Party in Paradise! Â The Major Celebrations of Koh Samui
The South East Asian country of Thailand is often simply referred to as paradise by the many travelers who visit every year. Â With hundreds of white sandy beaches that are consistently referred to as the best in the world, a mountainous jungle in the northern region, and a cuisine that is one of the most imitated, Thailand has something to offer all tastes.
Koh Samui, the largest island in the Ang Thong National Park archipelago, along with nearby islands of Ko Tao and Koh Phangan, are some of the must-see destinations found in many Thai island-hopping itineraries. Â Boasting beautiful beaches, incredible marine life, and fantastic culture, it is no surprise that the islands bring in their fair share of tourists throughout the year.
Visitors are greeted with an incredibly large number of activities to enjoy, ranging from snorkeling, scuba diving, lounging on the beach, all the way to being pampered at the worldâ€™s top spas and resorts of Koh Samui. It is this variety that brings visitors back year after year to the tropical paradise. New adventure and luxury is around every corner for those who seek it!
Apart from the beautiful nature and tranquility that the island proudly displays, the culture of the Thai people is something no one should miss, and many events take place throughout the year that give visitors the opportunity to not only learn about Thai culture, but to take part in the festivities as well!
Songkran â€“ Thai New Year
The coming of a new year is celebrated the world over as a chance for a reflection of the previous year while thinking of new beginnings for the coming one. Â While Westerners are used to January 1st as being the start of a the calendar year, it may be surprising to some that in other parts of the world the new year is celebrated in a completely different month!
Thailand observes three unique New Years as a result of its mixed culture: Western (January 1st), Chinese (Early February), and Songkran (Thai New Year – April 13th). Â Â Celebration is plentiful in all occasions, so visitors will be in for a fantastic time regardless of choice. Â Songkran, however, is purely a Thai celebration, and those seeking the countryâ€™s culture will enjoy the change of pace. Â But one word of warning: you will get wet!
Songkran began as an introspective event dedicated to family, where members return home to visit with relatives and reminisce over the preceding year. Â During this time, entire neighborhoods celebrate the oldest living members of the community by pouring water over their hands in an exchange of blessings.
In Samui, this tradition has evolved over the years into an all out water fight during Songkran, with foreigners being the best target for an errant, and icy, water strike. Â While you could stay in your hotel in Samui and avoid becoming a target, it is best to join in the fun and make a few local friends while at it!
Visakah Puja â€“ Buddhaâ€™s Birthday Bash!
Like many Buddhist countries, the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha is highly revered. Rather than celebrating all three at various points throughout the year, Visakah Puja is the cumulative celebration of the entire life of Buddha after the first full moon in the month of May.
The island of Samui celebrates Visakah Puja on the fixed date of May 15th, and local wats (temples) are decorated with beautiful flowers and incense to mark the occasion. Â Â Monks and members of the community process around the temple, give prayers, and hold great sermons about the life and teachings of Buddha.
As Visakah Puja is a public holiday throughout Thailand, locals will be out praying to Buddha in vast quantities. Â Those interested in learning a little bit about the religion need just show up and start a conversation for a fantastic time!
The Ultimate Beach Party in Neighboring Koh Phangan
After visiting all the wonderful cultural celebrations the islands of Thailand have to offer, some may want a good old fashion beach party to finish the day. Â Koh Samuiâ€™s neighboring island of Koh Phangan has just the answer!
A short ferry ride away, Koh Phangan boasts one of the largest beach parties in the world, known as the Full Moon Party. Â The name itself is a bit of a misnomer, as smaller parties occur most nights of the week; however, the numbers of participants increases astronomically during the full moon of each month.
Finding the party is easy, as the entire surrounding area of Haad Rin beach is converted to a giant frenzy of live music, sound stages, and tens of thousands of party-goers. Â One thing is for sure for anyone looking for a good time at a Full Moon Party: it is best to leave the young ones and other valuables at the resort for the night!
Travelers looking to reach Koh Samui are in luck as it is one of the most accessible islands in the country! Budget domestic flights can be found from most major cities in Thailand including Phuket, Bangkok, Krabi, Chiang Mai, and more! Â Many international destinations within South East Asia boast direct flights to this tropical destination as well. Â Those arriving overland can take the fantastic train network to Surat Thani and a short bus/ferry ride to the island.