Si Satchanalai Elephant Back Ordination Procession

Haat Siao Elephant Festival
Si Satchanalai Elephant-Back Ordination Procession is a fun annual festival that takes places on April 7th in Baan Hat Siao, where elephants with painted suits parade into the river and out on the street. The sunglasses-donning guys on elephant-back dressed in equally colorful clothing are monks-to-be, with shaved heads under their fancy hats.

Locals dressed in purple shirts embroidered with the logo of the festival spray water at the elephants and sing & dance to live band processions ahead of the multicolored elephants. They might even invite you to down some Thai whiskey shots!

How to get to Hat Siao
bus to Hat Siao
bus from stop #15
From Sukhothai Bus Terminal, take an air-conditioned bus from Bus Stop #15 at 12:30 pm.

Hat Siao is 14 km past Si Satchanalai Historical Park so it takes an hour and 20 minutes from Sukhothai.

The bus fare is 50 baht and can be bought on the bus or from a man sitting by the bus stop.

bus drop off point for the festival

If you don't want to take the bus, you can rent a motorbike for 200 baht and follow the map to the north. A taxi driver at Sukhothai Bus Terminal quoted us 800 baht to go to the festival, but I think it can probably be bargained down.

The "official bus stop" is still a while from where the parade takes place, so make sure you tell the bus driver you want to see "Chang" (elephant) and he'll drop you off right where the action starts - by Pisandamri Road, next to a market and diagonally across the street from Gold Textile Museum.

You'll know you're at the right place because there will be lots of locals waiting in the shade, many wearing purple shirts embroidered with the logo of the festival. There were only a handful of foreigners around.

Since the parade didn't really start until around 3 pm, we had an hour to kill. Have a wander in the local market or cross the street to the Gold Textile Museum, which is free to enter and has nice cool ceiling fans inside, as well as photos of how the monks-to-be came to be dressed up in this special fashion. There were also lots of street vendors around selling drinks, snacks, and ice cream bars.
The elephants are coming !!
Si Satchanalai Elephant Festival Si Satchanalai Elephant-Back Ordination Procession
Shortly before 3 pm, we heard very loud music from across the street - that's where the elephants were coming from! The elephant moved very slowly so there was plenty of time to follow the processions. At 3:15 pm, 15 elephants started going down to the river in a line. Around 3:30 pm, the elephants slowly came back out one by one.
Si Satchanalai Elephant Back Ordination Procession Si Satchanalai Elephant Parade
Sukhothai Elephant Festival Sukhothai Elephant Parade
Hat Siao Elephant Festival Hat Siao Elephant Parade

the unmarked returning bus stop
After coming out of the river, the elephants paraded down the main street where the bus from Sukhothai came from. Follow them because the bus returning to Sukhothai is in the same direction, by Thessaban Soi 10. Around 4:20 pm, everyone in the parade turned into the side street directly across from the bus stop, signalling the end of the festivities.

The air-conditioned bus back to Sukhothai is at 4:30 pm - it might be late though. Buy tickets on the bus.