Surat Thani, 24 September 2014 The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is joining hands with the Surat Thani provincial authorities and local stakeholders in organising the province’s most important annual religious event, the Chak Phra Festival and Long Boat Races, to mark the end of the three-month Buddhist Lent or Ok Phansa from 5 to 13 October.
Mr. Prapas Intanapasart, Director of the TAT Surat Thani Office said, “This is the most significant and magnificent ancient tradition of Surat Thani. Each year, Buddhists gather to graciously mark the end of Ok Phansa in spectacular celebrations that always leave ever-lasting memories for all spectators.”
Chak Phra, or the hauling of the Buddha image, symbolises the Lord Buddha’s return to earth after he spent three months during the monsoon season in heaven to preach Buddhism to his mother. The Festival normally falls on the first day of the 11th lunar month (October), and lasts for nine days and nine nights.
To ensure the event’s splendour, local communities and temples begin preparing for the Chak Phra Festival at least a month in advance. They join in decorating floral floats on boats and trucks in the shapes of animals in the Buddhist legends, which are believed to be vehicles of the Lord Buddha. These elaborately-decorated floats will take part in the hauling of the Buddha image procession, the grand highlight of the nine-day celebration.
This year, the Chak Phra Festival will be held at the ceremonial grounds near the Tapi River on Na Mueang Road and Ban Don Road. On 9 October, 2014, or 1 day after the Ok Phansa Day, the grand celebration will take place with a boat hauling Surat Thani’s principal Buddha image that sits on a raft adorned with huge nagas. Held concurrently on land, sleigh-like floats bearing Buddha images and flags and parasols will parade across the ceremony routings of the town.
On the same day, Buddhist monks will mark the end of the three-month Buddhist Lent by receiving alms in the traditional kathin ceremony. Surat Thani celebrates its own unique version that sees locals hanging “Phum Pha Pa” or offerings on tree branches in front of houses, schools and office buildings the night before. The hanging of offerings is a celebration of its own with locals attentively decorating the town with beautifully-packed alms as well as lights and paintings depicting the life story of Buddha.
During the nine-day festival, the annual Surat Thani Long Boat Races will also be organised with participating racing teams from provinces in the South of Thailand. The winning team will receive the royal cup of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. Other highlights include the decorated floats contest, Phum Pha Pa contest, light and sound presentation on the Tapi River, cultural performances, local products sales, photo exhibition and tourism activities.
This year, the TAT Surat Thani Office and tourism partners are once again jointly organising the annual “Worshipping Buddha Images and Buddhist Monks at 100 Temples in the Land of Good People” tour programme. The Office is also joining hands with Thai AirAsia in hosting a familiarization trip for media members to write about this year’s amazing Chak Phra Festival and Long Boat Races in Surat Thani.