Photo: Morning shopping.

Phi Ta Khon Museum

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Set in the Wat Phon Chai compound, the Phi Ta Khon Museum displays the best of the area’s signature freaky costumes while explaining the traditions and beliefs that drive the Phi Ta Khon and Bun Luang festivities. When combined with two tranquil hilltop temples, the museum makes a stop in Dan Sai worthwhile at any time.

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They're a lot tamer here than at the festival.

They’re a lot tamer here than at the festival.

A substantial collection of Phi Ta Khon masks and costume are set up to look just like they would when strolling around the festival, making it easy to snap a selfie next to the ghoulishly grinning goblins. One display highlights the steps involved in crafting the masks, which consist of hollowed out coconut tree trunks topped by baskets normally used for steaming sticky rice. All of the above is decorated beyond the point of recognition.

The local people’s imaginative artistry is on full display here. Each mask is different from the next, relying on a broad range of bright colours and intricate details in the wide and toothy grins, elaborate headdresses and demonic eyes. If you’re in need of some ideas for a homemade Halloween costume that will actually freak out the trick-or-treaters, this is the place to be.

“So… You come here often?”

In addition to the typical tall-and-narrow masks and bright-flowing costumes, the museum houses examples of the giant male and female Phi Ta Khon that are special stars of the show. Many of these round-headed, angry-looking images are thrown into the Man River on the last day of the festival to symbolise a cleansing of bad luck, but a few end up here.

“Dad, is our family normal?”

The museum also features photos taken during recent times and in the past, showing how little the festival seems to have changed. Thoughtfully translated into English, information boards provide historical and religious background on the complex array of influences that come together for the combined Phi Ta Khon and Bun Luang festival. There’s also an itinerary highlighting the sequence of events.

Not your average Buddha.

Not your average Buddha.

After a stroll through the museum, pop into Wat Phon Chai to glimpse an unusually sinister-looking Buddha that befits the home of the “Ghost Festival.” Along with psychedelic swirls pulsing under the different Buddha postures representing each day of the week, you’ll find detailed murals of the Jataka tales that are central to the festival.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Dan Sai.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Dan Sai.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Dan Sai.
 Read up on how to get to Dan Sai, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Dan Sai? Please read this.
 Buy a SIM card for Thailand—pick it up at the airport when you arrive.
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