Chak Phra Is a festival which takes place in Surat Thani, and marks the end of Phansa, a time during the monsoon season when monks traditionally retreat to their monasteries for three months. The name Chak Phra literally means “drawing the Buddha”, which is seen in the nature of the elaborate floats, where ornate dragons carry small shrines with Buddha images. People pack in between the floats, dropping coins into metal pots as monks who are seated on floats send out blessings in the form of small showers of water. The floats all follow a fairly similar style of 1-4 dragon heads coming out of the front, but vary greatly in the color and presentation, ranging from simple one tone whites,shreens and blues, to floats covered in sea shells. In addition to the land floats, there are more literal floats, highly decorated boats, also bearing Buddha images which float down the river and allow people to accrue karmic merit by making offerings and celebrating their presence.
The street, which on most weeknights is serene is filled with the citizenry of Surat. With the general public coming out to enjoy the festival, the street vendors follow, offering their traditionally wide variety of food from mysterious meats on a stick to delicious waffles and other fried goods. The atmosphere on the street is comfortable and friendly, even for a wide-eyed farang walking around taking too many pictures. All in all the Chak Phra festival of Surat Thani is a beautiful and very Thai experience.