Quite a few lively events and festivals are celebrated in Mae Hong Son every year. The majority of Mae Hong Son festivals focus on events and traditions which locals have observed for centuries. Some festivals, like Songkran, are celebrated across Thailand, while others, such as the Tea Tasting Festival and Bua Tong Blossom Festival, are unique to Mae Hong Son.
Tea Tasting Festival: The province of Mae Hong Son is famous for its tea plantations, especially the ones near the village of Ban Rak Thai. Even though visitors are welcome to sample the soothing drinks prepared from this hillside village’s tea plantations throughout the year, nowhere is Ban Rak Thai’s reputation as a top tea producing spot more evident than during the annual February Tea Tasting Festival. Oolong, jasmine, and green are among Ban Rak Thai’s most commonly grown teas. The Tea Tasting Festival also includes local performing arts groups, food, and treks by mule to the tea plantations.
Poy Sang Long Festival: The Poy Sang Long celebration takes place between March and early April. During this annual ‘festival of the crystal sons’, local boys aged seven to 14 who want to become Buddhist monks shave their heads, put on makeup, and don brightly coloured robes during this important rite of passage. During this three-day ceremony, the boys’ feet can only touch the ground inside their homes or temples. At the end of the festival, the boys exchange their colourful robes for simpler saffron outfits before entering the monastery.
Songkran Festival: Songkran is a holiday celebrated throughout Thailand during the month of April. Mae Hong Son’s version of this lively festival includes young people dousing each other with water, parading a Buddha image down the street, decorating Nong Jong Kham Park, traditional Shan musical performances, and the Miss Songkran beauty pageant. Art and culture shows, sporting contests, and boat racing are some of the ways Songkran is celebrated in Mae Hong Son.
Poy Lern Sib-ed (AKA Chong Para): Sometime in October, and on a date mandated by the full moon, Thailand marks the end of the three-month-long Buddhist Lent with Wan Auk Pansa. Some Thai provinces celebrate the day with boat racing or parades while in others Buddhists just make merit at their local temples. In Mae Hong Son it is a bit different. Tai-Yai living in the town and province commemorate the occasion of the Lord Buddha visiting earth and his mother with the inimitable Poy Lern Sib-ed Festival.
Poy Lern Sib-ed is sometimes called the Chong Para Festival due to the decorative towers used to celebrate it. Chong Para are a fusion of a small tower and pagoda and are built as parade floats by Mae Hong Son residents. Chong Para are adorned with unique ornamentation to give them a gay and colourful appearance. On the main festival day, Chong Para are raised on poles and carried by householders to their local temples. The giving of alms, parades and colourful decoration of houses lend a touch of the exotic to this time-honoured festival.
Bua Tong Blossom Festival: The Bua Tong Blossom festival takes place over a 30 day period between November and December. Wild sunflowers blossom throughout Mae Hong Son during this traditional start of the area’s tourism season. The main Bua Tong Flower Field is located 26kms from the district of Khun Yuam.