In Thailand, Visakha Bucha day is the day that commemorates 3 big events in Buddhism: birth, enlightenment, and death of Budha. In Thailand, we call this day also ‘Wan Phra Yai’ which can be translated as ฺBig Buddhist Holy Day and it is an official holiday. You will get 1 day off. Also, if this day falls on Thursday, the holiday will be placed on Friday, so that you can have a long weekend. I like this website as it explains this day in more details.
What we normally do is in the morning, we will give food to monks (ตักบาตร). In the evening, we will go to temples and walk with lighted candles in hand around a temple for 3 rounds. We will think about the meaning of this day. How Buddha was born, has gotten enlightenment, Buddha’s life until his death.
My family is religious. Since my father’s retirement, he goes every day to temple and leads people on different Buddhism ceremonies. That means, I also went to a temple on Visakha Bucha Day. It was not that interesting for me as every year we do always the same.
However, as I live in Chiang Mai this year, things become different. The evening before Visakah Bucha Day, Chiang Mai people will go to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep located on the top of the Doi Suthep montain. There are different parades. One of the parade is to bring a light candle to Doi Suthep, one is to bring water given from our king and queen. So you will find many people still climbing to the mountain late at night.
On the way to the mountain, there were many stops providing drinks and food. The providers are from institutions e.g. universities, police departments, temples, and also private persons. The distance up to the mountain is around 10-11 kilometers starting from Chiang Mai university.
My husband and I started walking at 6 pm sharp and we went down with the red songtaew at midnight. There were so many people from different ages. Also foreigners joined the walk. We stopped at different places to get food such as Pad Thai, rice with omelets, snacks, Thai sweeties, fruits. We passed many temples to get holy water and holy threads. We donated some money also.
When we arrived at the top, there was so crowded with people who wanted to go to the temple and flower sellers. I have brought my candle and joss sticks. We did the three rounds walking around the golden mount.
There were also some people who will stay overnight to wait for the candle parade and for the morning ceremonies and other ceremonies until night of the Visakha Bucha day. If you want you can join but we did not. There will be monks coming down the stairs that are decorated with dragons.
We went back with the red songtaew. It was not complicated and we got seats immediately. It costed 40 baht per person. The car brought us to the place of ครูบาศรีวิชัย. He was the initiator to build the road to Doi Suthep temple. This place is a must visit place in Chiang Mai as well.
Next year, if I will be in Chiang Mai, I will participate in this walk again!