Explore Chiang Rai’s Culture and Events

Though none of the items below are on Retire In Thailand tour packages, they are important events to know about when making your plans to visit Chiang Rai.

Holidays & Festivals

Chinese New Year, depending on the lunar cycle – This isn’t an official holiday but is celebrated by Thai-Chinese for three days. The exact dates differ every year depending on the position of the moon.

Makha Bucha, full moon day – This is the third of the years’ Buddhist festivals, which includes merit making and candle processions at temples across the kingdom.

Songkran, 13-15th – Officially running for three days, Thai New Year is a time to be with family, wash Buddha images and make merit. Nowadays it amounts to a 63 million person, nationwide water fight.

Visakha Bucha, full moon day – This is the most important date on the Buddhist calendar. It celebrates the birth, Enlightenment and death of the Buddha. There are beautiful candlelit processions at temples.

Loy Krathong, full moon day – One of the kingdom’s biggest and most beloved festivals. It honors the goddess of water Mae Khongkha and asks her for forgiveness for polluting her. Locals float krathongs on waterways in the evening, making for a very beautiful spectacle.

ASEAN flower festival.  This generally begins in the last week of December and runs through to the middle of January.


Thais are very easy going and would rarely tell you if you are doing something that offends them. However, here are few things to think about before you arrive:

Heads: Never touch an adult on the head. Thais consider the head to be the highest part of the body (spiritually) and would feel incredibly uncomfortable if you were to do so. Children under the age of 10 can be touched on the head in a playful manner, but the best rule of thumb is to just not do so.

Feet: On the opposite side of things, Thais consider the feet to be the lowest part of the body (spiritually). Therefore, it’s extremely rude to do almost anything but walk with them. Do not put them up on chairs, ledges, etc to relax. Do not gain someone’s attention by tapping them with your foot. Do not open or hold open doors with your foot. This might seem a bit extreme and strange, but it will quickly become second nature.

Noses: Try not to blow your nose while eating. If you need to refresh your nostrils, step away from the table away from the table and other diners.

Shirts: In busy centers, keep your shirt on (unless on the beach of course). Trust us, despite Thais not sweating as much as foreigners, everyone is hot. Imagine if everyone walked around with their shirts off – Someone Call the Fashion Police!!

Affection: Thais are rather modest and rarely if ever express affection in public. While it’s common to see friends (even of the same sex) holding hands, couples would never kiss or ‘make-out’ in public. Doing so creates an uncomfortable spectacle.

Naughty Bits: Do not tan nude at any time in Thailand. Thais consider it very inappropriate and rude to expose your private bits and pieces in public. It doesn’t matter if you see others on the beach doing it – locals don’t like it; as mentioned before they are just too polite to tell you.

Royalty: Refrain from speaking about the Royal Family of Thailand. Thais highly revere all members of the Royal Family, to the point that it is almost rude to speak publicly about them out of respect. Never speak about any past or present Royal Family members passing away either.

Monks: Women must never come into physical contact with or directly hand anything to a monk.

Smile: Thailand truly is the Land of Smiles. There are 13 types of smiles used to express everything from extreme happiness to seething anger. You’ll make the most friends if you maintain a glowing smile as often as possible, especially when you’re upset or in an uncomfortable situation.

Voice: Thais are rather soft-spoken by nature and consider foreigners to be rather loud. Be conscious of your volume and never raise your voice or become visibly agitated when dealing with locals, even if there is a conflict. The moment you visibly and/or verbally lose your cool, your cause is kaput.

Religion in Thailand

About 95% of Thais are Theravada Buddhists, which made its way to Thailand from Sri Lanka during the Sukhothai period (13th century). This Thai practice borrows heavily and incorporates elements of Hindu, Tantric and Mahayana influences. Thais believe that Buddhism is one of three elements that keep their kingdom strong, the other two being the monarchy and nationhood. Their faith is deep and dictates much of their behavior in everyday life. Most males, in the later teenage years will become monks, usually for about three months to make merit for and honor their family.

There are roughly 32,000 monasteries in Thailand and about 460,000 monks, who follow 227 precepts.

Three percent of Thais are Muslim, with most of them living in the three southernmost provinces.