When planning a company retreat in Thailand there are certain annual events you’ll want to know about. Events provide a wonderful opportunity for cultural immersion. The meaningful connections you make with locals while celebrating their culture will last a lifetime!
Most Thai holidays stem from Buddhist and Hindu traditions, as these are the dominant cultures of the country.
1. Songkhran - Thai New Year
The Buddhist festival, Songkhran is the Thai New Year and the Kingdom’s most important holiday. Songkhran falls on April 13th every year - though the celebration extends to April 15th! Songkhran comes from the sanskrit word saṃkrānti which means “astrological passage”
One of the biggest new year events is the Bangkok Water Festival. Traditionally the festival involved water being poured over people’s bodies to bless them in the year to come. However, over the years this water blessing turned into a fun water fight! If you are going to participate, make sure that you have clean water and that you are not shooting water at people's’ faces as this is considered disrespectful. You will also want to make sure that any valuables are left safely in your hotel or at the very least placed into a drybag for the duration of the festival. Expect to be shot by children with water guns!
Though Thailand is a very welcoming place, as a tourist it is important to respect the culture of the area in which you are a guest. Although you may want to dress scantily clad for the water festival, near nudity is frowned upon. Please make sure to respect the local culture and wear appropriate clothing; travel advice can be found in many places - know before you go!
2. Full Moon Party
The full moon party started in 1983 when there was no electricity in Koh Phangan. At this time the full moon captured the wonder of the people who lived in the area. In the early stages there were only 20 to 30 people at the full moon parties. Now that number has grown exponentially, with 10,000 to 30,000 people gathering from around the world to celebrate the full moon!
The full moon party as it exists today takes place every month on the full moon in Koh Phangan. This is really one big party, with everything from live music, DJs, jump ropes that are on fire, and more! These full moon parties are celebrated on the beach. While they are a very fun experience, it is important to remember that as a tourist you are a target. Keep your belongings well secured on your person. Finally, make sure to wear shoes and not sandals because there is often broken glass on the beach that can cut your feet.
3. Yi Peng Lantern Festival/Loi Kra
Literally translated, Yi Peng means “two full moon day” which is appropriate because this lantern festival is held during the second month of the lunar calendar, - which usually overlaps with November. This breathtaking experience is meant to show respect to the Buddha.
Loi Krathong means “to float a basket” and the swarms of Lanna-style khom loi "floating lanterns" are launched into the air all at the same time! These lanterns are allowed for release in Chiang Mai for two days but the largest lantern release is held in the Lanna Dhutanka grounds behind the Mae Jo University. You can learn more with a guide to the Yi Peng lantern festival.
There are tens of thousands of people that travel to Mae Jo University to enjoy this festival. It is advised that you figure out transportation in advance. It is also a good idea to bring a mat to sit on while you wait. It may take two hours to just get to the festival.
4. Sangha Day/Magha Puja Day/Fourfold Assembly
Sangha Day is the second most important holiday in Thai culture as it commemorates the spontaneous gathering of 1,250 enlightened monks; at this gathering the Buddha gave his first sermon in Veluvana Vihara where The Buddha preached to the monks the importance of doing good, abstaining from bad action, and purifying the mind.
The Pali word sangha (in Sanskrit, samgha) means "community" or "assembly," and in this case it refers to the community of Buddhists. This holiday is celebrated during Magha (which is why it is also referred to as Magha Puja Day), the third month of the lunar calendar. This holiday is usually during late February or early March but can vary since it is determined by the lunar calendar.
Celebration of Sangha Day includes meditation, chanting, lighting of oil lamps, and the people's reaffirmation of their commitment to Buddhism. While burning your oil candle, it is important to meditate on the 5 precepts:
1. Loving-kindness and compassion.
2. Patience in the right means of livelihood.
3. Contentment in married life.
As You Can See…
As you can see, there is an eclectic mix of events to enjoy. There are many opportunities to truly immerse yourself in the beauty that is Thai culture! From spiritual connection, to delicious cuisine, to vibrant festivals, Thailand has so much to offer. Regardless of when and how you choose to enjoy Thai culture, choose your events wisely, make sure to respect the culture and come prepared so that you and your team can make the most of your company retreat.
Rebel + Connect creates custom retreats for remote teams. A Colorado based company owned and operated by Charlie Birch, Rachel McGehee, and Summer Weirich, we operate remotely and service clients from all over the globe. Join us as we create cultures of meaning and celebrate human connections in a digital world!
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