Pattaya Events and Festivals
Much more than a long stretch of sand, the Pattaya City of today is a thriving, cosmopolitan city in which local Thais and people from every corner of the earth converge. Proof of this vibrancy, are the growing list of international events which take place here. These range from age-old cultural festivals like Songkran and international ladyboy beauty contests, to full-length marathons and wind surfing competitions!
Songkran and the Wan Lai Festival
Songkran, Thailand's wildest celebration, is a festival that takes place every year from April 13th -15th to commemorate the arrival of the New Year on the Buddhist calendar. Initially it was a family celebration in which scented water was poured on the hands of elders and grandparents.
The elders in turn wished their younger relatives good luck and prosperity. In the afternoon after the washing of Buddha images, water was joyfully splashed on everyone. Today, the holiday still involves family gatherings and religious ceremonies, but splashing and throwing water is the main emphasis. To put it mildly, all hell breaks out. It's not unusual to see pick-up trucks marauding about with barrels of water and laughing Thais in the back waiting to attack another pick-up truck - like jousting knights in medieval Europe.
Traditionalists decry the changes, but the throwing of water is usually done in good fun and is an excellent way to cool off. If you go out during Songkran be sure to leave valuables at home and to put mobile phones and cameras in plastic bags. In Pattaya, as in other areas of Eastern Thailand, the water throwing activities start later, on April 16th or 17th and terminate on the 19th with a celebration called 'Wan Lai (flowing water) Day'. Processions, religious activities, showing respect for elders and, of course, the riotous throwing of water, are all a part of Wan Lai Day. It has to be experienced to be believed!
The Pattaya Marathon is an international event attracting runners from all over the world as well as hundreds of local runners. Held in July of each year it features a full marathon, a half-marathon, a quarter marathon and a wheel chair marathon. To beat the heat the event usually begins at 04:30. In spite of the early hour, Pattaya's streets are lined with spectators cheering on the competitors.
Chonburi Buffalo Races
Pattaya is a part of Chonburi Province, an area that traditionally honours the water buffalo during October. Water buffalo are paraded around the centre of Chonburi town dressed in silk and satin and competitions are held to determine the healthiest and best decorated animals.
The most popular events, however, are the buffalo races, attracting spectators from all over Thailand. It is amazing to see how fast the massive beasts can actually run. There is also a popular beauty contest - no, not for buffaloes - but for young women to determine the most attractive 'farm maiden'. It's all great fun and popular with both locals and tourists from nearby beach resorts.
Pattaya Music Festival
Held annually in March, the festival has a few international Asian and European bands attend with over 100 Thai pop, rock, and indie groups performing on three stages. CDs, magazines, music instruments are put up on to sale. Other events like procession in the streets of Pattaya are also held during the festival. It attracts over 100.000 music lovers from all over the country each year. Admission is free.