Attractions in Loei

Phi Ta Khon a three day must see Thai festival

Phi Ta Khon is a three day festival in the village of Dan Sai in Loei province. It is held once a year in the month of June or July. It is colorful and entertaining. The town of Dan sai comes alive. Visitors can not help but get drawn into the spirit of the celebrations.

Let’s learn more about Phi Ta Khon.

Where is the Phi Ta Khon festival?

Phi ta khon is the name of a festival in the village of Dan sai in the province of Loei in Thailand.

Loei is the name of a province and also the provincial city in the North East of Thailand. To find out how to get to Loei City, then please read my article entitled ‘how to get to Loei.’

Dan Sai is about 90 kilometers from Loei City. The buses going to Phitsanulok from Loei, pass through Dan Sai.

Buses from Loei to Phitsanulok leave three times a day. The first bus leaves at 10.00, then 12.00 and finally at 14.30.

During the Phi Ta Khon festival, the buses are always full. Others options for visiting this festival are finding accommodation in Dan Sai, traveling by private taxi or booking a private tour.

Accommodation is hard to find around the time of Phi Ta Khon. To search for accommodation availability and prices in Dan Sai you can use Booking.com or Agoda.com. They both have up to date information on accommodation in Dansai.

Here is Dan Sai on Google maps.

When is Phi Ta Khon?

Phi Ta Khon is a three-day festival held once a year in June or July. The organizers get together to choose dates which are different each year.

Phi Ta Khon is a religious festival that is sometimes referred to as the ghost festival due to the villagers of Dansai dress up in costumes and wear face masks.

The three-days is a celebration of four festivals; the Prawet festival, Bung Fai festival, Sum Ha festival, and Phi Ta Khon.

Phi Ta Khon costume and face mask
Phi Ta Khon costume and face mask
Photo by Richard Barrow

Why is the festival in June or July?

From what I understand the festival dates are chosen according to the lunar calendar. It is difficult for tourists to plan to visit this festival because the dates are only confirmed a couple of months before the festival starts.

Be careful when researching dates for this festival on the internet. Be sure that you have the confirmed dates, not probable dates. Some websites try to guess the times in advance.

Phi Ta Khon is a religious festival
Phi Ta Khon is a religious festival,
Photo by Richard Barrow.

How do the villagers prepare for the festival?

Before the festival starts, the villagers of Dan Sai will gather at the temple to decorate the temple with flags and flowers. They also have a white rope that they tie around the temple pavilion.

What happens on the first day?

Here is a general summary of what happens during this festival. The organizers have the right to change anything at anytime so take this as a guide only.

On the first day of the festival, the villagers will meet at the temple between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. Some villagers will dress in white. From the temple, the villagers then walk to the river to collect rocks from the river. They believe that there are spirits in these rocks.

The rocks are put on a ceremonial plate and taken back to the temple. There is a lot of music and fireworks during this process.

At 10 a.m. there is an opening ceremony. After, Thai dancers and villagers dressed in Phi Ta Khon costumes will walk around the temple three times.

All the villagers take part in Phi Ta Khon,
All the villagers take part in Phi Ta Khon,
Photo by Richard Barrow.

What happens on the second day?

The second day is the most popular day, on this day there is a parade.

At 10 a.m. there is another opening ceremony after that the parade starts. The parade is very long and has a great mix of young and old villagers all joining in to make the parade so much fun.

The music is loud and the villagers dressed in Phi Ta Khon costumes will be dancing. They encourage visitors to dance and are happy to have a photo with you.

The parade

The parade will pass through the village main street.

Visitors will line up along this street to take photos or shoot videos.

This festival is famous now, so be prepared for a lot of people. I recommend you get to Dan Sai early to reserve your spot.

From experience, there is no chance of moving to another spot once the parade starts. There are just too many people trying to take photos.

The villagers love having their photo taken

The villagers in the parade are very photogenic and will make poses for you. They enjoy the day just as much as the visitors do.

If you plan to use a drone, I would advise against that purely from a safety standpoint.

A few years ago a tourist used a drone, and it got damaged by someone throwing coins into the air. The drone came crashing down, thankfully no one got hurt, but the organizers were not happy.

You will have many photo opportunities
You will have many photo opportunities,
Photo by Richard Barrow.

At 3 p.m. on the second day, a Buddhist statue, four monks and a village elder will go to the temple. Along the route, the village elder will throw money onto the road. Thai visitors in the crowd, mostly the kids, will run around collecting the coins. They believe the coins are lucky.

The village elder throwing coins,
The village elder throwing coins,
Photo by Richard Barrow.

Once this procession reaches the temple, they will walk around the pavilion three times. After that, there is a concert.

All the villagers in Phi Ta Khon costumes will dance until late. Tradition states that those in costumes must go to the river at the end of the second day to throw their costumes into the river.

The villagers believe bad things will be washed away by the river. These days the costumes are not thrown away; they re-use them.

What happens on the third day?

The third day is a day for sermons. Sermons start early in the morning.

After the sermons, the villagers tie a white rope around the pavilion and hold hands. The belief is that this will bring them luck.

What is the festival about?

The celebration is to bring good luck to the village.

The villagers have great fun preparing Dan Sai and the costumes for the festival. The masks are all hand-painted.

The villagers want everyone who participates to have as much fun as possible. They believe that by participating, you will get some good luck.

Going international

Over the last few years, the Phi Ta Khon festival has included an international mask exhibition.

There have been masks on display from Indonesia, South Korea, India, and Laos. This is an ongoing project and should continue during this year’s festival.

What if I can’t make it to the festival?

If you can not make it to the Phi Ta Khon festival, then there is the Phi Ta Khon museum.

The museum is close to the main crossroads in Dan Sai. The museum has several Phi Ta Khon costumes; there are also other displays relating to the festival.

Here is the museum on Google maps. It is in a temple.

Are there any attractions close to Dan Sai?

Attractions close to Dan Sai include Phu Ruea National Park which is about 20 kilometers from Dan Sai and Chateau De Loei which is about 10 kilometers.

YouTube videos of Phi Ta Khon

To give you an idea of what to expect, here are two excellent videos.

The first video is a three-minute video by Thai Silk Holidays.

The second video is by My Mate Nate.

Conclusion

I highly recommend going to this festival. It is a lot of fun.

The villagers do a fantastic job of making the festival lively. I recommend going on the second day to catch the parade.

Be prepared for large crowds. If you arrive late, you will find it hard to find somewhere to enjoy the parade.

Go before the parade starts so that you can have a good look around before it gets too busy. Once the parade starts, you won’t be able to move.

When the parade finishes, everyone pours onto the road. You have to follow this flow of people there is no room to push through.

Comments

If you have ever been to this festival?

Where did you stay?

Do you plan to go?

I look forward to reading your comments.

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