Dancing with Ghosts
The Phi Ta Khon festival, or the Ghost Festival of Thailand, is a reflection of the Northern Thai culture and their beliefs in spirits and the supernatural. Held in the province of Loei in north-eastern Thailand, this festival takes places over the course of three days and involves everything from locals dressed as long-nosed ghosts in colourful costumes. On the first day (most important) of the festival, locals engage in rituals to invite Phra U-pakut, the spirit of the Mun river (sometimes spelled Moon River), hoping that it will protect them from danger and misfortune.
It also involves a parade of people dressed in colourful clothing made of rice husks and coconut leaves, hats made from rice steamers and patchwork.
The inspiration for this celebration comes from an old tale where Buddha (in one of his past lives as a prince) made a long journey and was presumed dead. When he finally returned, the people rejoiced and celebrated with such rowdiness as to wake the dead. The second day of the festival is celebrated with costumes, dance contests and numerous food stalls selling delicious snacks and on the third day, the Buddhist monks hold special sermons.