.
The krathongs are made up of the cellulose trunk of banana trees. Making them is usually a family affair. These "boats", as they are nicknamed, are usually well decorated like a parade float and the person using it will have the intention of clearing away all bad luck and misfortune. The well decorated krathong is usually made of colorful flowers and banana leaves with room for candles and incense sticks. People usually place a few coins, nail clippings and some of their hair to represent them before launching it into the rivers, streams or oceans while making prayers as they watch it float away.
This act represents bad luck being taken away and new beginnings coming in. Coincidentally, the rice planting season begins after the fall festival and will later lead to the harvest being in mid April and that's when they have the water festival Songkran.
Many young couples tend to place special items in their krathong to have a successful marriage and better futures or even kids. As years have gone by the Thai people have become more creative in their efforts to gain better things in life. Tourist are more than happy to partake in the festival as it is such a unique sight to see all the rivers, canals and oceans of lit candle krathongs moving along. It's just a spectacle in itself and not to be missed if you are there on that November full moon in Thailand. It makes for a great reason to have a holiday.
So what is the Loy Krathong process like? Well, just before sunset people go to the beaches, rivers, etc and light their candles and incense after placing their items inside then as the sun almost sets and the full moon visible, they release their krathong. Tradition says, if it floats away from you then good luck is to follow for the new year ahead but if it floats back then things are not going to be as rosy or the year ahead is not as fortunate.
Usually in many places all over Thailand, the festival incorporates a beauty queen contest, after the release of the krathongs. This goes back to the legend of of Noppamas who is said to have created the first krathong. She is supposedly the consort of the Sukhothai king.
Coincidentally, and mostly in the northern area of Thailand, the festival of Yi Peng is also celebrated in the same full moon period. There is a massive display of lighted lanterns that fill the skies at night. These are massive balloon like laterns know as Khom lai or Khom fai and are made primarily of thin paper. The same belief of sending bad luck off and getting better luck for the future is in line with the method of the floating krathongs. Only these go up into the sky.
So with lighted floats in the ocean, rivers, lakes, etc, and massive balloons lighting the skies of Thailand; your luck could just change for the better. Only way to find out is to be there for Loy Krathong.
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
The Phuket scene can be fun, exciting and trilling for new arrivals but if you're lucky you might find yourself thrown in the middle of some festival and your Phuket holiday just got far better.
Of the many events that take place every year on Phuket, the vegetarian festival is arguably the most colourful, not the food event implied by its name but more an annual purification ceremony. The ‘chosen ones’, or Ma Song, entering a trance like state and puncturing their faces with anything from multiple skewers to beach umbrellas. Not for the faint of heart. Around the same time as the vegetarian festival is the setting adrift of the Chao Le, sea Gypsy, boats at Krabi. The ceremony takes place at midnight and makes for a beautiful, haunting spectacle.
The other festival of note is Songkran, Thai New Year, in mid April. The celebrations last for four days and have become a somewhat notorious, and embarrassing, spike on the road accident graph of Thailand. In earlier times Songkran, or ‘Water Festival’ as it is often translated, was an altogether different prospect. Thai people would leave their homes to greet friends and neighbours, anointing them with water or powder in a ‘good luck’ gesture. This gentle tradition has morphed over the years into the full-on chuck-fest that we see today.
Songkran is fun, people come out with buckets, water blasters of every size, and bags of dubious white powder to ‘anoint’ each other in a crazy, messy, high spirited romp that lasts for several days. If you don’t play well with others or are too kool for skool then maybe it’s not for you.
It’s often said that the arrival of foreign tourists, farang, was where the corruption of the festival of Songkran began. The statistics, shocking as they are, don’t back up this view though and the vast majority of road deaths occur among the native population. In 2008 the road death toll ran to some 350 over the seven days of Songkran from a total of just over 4000 accidents. Tellingly, Phitsanulok province, a place where most farang would struggle to find on a map, led the carnage with 15 fatalities. There is talk, serious talk from serious politicians, about making Songkran alcohol free. It may happen, and it would be wise to keep an eye on news coming from Thailand if you are planning a Songkran trip.
Loy Krathong, which is usually in November, is another festival on the cards. Less impact but non the less important to the Thai people as it is the beginning of the rice planting season. Through out Thailand the festivals can be found everywhere through out the year like the Thai king's birthday, the royal barge procession, the illuminated boat procession or ‘Lai Ruea Fai’ and many more found all over.
Even during seasonal peaks such as Christmas and Songkran there is accommodation to suit every pocket on Phuket, from 500 baht per night guesthouses to the 50000, yes fifty thousand, baht per night and enough to keep the most demanding of travellers busy. From the photo opportunities of Phang Ngha bay and the stunning sunsets of Laem Promthep, the balmy beaches all around the island, to the heat of the Patong nightlife, Phuket is a place that once visited, is never forgotten.
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