Phi Ta Khon – Ghost Mask Festival, Thailand Travel Tips

When:
The hardest part about attending the festival is knowing when it’s held. Since it’s announced about 2 months before, it makes planning a trip for most people quite difficult. It is usually held around the end of June/early July. The best place to find out is to follow Richard Barrow who announced it on the same day the local tourism board announced it https://twitter.com/RichardBarrow. Otherwise you can contact either the local tourism board directly or one of the hotels listed below.

How to get to Loei:
Nok Air and Thai Air Asia fly there 3 times/day.

6:00 am7:00 amNok Air 9704SMTWTFSDMK-LOE
10:30 am11:30 amThai AirAsia 3542SMTWTFSDMK-LOE
2:10 pm3:20 pmNok Air 9708SMTWTFSDMK-LOE

Flights are about US$120-140 during the festival period. Both these airlines depart from Don Muang Airport, Domestic Terminal in Bangkok.

How to get to Dansai:
Dansai is x kms away and should take you between 90 minutes to reach. There are 2 car rental agencies at Loei Airport: Muang Loei Carrent and Avis (062-6040352/02-2511131). We chose Muang Loei Carrent (081-888-5307/097-320-6963) as they were recommended by our hotel. We paid 1400baht/day for a 7 seater Toyota Avanza.

There is also a taxi service from Loei to Dansai which costs 2,500Baht/one way so if you have a US/European/Int’l drivers license and don’t mind driving, it’s much more cost effective to rent a car. Most likely you will be staying at a hotel outside the center of town unless you want to hear loud base techno music all weekend.

Festival Schedule:

Below is the published schedule but do not expect any of these events to happen on time or in some instances at all. I would recommend you arrive ideally by Saturday morning. This is the practice day where groups of dancers are walking down the streets in no particular order or time and is a great opportunity to take photos. On Sunday, the actual parade is held where you will see all the dancers and the floats but there will also be 10-15k tourists as opposed to the 1k on Saturday.

DAY 1
( Phra Upakut Invocation and Cultural Ceremony )
4:00 a.m. Invocation of Pra Upakut: Procession from Phon-Chai Temple to Mun and Sork River.
6:00 a.m. Food Offerings to Monks at Phon-Chai Temple.
8:30 a.m. Ba- Si (Summoning of Spirits) Ceremony at Chao Pho Kuan’s House.
10:00 a.m. Cultural Ceremony at Phon-Chai Temple by Dan Sai Sheriff. Gathering for Phi Ta Khon procession and competitions among groups marching along Keaw Asa Road.
*11:00 a.m. Performances on the stage in front of Dan Sai District Office.
**6:00 p.m. Night market and concerts on thestage in front of Dan Sai District Office as well as the pop-up beer garden.
*We did not see any performances on the stage, just groups of dancers walking from the temple to the stage in front of Dan Sai District Office from 10:30-13:00.
-Participate the Mask Festival by painting masks with the famous artists from 4 regions at Wat Pho Chai (first day)
**Not written in the published schedule but on Day 1 and Day 2 there were festivities at night that carry on until late.

DAY 2
(Official Opening Ceremony and the Grand Phi Ta Khon Parade)
10:00 a.m. Grand opening ceremony by Loei Governor in front of Dan Sai District Office.
All parades move from Dan Sai District Office to Phon-Chai Temple.
*1.00 p.m. Performances on the stage in front of Dan Sai District Office.
Phi Ta Khon competition (Final round).
3:00 p.m Ba- Si (Summoning of Spirits) Phra Wet at Chao Pho Kuan’s House.
**3:30 p.m. Phra Wet parade led by Chao Pho Kuan and Chao-Mae Nang Tiem to Phon- Chai Temple to make merit and firing of the Bamboo rockets. Phi Ta Khon mask discarding ceremony at Wang-wern pier, Phon-Chai Temple
7:00 p.m. Buddhist sermons at Phon-Chai Temple.
*It was nearly impossible to see the performances on the stage due to the large number of tourists. We were seated in the stands but it was still too far and low to see above all the people in the streets. The parade didn’t start until 1:30 and were backed up from the hill above the town.
**We didn’t see any rockets but the rains may have prevented them from launching them. We asked a few tourists and one who had been at the festival 4 times said he has never seen any rockets launching.

