Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival - Thailand's Most Popular Traditional Candle Parade

Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival is an elaborate parading of intricately carved candles to Buddhist temples or wats. It is celebrated in Ubon Ratchathani, in the northeastern part of Thailand. It is the biggest and most famous candle festival in Thailand. The main highlight of this two-day event is the Candle Parade that takes place on the morning of the second day. Artists from all over the world come to participate in the annual competition and to showcase their beautiful carvings. The parade is witnessed by thousands of spectators who actively take part in the various festivities. Musicians and dancers also accompany the parade in traditional costumes. There are live music performances, food stalls and open-air markets. Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival is truly a spectacular event that is a must-visit for art and culture enthusiasts.

Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival
Candle Festival in Ubon Ratchathani (Source)

Dates of the Candle Festival in Ubon Ratchathani 2019

2019 Dates: Tuesday, July 16, 2019 - Wednesday, July 17, 2019
The two main dates of the Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival coincide with Wan Asanha Bucha and Wan Kao Pansa. The former is a Buddhist holiday that commemorates the first sermon of Buddha and the latter marks the beginning of the Buddhist Lent. The candle festival usually takes place in July, but the exact dates vary from year to year. The lunar calendar determines these days. The procession is traditionally held on the full moon day of this month. The main parade starts at 8 or 9 AM and goes on for three hours.

Venue Details of Candle Festival 

The sculpted candles are all gathered in Thing Si Mueang, a park in the middle of the city on the eve of Wan Asanha Bucha. They are elaborately decorated and showcased for this evening. The following day, on Wan Kao Pansa, the main procession starts. There are regular flights connecting Ubon Ratchathani to the Bangkok airport. There are overnight sleeper trains available too. There is plenty of public transportation available in Ubon Ratchathani, but it might not be a reliable option during the Candle Festival.

What to Expect at the Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival

A figure on one of the floats at the Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival
A figure on one of the floats at the Festival
(Source)

The main event of this annual festival is the Candle Procession or the parading of giant candles throughout the city. Huge pieces of sculptures are intricately carved out of beeswax candles and beautifully decorated with Thai elements. The sculpting of these structures starts months in advance. The sculptures usually depict mythological characters from Thai and Hindu folklore. These sculptures are all showcased in an exhibition cum competition, with prizes for the most beautiful wax carvings and best-decorated floats. Artists from all over the world come to participate in this grand event.

Each candle float depicts a local temple or an institution. Musicians and dancers often accompany the candle parade in traditional costumes. The area surrounding the Thing Si Mueang Park is transformed into a huge street fair with open-air markets and food stalls. The winning candle float is kept on display for weeks in the temple grounds. All the wax sculptures are eventually melted down as the Buddhists believe that nothing in life is permanent.

Ubon Candle Festival
Parade at the Ubon Candle Festival
(Source)

Tips for Visitors

  • Protect yourself from the heat: Grandstands are arranged for spectators to witness the parade that takes place on the morning of Wan Kao Phansa. Sometimes, the viewers use umbrellas to protect themselves from sun and rain and this can obstruct the view for the people sitting behind them.
  • Be there in time: The main parade usually starts at 8 AM and goes on for about three hours. It is advised to reach the venue an hour earlier, in order to secure a good viewing spot. Standing in the same spot for so long can get very hot and uncomfortable.
  • Book in Advance: The period leading up to the Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival sees a surge in tourism. The flights, as well as accommodation, tends to get completely booked out. It is recommended that you make your bookings months in advance if you wish to attend this annual festival. It is also advised to not rely on public transport during these two days. In case you do not have your own mode of transport, it is always better to stay within walking distance from the parade’s venue.  
  • No Alchohol: Nationwide restrictions are implemented on the sale of alcohol for this 48-hour period. All the bars and clubs are usually closed for the duration of the Candle Festival.
The Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival is an elaborate parading of magnificently sculptured candles to wats. It takes place during the Buddhist holidays of Wan Asanha Bucha and Wan Kao Pansa. Sculptors from all over the world come to participate in the annual competition. They work for several months to intricately carve mythological creatures out of beeswax structures. It is also a time for revelry for the local crowd and tourists alike. The festival vibe is extremely energetic and the main parade is not to be missed!

This post was published by Ruthvi Reddy

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