Candles, not neon, light Visakha Bucha Day in Pattaya

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Pattaya turned off the neon lights and lit candles for 24-hours as area Buddhists celebrated Visakha Bucha Day.

Believers began showing up to Khao Saotong Thong, Sutthawat, Nong Yai, Boonkanjanaram, Thamsamakee, Chaimongkol, Nong Aor and other temples early, offering morning alms to monks to make merit. Many stayed throughout the day, capping the May 20 holiday with the traditional “wien tien” procession ceremonies in the evening.

Marking the triple occasion of the birth of Buddha, the day of his enlightenment, and his ascension to Nirvana, Visakha Bucha Day is one of the three holiest days on the Buddhist calendar and previously was designated by USESCO as “World Peace Day.” The educational, scientific and cultural organization’s proclamation cited Buddhism’s teaching of humanity, mercy and tolerance as the reasons for the designation.

Rear Adm. Pradith Samangin of the Naval Education Department, Sattahip district officials, and residents prepare for the ceremony at Big Buddha Mountain.

In Pattaya, bars were closed, frustrating tourists. Instead, people went to places like Nong Aor Temple for the “wien tien” procession led by Abbot Phuchitkisaro. Worshippers made merit, meditated, studied dharma, and listened to monks telling of the gratitude, intellect and purity of Lord Gautama Buddha.

Whilst making merit, many people listened to the sermon at Wat Kao Saotong Thong.

About 400 people joined in the candlelit procession at Nong Aor, which offered a bit of a twist on the traditional march due to ongoing renovation at the temple. With no main hall to circumnavigate, believers paraded around the temple grounds, through its many big trees and past sculptures of Buddha.

With its downtown location, Chaimongkol Temple attracted the largest crowds, but all area temples were jammed from dawn until after dusk.

At “Big Buddha Hill,” Rear Adm. Pradith Samangin of the Naval Education Department presided over the wien tien procession joined by Sattahip district officials and residents.

A revered monk leads incantations honoring the Buddha relics at Big Buddha Mountain.

As the sun set, the candles were lit, making for a magical atmosphere.

Rear Adm. Pradith Samangin presides over the ceremonies at Khao Chee Chan.

Monks lead the wien thein procession at Khao Chee Chan.

Wat Nong Aor contains renovated cultural sculptures that glow brightly in gold.

People adorn the Buddha statues with flakes of gold at Wat Nong Aor.

Wat Nong Aor relies on generous donations.

Children ride a merry-go-round of their favorite cartoon characters during the temple fair at Wat Chaimongkol in South Pattaya.

A happy couple joins the candlelit procession at Wat Nong Aor.

Many people took part in the wien thein ceremony at Wat Nong Aor.

Learning about nature at the Wat Chaimongkol temple fair in South Pattaya.

The race is on at Wat Chaimongkol in South Pattaya.

Hundreds of people take part in the string ceremony, connecting all minds in prayer.

The Abbot of Wat Dhamma Samakkee provides his sermon to Buddhists regarding the importance of Visakha Bucha Day.

Deep in prayer.

Monks lead the wien thein procession at Wat Nong Aor.

The colorfully lit temple fair at Wat Chaimongkol in South Pattaya.

People under the white sheets hope to be reborn with a better life after this ceremony at Wat Chaimongkol.

Hundreds of people take part in the wien thein ceremony at Wat Chaimongkol.

People make merit and pray at Wat Nong Aor.

Making a wish and praying for blessing on this important Buddhist day.

Children, both young and old, line up to ride the train during the temple fair at Wat Chaimongkol in South Pattaya.