DAY 3
( Buddhist sermons No Phi Ta Khon Dancing )
4:00 a.m. 13 consecutive Buddhist sermons at Phon-Chai Temple
Parading of consecutive Buddhist sermons of all villages in Dan Sai District.

Hotels:Phunacome Resort – can be booked online directly or on Agoda. We chose the latter. Overall I’d say it’s a 7/10 and the best options for families as it has adjoining rooms and quite close to the festivities. We had a lovely stay but there could be many improvements made that would increase it to a 8.


Rooms 8/10– Rooms are adjoining if you choose a deluxe room and a grand deluxe room. The deluxe room was spacious and had 2 twin beds with a bathroom with a shower. The grand deluxe was a bit larger and also had a king bed and bathtub. Both had balconies with a small table and 2 chairs that overlooked the small lake, small TV, and clothes rack. The beds were on the softer side but still hard by Western standards. The air-con was strong although they asked us not to have it colder than 25Degrees which is a bit unrealistic during the hottest part of the day. We were on the bottom floor and there were 2 other rooms in our complex and 4 rooms on the 2nd floor. We didn’t hear the people above us much and not sure if it was they were quiet and considerate or the building was built well.

Restaurants 7/10– room rates included breakfast and there was a good selection of Western and Asian food. A made to order egg station and the noodle station outside were great. Boys were happy with the little sausages, pancakes, eggs and cereal available. Coffee was sadly Nescafe. Breakfast was served in the middle of the resort instead of the restaurant which is quite small. It was a large area and more than enough tables to accommodate everyone. It was open air so you have to deal with flies and mosquitoes but it was minor to other places we’ve stayed. They have 1 restaurant with indoor seating and the menu didn’t have many kid friendly items but just enough for 2 meals there. The restaurant was also accommodating as 1 of my boys doesn’t like any spices on his chicken so it wasn’t a problem to request a change to a dish.  My nanny who is Thai liked her dish and said the food was quite good. Since it’s a small restaurant, you need to tell the resort in the morning if you’d like to eat lunch/dinner and preferably to pre-order the dishes. There were also some seats outside near the pool if you wanted to order food and eat there instead of inside.


Location 7/10 – The resort is 5 kms away from the center of town so perfect to avoid the noise of the festivities but close enough that it didn’t take ages to drive there. The resort is set on a lovely area in the hills above the town. The grounds are extensive with a pool which was 1 of reasons we chose the hotel. At night it was blissfully quiet with the occasional sounds of birds. Unfortunately, you really need a car if you stay here. There are tuk tuk taxis but during the festival time but this requires advance booking as I think most of the drivers are joining in the festivities.
-Facilities and activities 7/10 – There is a lovely and fairly large pool. The water was clean but there was so much algae growing all over the tiles that I didn’t want the kids to swim in it for more than 30 minutes. It’s a shame as it was dreadfully hot outside. They had an extensive activity list and there were several activities like mask making, star spotting and hiking nearby that looked fantastic but we just didn’t have any time beyond seeing the festival.

Value –6/10 We paid US$205 for a deluxe and US$230 for a grand deluxe which is about 4 times more expensive than their usual rate. We also paid $26 for the extra bed and breakfast for my nanny. So for each night it was about US$500/nt for the 7 of us which is pricey considering we’re in the middle of nowhere in Thailand but cheap for international standards. I can’t blame the resort as not sure many tourists go there except for Phi Ta Khon.
Staff –5/10 There seem to be delays for most requests we made by calling the front desk, sometimes as long as 45 minutes. This is the busiest time of the year for them but we’re playing 4 times the usual rate so think they should hire a few extra staff. Even my nanny & I had delays and we both speak Thai.Ingphu Resort (Ingphuresortdansai.com – in Thai only)
-About 7km away from the town center, small rooms from $US15-20/nt but may be 4 times the rate during Phi Ta Khon.

Phupha Mok Valley (phuphamokvalley.com)
-About 20 minutes away from the town center, standard rooms to a house that sleeps 6 from $US35-110/nt and looks like they only add a US$15 surcharge to the rooms during Phi Ta Khon which is quite good value.

Phupha Nam Resort (phuphanamresort.com)
-About 20 minutes away from the town center, deluxe rooms to large 2 story suites with lovely balconies overlooking the valley from $US52-260/nt but may be significantly more during Phi Ta Khon.

 
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