The Phi Ta Khon festival is unique to the Dan Sai district in Loei Province and reflects the local Isan belief in ghosts and spirits. Held once a year, it is part of a grand merit-making festival known as the "Boon Luang" festival.

The origins of the Phi Ta Khon Festival can be found in the tale of Lord Buddha's last great incarnation before attaining Enlightenment. In Buddhist accounts, it is said that when Prince Vessandara, the Buddha's penultimate incarnation, returned to his city, it was such a joyous occasion that the village spirits came forth to join the welcoming parade. This very colourful and vibrant Phi Ta Khon procession is the central focus of the celebrations.

In a lively re-enactment of the tale, the young men of the community dress up as "spirits" wearing long trailing costumes made from colourful strips of cloth sewn together.

The hideous-looking Phi Ta Khon mask which is made of dried sticky rice husk is painted in bright red, green or other colours, and features the characteristic long pointed nose. This completes the transformation. The clanging sound of the square cowbells worn around the waist announces the presence of the spirits who wield phallic-shaped long-handled swords decorated with red paint. The good-natured, fun-loving spirits mingle among the crowd, teasing and amusing all who take part in the procession. Spectators and visitors are welcome to join in the fun.

There are two types of "spirits" featured in the Phi Ta Khon procession namely the "Phi Ta Khon Yai" the supreme Phi Ta Khon, and the "Phi Ta Khon Lek", the ones that are commonly found. The making of the Phi Ta Khon Yai involves the performance of a sacred ritual to seek the blessings of the supreme powers before work on the Phi Ta Khon Yai masks can be initiated. It is also a task reserved exclusively for the descendants of families in which the tradition of making Phi Ta Khon masks has been practised for several generations. The Phi Ta Khon Yai is made of bamboo and is dressed in either male or female attire.

July 26-28, 2009, Dan Sai District, Loei District and Province

Contact information:
Accommodation in Dan Sai District

- Phu Pha Nam Resort Tel: 042 078078-9
- Rang Yen Resort Tel: 042 809511 3, 042 809514
- Lay Leelawadee Resort Tel: 042 801277
- SB Resort Tel: 042 891918
- Na Thum Nam Taeng Homestay Tel: 042 892339,891583, 042 086 8624812

Accommodation in Phu Ruea District
- Phu Dara Resort Tel: 042 801138-9
- Phu Ruea Busba Tel: 042 899330, 042 899229
- Phu Ruea Resort Tel: 042 899048, 042 899042
- Baan Thongchai Resort Tel: 042 899116

Contact information:
Tourism Authority of Thailand, Loei Office

Pattaya Daily News