Thao Thepkasattri-Thao Sri Suntorn Festival or Thao Thep Festival is one of the island’s major festivals and covers many cultural and sporting activities. The festival features bicycle racing, a takraw (volleyball played with the feet) tournament, a tug o’ war, a mini-marathon as well as an ‘uppasombot moo’ (Buddhist ordination) ceremony.
The festival lasts for about two weeks and takes place in March to commemorate victory over the Burmese army led by Phuket’s ‘two heroines’. The event takes place in various locations in Thalang area, north of Phuket including Heroines’ Monument and Wat Pranangsang.
The highlight of the festival is a spectacular historical show about the history of Phuket. Over 200 years ago, two sisters Thao Thep Krasatri and Thao Sri Suntorn rallied the islanders to defend Phuket from Burmese troops. The open-air re-enactment of the event with a cast of 300 actors usually runs for three nights during the festival, starting at 20:30 – 23:00 at the Thalang Victory Memorial Field.
This live production has been going on since 1980 and it’s all arranged by the island’s community. The pre-production processes are completed at least a few months in advance and they include transforming a huge empty field into a royal palace and a war zone. As for the cast, they’re never short of a few extra hands on set. It’s all executed by amateur actors and actresses; local people from all walks of life – villagers, students, policemen, army officers, businessmen and media people, just to name a few.
The lighting and sound effects are impressive and each year the audience cannot help but admire the vibrant sound of thunder and big guns.
The Thao Thep Fair is aimed mainly for locals, but visitors are welcome to go along as well. The organisers invite nearby hotels to bring their guests to this free-entrance festival but an interpreter might be necessary to help you appreciate it better. Some aspects of the fair are quite unique and rare – so much so that even new-generation Thais might never have experienced them before.
Activities include a Thai boxing ‘wai kru’ ceremony (a demonstration of respect by boxers to their teachers), a sword-dancing show, shadow puppet shows and traditional lullaby singing. There’s also lots of local cuisine and ‘OTOP’ products (such as batik, silk and wooden decorative items) are for sale at the fair, too.
Location: Thalang Victory Memorial Field, Heroine’s Monument and Wat Pranangsang, all in the Thalang area, north of Phuket Town.