If you’re near Ubon in early July, you should definitely consider coming into town for the local Asanha Puja festivities, an auspicious Buddhist holiday celebrated all over Thailand to mark the beginning of Khao Pansa, the annual three-month Buddhist retreat. Ubon’s version is the most spectacular in the country, famous for the majestic orange beeswax sculptures created by each of its temples, which are mounted on floats around enormous candles and paraded through the town – hence the tourist name for the celebrations, the Ubon Candle Festival. The sculptures are judged and then returned to the temple, where the candle is usually kept burning throughout the retreat period. The end of the retreat, Awk Pansa (early to mid-Oct), is also exuberantly celebrated with a procession of illuminated boats, each representing one of the city’s temples, along the Mun River between Wat Suphat and the night market, as well as beauty contests, parades and lots of fireworks throughout the city, and likay theatre shows in Thung Si Muang Park. Traditional longboat races are staged on the river in the days following Awk Pansa.

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