There are many festivals in Thailand and Thai people love an excuse for a party or celebration. Pattaya celebrates all the Thai festivals and a few local ones too. They include religious, traditional, cultural and contemporary festivals.
The biggest of the Pattaya festivals is Songkran (13th-15th April), which is the traditional Thai New Year in April, and is nothing less than a riotous water fight. Pattaya is generally the last of all the major cities in Thailand to celebrate Songkran, on 19th April – Naklua has their Songkran day on the 18th. Although Songkran in Pattaya proper is the 19th, the water fights start about a week earlier and build to a crescendo. This is especially evident in Soi 7 and 8 where water fights take place from morning until night for three to four days before the 19th April. The town is packed at this time and it is a good idea to book early, although many long-term expats find an excuse to leave the city to get away from the mayhem.
A bit different from this traditional festival, and reflecting the cosmopolitan nature of Pattaya, is the annual Pattaya International Music Festival, usually held in March. This three-day event features an array of artists of different genres from not only Thailand but around the world – in recent years artists from Korea and Japan have featured prominently, for instance. DJ’s also play an assortment of music to dance to. The event attracts a young and vibrant crowd, with people from Bangkok pouring into the city at this time. It is worth making sure that hotels are booked early if you want to attend this event.
Loy Krathong Festival (November) is held according to the lunar cycle some time in November and is one of the most beautiful of the Pattaya festivals, where people go to the beach to float their krathongs, which are little banana leaf ‘floats’ with a candle, incense sticks, a flower and a coin. People wish for good luck in the coming year as they watch their krathong float out to sea. Others release small candle-heated traditional lanterns (kom loy) into the night sky, although this has been restricted in recent years due to fears of them coming down and causing a fire. As the night progresses a vast armada of little candles bobbing on the sea and lights ascending into the sky can be seen.
Pattaya’s annual Gay Festival is held in late November and features dinners and street parties, among other events. It all culminates with a large float parade on 1 December, which is World AIDS Day. It is one of the largest gay festivals in Thailand and many gay and gay-friendly businesses participate in raising money for AIDS-related charitable causes.
Pattaya, like many towns in Thailand, has a thriving Thai-Chinese community and Chinese New Year (February), which falls in late January/early February, is well celebrated. Lion dances and a dragon parade feature prominently and there are plenty of fireworks and firecrackers. The local Thai/Chinese community also sponsors a Miss Pattaya Chinese contest and there are often displays from visiting Chinese groups.
The King (Father’s Day) and Queen’s (Mother’s Day) birthdays on 5 December and 12 August respectively are other major festivals in Pattaya. Large pictures of the King and Queen will be seen in abundance on these days, along with beautiful displays of lighting. Most go-go bars are closed as a mark of respect for the Royal Family during those days.
With its large European community, Pattaya also celebrates Christmas (December), with traditional meals served at restaurants and religious services held at the churches of the different denominations.
New Year’s Eve (December) in Pattaya features a countdown at the pier, along with a variety of local artists providing entertainment and culminating in a large fireworks display at midnight – the revelry usually going into the early hours. Some even stay up to welcome the first sunrise of the New Year.