Halloween in the west is all about candies and fancy costumes. You can see Jack O’ Lantern on every other corner, and the night street is crowded with trick-or-treating children. But in Thailand, Halloween is something entirely different.
Thai people treat Halloween as another day on the calendar. They continue with their lives on October 31st. Some celebrations and decorations can be seen, but they are more for commercial purposes. However, they have a similar culture where people perform rituals in ghost costumes. This tradition is called Phi Ta Khon.
Even though the celebratory mood is rare to be seen in the country, it doesn’t mean you cannot have fun with the day at all. There is something for you on this day. Read on to find out where and how to enjoy Thai Halloween to your heart’s content.
Does Thailand Celebrate Halloween?
Generally, Thai people don’t celebrate Halloween. The locals will still go to work, have their usual lunch, go home, and enjoy an ordinary dinner. Nothing is special about October 31st. You could almost say that Thai people don’t acknowledge Halloween. And if you think about it, this might sound strange.
Despite being a Buddhist country, Thailand is still heavily influenced by paganism culture and doctrine. (Source)
Everywhere you go, you can see people with all sorts of “sacred” tattoos or spiritual accessories on their bodies. These are all non-Buddhism practices. All these items are the remnants of old spiritual traditions that spark numerous pagan cults and sects in the country. (Source)
With how firm paganism takes root in Thailand, it might surprise you that Thai people ignore Halloween, a famous pagan-origin culture.
Trick or Treat is out of the question in this country. And it isn’t just a rare sight. It never happens. You will never see kids in fancy costumes knocking on people’s doors asking for candy. This culture has never made its way into Thailand and probably never will.
Halloween house decoration is also extremely rare in Thailand. Nobody put a Jack O’ Lantern in their front yard or garden. This is because only a few people know what this pumpkin lantern is. And even if they know what it is, Thai small and greenish pumpkins are still unfit for carving faces.
However, you can still see a degree of Halloween theme decoration in the stores and shops. Like Christmas in Thailand, Halloween is a time for businesses and the private sector to gain as much profit as possible. But it’s not all the stores, though. Those who put up plastic Jack O’ Lanterns and colorful lights are big western franchises like Starbucks and Swensen’s.
The Thai Version of Halloween
If you are a Thailand enthusiast, you must have heard of the Phi Ta Khon parade.
Phi Ta Khon is a signature tradition of Loei, a northeastern province in Thailand. You can say that this is the closest thing to Halloween in this country.
People who observe this tradition will dress up in colorful costumes and wear masks resembling the ghost faces of the old belief.
There are thousands of mask designs and variations. But their most common striking feature is the tall body and long peculiar eyelashes. The term “ผีตาโขน” (Phi Ta Khon) sounds similar to “ผีตาขน” (Phi Ta Khon — written the same but pronounced with a different vowel length). And it roughly translates to hairy-eyed ghosts. (Source)
The Phi Ta Khon parade is a part of another festival called “Bun Luang.”
This festival is held after the last full moon of the 6th month in the Lunar calendar (end of June to the beginning of July) for three days. On the second day, the Phi Ta Khon parade happens. You will see the mass dressed in ghost costumes walking down the street while dancing to the music. (Source)
The parade itself has an origin. It is a recreation of a scene from Vessantara Jātaka, which is the final tale from the Mahanipata Jataka series (a collection of 10 stories recording the 10 previous incarnations of Buddha). (Source, Source)
While Phi Ta Khon has nothing to do with Halloween, it has a similar ghost costume aspect. So, if you want to experience Halloween in a traditional Thai style, you might want to add the Phi Ta Khon parade to your travel list.
Where to Celebrate Halloween in Bangkok?
Even though Thailand doesn’t celebrate Halloween, you can still find places to breathe in the air of this special day. And here are the top 5 locations to enjoy Halloween in greater Bangkok in 2020. (They will likely do an annual celebration, so you can visit them in the following years.)
1. Central World
Located in the Pathumwan district, this shopping mall is one of the biggest in the area. It has plenty of space for all kinds of festivals and will never miss a chance to celebrate Halloween. (Source)
If you have been to Tokyo during Halloween, you would find many similarities between the celebration there and here in the Central World. The event organizer tried their best to capture the vibe of Harajuku street on October 31st.
On top of the overwhelming number of shops and stores, you could find many Halloween activities to participate in. The biggest highlights were Halloween make-over with professional makeup artists and photoshoots with freaky backgrounds.
You could also enjoy seasonal food and pastries they had prepared for the occasion. The usual steep price was dropped for this special day. (Source)
Even though you couldn’t go Trick or Treat in this massive department store, it was still worth checking out. After all, this was one of the few places that celebrate Halloween.
2. Central Ladprao
Even though it cannot compete with Central World in size, Central Ladprao still has its street vibe to boast about. And that vibe shines through in their Halloween celebration.
Unlike Central World’s grand Harajuku concept, Central Ladprao stuck with a more down-to-earth market-style festival.
You could walk around the 7-floor building and its event ground, shopping for discounted items while admiring lights and decorations. (Source)
If you were hungry, Central Ladprao had prepared a food-truck section for you. This might not sound impressive for westerners, but the food truck was a foreign concept to the locals. This meant that all trucks here were not your run-of-the-mill vendors but the selected best of the best you could find in the country.
To top it all off, Central Ladprao also held a dancing contest on Halloween. So if you had spare time, you could go watch or even participate. (Source)
3. Central Bangna
Yet another shopping mall from the Central group.
Like the previous two Centrals, Central Bangna had all the Halloween-themed food and items you could shop at a lower price. They also had photo booths and backdrops for you to snap a shot and post on social media.
The main highlight at Central Bangna was the horror cosplay competition. You could participate as a competitor or sit back in the audience seat and enjoy. But if you participated, you had a chance to win 30,000 THB in cash. (Source)
4. Dream World
If you want a taste of fear, there is no better place to do that than a haunted house. And where else could there be a scarier haunted house than an amusement park such as Dream World?
Dream World used to be THE holiday destination for Thai families. Amusement parks are few and far between in this country. Dream World being so close to Bangkok in Pathum Thani helped skyrocket its popularity. (Source)
Following the tradition of global amusement parks, Dream World dresses up its staff in ghost and monster costumes during Halloween. They also put up decorations around their haunted castle and other areas. The spookiness might not be as much as you might like. But that is understandable. After all, they don’t want to scare all the kids away. You can also wear your own costume to Dream World, immersing yourself in this special day. (Source)
5. Khao San Road
If you are a costume enthusiast, Khao San Road should be on your destination list for Halloween.
When the locals discuss Khao San Road, Bangkok, they usually talk about the Songkran festival. It is the most well-known Songkran destination for both the Thais and foreigners. However, only a few people know about its Halloween celebration. (Source)
The central attraction of the Khao San Road 2020 Halloween celebration was the costume contest. You could both participate and get a chance to win a prize of 10,000 THB in cash or sit back and enjoy the show. But if the contest wasn’t your forte, you could also dress up and enjoy a stroll amid the light and music of the festival. (Source)
So, What to Expect From Halloween in Thailand?
All in all, the answer is nothing much. Despite the strong influence of paganism, Thai people don’t seem to care much about Halloween. You can see the seasonal decorations from shops and stores. But other than that, Halloween is just another day for the Thai.
Phi Ta Khon can be a great substitute if you want to see people in ghost costumes. It is different from Halloween in the west, but this kind of culture makes Thailand stand out.
Like always, if you want to learn more about Thailand, stay with ThaiGuider. You might discover something you never knew about this unique country.