Phu Kradueng National Park new normal reopening
The month began with the reopening of Phu Kradueng National Park in the Northeast province of Loei on 1 October, following a closure due to both the COVID-19 pandemic and its annual rainy season closure from June to September. The Park is popular for its hiking trails, numerous waterfalls, fields and forests, and panoramic viewpoints. Its reopening has come with ‘new normal’ rules for visiting, and the number of visitors is being capped at around 1,000 per day.
The new rules require registering 15 days ahead of visiting through the QueQ application or via a registration form supplied by national park authorities, and visitors’ arrival and departure at the Park must be logged onto the Thai Chana platform. Visitors must also be vaccinated – with either one dose of AstraZeneca within 14 days before arrival, two doses of AstraZeneca, two doses of Sinovac, one dose of Sinovac and one dose of AstraZeneca, or other vaccines authorised by the Ministry of Public Health – and present proof of an antigen or RT PCR test no older than 72 hours. Visitors must also wear face masks at all times while in the Park, observe social distancing, and avoid gathering in groups of more than five people.
Several islands in the Andaman Sea reopen
National marine parks in the Andaman Sea region have also reopened or partially reopened in October, with the coming of the end of the annual monsoon season in the area. October and November are good months to visit the Andaman’s gorgeous islands and beaches, with December to May being the best time.
Among these is Ao Phang-Nga National Park, Khao Lak-Lam Ru National Park, Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, Si Phang-Nga National Park, Sirinat National Park, and Mu Ko Phetra National Park.
One of the most exciting and astounding annual events in Thailand is the Vegetarian Festival, taking place in 2021 from 6-14 October. It is observed throughout the country and is a Chinese celebration in honour of the 9 Emperor Gods. People will stick to certain rules for the 9-day period of the festival, including abstaining from consuming meat or alcohol. A vegan diet is followed to cleanse the body and many restaurants become vegetarian for the festival, and delicious vegetarian dishes can be found at restaurants and eateries everywhere.
In Phuket, which is Thailand’s most popular place to experience the Vegetarian Festival, stunning rituals take place in which devotees said to be in a trance-like state perform breath-taking feats of self-mutilation like body piercing, walking on hot coals, and climbing razor sharp ladders to demonstrate their devotion to the gods and ancestors.
However, due to the nationwide COVID-19 control and prevention measures, this year’s Vegetarian Festival in Phuket is being held under stringent COVID-19 controls, with scaled-down activities and fewer participants taking part in the ceremonies.
Illuminated Boat Procession, Nakhon Phanom
Another spectacular festival is the Illuminated Boat Procession in Nakhon Phanom province also in the Northeast and bordering Lao PDR. over the Mekong River. Held to mark the end of Buddhist Lent during the 11th lunar month and on this year from 18-22 October, the festival sees beautifully decorated boats and rafts loaded with food, flowers, incense sticks, candles, and handmade lanterns floated along the famous river to pay respect to the Lord Buddha and make offerings to the mythical Naga serpent said to live in the river. It’s also believed that the ceremony washes away people’s sadness and troubles, and brings good fortune.
End of Buddhist Lent or Ok Phansa
Wan Ok Phansa is also an important annual event, as it marks the end of Buddhist Lent and the start of a new season after the heavy rains. It is observed on the full moon day of the 11th lunar month – in 2021 it is on 21 October – with various celebrations and activities held in different places like Chiang Mai, Nakhon Phanom, and Nong Khai, where the intriguing natural phenomenon that are the Naga fireballs rise upward out of the Mekong River to the amazement of all. In Sakon Nakhon, intricately made wax castles are on show. Buddhists give food offerings to their local temples, there are traditional long-boat races, and decorated bamboo boats are on show in floating processions.
Celebrated a day after Wan Ok Phansa in Central Thailand – 22 October this year – is the Tak Bat Devo Buddhist festival marking the Lord Buddha’s return to Earth after delivering a sermon to his deceased mother in Heaven. The biggest event takes place at Wat Sangkat Rattana Khiri in the province of Uthai Thani. A key element of the day is the offerings made to the many monks who descend the 449-step staircase from the temple’s chedi.
Remarks: Kindly note that festivals and events – if taking place, and national park accessibility, may be somewhat affected by pandemic control and prevention measures; for example, in audience size limits and other social distancing requirements. (TAT)