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Nine Places for Your New Year Spiritual Experience

The year 2018 is coming to an end, and while it’s perfect to celebrate with a night-long party and unwinding, some Thais prefer to welcome 2019 with self-reflection and a little touch of spirituality. New Year Praying (สวดมนต์ข้ามปี)is a tradition that is practiced by many Thai Buddhists. On New Year’s Eve, worshippers will gather at sacred sites to meditate and chant prayers throughout the night as they wait for the New Year to arrive.

Thailand Today presents to you “Nine Places for Your New Year Spiritual Experience”. If you are in need of some luck for 2019, or just want to cleanse yourself off from the bad vibes you have accumulated throughout 2018, then sit tight and go through this list we’ve compiled. It might just be what you’re looking for.

1. Wat Phra That Hariphunchai, Lamphun Province

Wat Phra That Hariphunchai is an ancient temple located in Mueang Lamphun District, Lamphun Province. The temple is famous for the Phra That Hariphunchai, a large 9th century stupa that houses the sacred relics of Lord Buddha.  Participants of the 2019 New Year Praying ceremony at Wat Phra That Hariphunchai are also invited to participate in the ritual of hanging 84,000 bells around Phra That Hariphunchai stupa. This act is believed to help invite happiness and good luck for the upcoming year.

2. Wat Puak Chang, Chiang Mai Province

            The New Year Praying Ceremony at Wat Puak Chang in Mueang District, Chiang Mai Province is perfect for those who are seeking a spiritual experience, while also looking for a good spot for selfies. The temple has set up a light tunnel and a stunning display of traditional paper lanterns and flags for visitors to enjoy. If you feel like taking things to another level, you can also purchase your own paper lantern and flag to hang within the temple grounds. This act is believed to provide you with protection and success for the upcoming year. The light tunnel and lantern-flag display will be open for public viewing from 30 – 31 December 2018, 8:00 pm – 22:00 pm.

3. Nakhon Phanom Countdown 2019, Nakhon Phanom Province

            Nakhon Phanom Countdown 2019 will be held from 29 December 2018 – 1 January 2019 at the Phanom Naga Yard in Mueang Nakhon Phanom District, Nakhon Phanom Province, right by the Mekong River. Highlights of the fair will include musical performances, street food stalls, and light decorations. The New Year Praying Ceremony will be held on the night of 31 December 2018, followed by a ceremony of offering food to monks the next morning.

4. Pha Taem National Park, Ubon Ratchathani Province

            Pha Taem National Park in Ubon Ratchathani Province is famous for its fauna and 3,000-year-old rock paintings. The “2019 Count Down at Pha Taem” is a perfect match between faith and recreation. Those who are seeking a festive experience can enjoy shows from famous Thai celebrities, while those seeking a more spiritual experience can participate in the New Year praying and other religious activities. A must-see highlight for all visitors is the traditional ceremony of sending off the last light and welcoming the first light of the year. The sight of the sun setting and rising over the majestic terrain of Pha Taem National Park will surely take your breath away.

5. Sanam Luang, Bangkok

            The 2018 - 2019 New Year Praying Ceremony at Sanam Luang, Bangkok is a part of the Ministry of Culture’s nation-wide New Year Praying activities/ceremonies, to honor past Thai kings, His Majestythe King, and the Royal Family. On 29 December 2018, sacred relics and Buddha images from Thailand and 12 other countries will be transported from Maha Chetsadabodin Pavilion Courtto Sanam Luang in a grand procession. The relics and Buddha images will remain at Sanam Luang for public worship from 29 December 2018 – 1 January 2019. A New Year Praying Ceremony will be held on the night of 31 December 2018.  After 1 January 2019, the relics and Buddha images will be transported to the Bangkok National Museum, where they will remain until 15 January 2019. 

6. Wat Arun, Bangkok

            As the setting for one of the most iconic sunset sceneries in Bangkok, Wat Arun is a perfect spot to watch the last light of the year fade away. Settle in to watch the sun slowly fall behind the temple’s famous stupa, casting golden beams of light upon the surface of Chao Phraya River. Afterwards, join the New Year Praying Ceremony, where participants will chant the Itipiso prayer for 108 times. The Itipiso is an ancient prayer to praise the Three Refuge (Three Jewels of Buddhism): Lord Buddha, Dharma (teachings of Lord Buddha), and Sangha (community of monks). Thais believe that chanting the Itipiso 108 times will generate positive energy, dispel evil, and provide protection against all harms. 

7. Phutthamonthon, Nakhon Pathom Province

            Phutthamonthon is a Buddhist park in the Phutthamonthon District, Nakhon Pathom Province. It is famous for its 52ft high statue of Lord Buddha that was designed by Corrado Feroci, an Italian artist known by Thai people as Silpa Bhirasri. The 2019 New Year Praying Ceremony at Phutthamonthon will include activities such as chanting, meditation, listening to sermons, and offering votive candles to Buddha images.

8. Rayong Province

            Rayong Province is a popular destination for tourists during the New Year’s season. This year, the Tourism Authority of Thailand is promoting a campaign of “Surprise Rayong.” Travelers are invited to come and unwind at beautiful beaches, experience local life along Yomjinda Road, and visit the statue of Thai poet Sunthorn Phu.  Those who would like to attend New Year Praying Ceremony can do so almost anywhere. There are around 250 temples across Rayong that will be holding the ceremony such as Wat Noen Phra in Mueang Rayong District, Wat Nong Kan Kraoin Klaeng District, Wat Phananikhom in Nikhom Phatthana District, etc. Take your pick!

9. Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan, Nakhon Si Thammarat Province

Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan is a temple in Nakhon Si Thammarat Province that houses the Phra Borommathat Chedi, a stupa built in the early 13th century. The temple has been holding annual New Year Praying Ceremony for many years. Participants will get to chant prayers and also perform walking meditation around the Phra Borommathat Chedi. Those who are seeking divine aid for the upcoming year can pay respect to the various deities that are enshrined at the temple. The most famous are Lord Jatukham and Lord Rammathep, the deified spirits of two ancient princes whose statues guard the Phra Borommathat Chedi. Other shrines at the temple include, among others, the shrine of the monk Kātyāyana, the statue of King Taksin, and the statue of King Sri Dhammasokaraja.

There we have it, nine stunning places for your New Year’s spiritual experience. Even if you are not Buddhist or particularly religious, getting to observe this unique tradition would certainly bring your Thailand travel experience to a deeper, more meaningful level. If you decide to take part in a New Year Praying Ceremony, just remember to show respect by wearing clothing that covers the shoulder and pants/skirt that cover the knees. White is generally the preferred color of attire.

Enjoy yourself and have a Happy New Year!

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