February 14: Phuket's an island alight

PHUKET: February 14 it's that time of year again: a time to laugh and love for many, but certainly a time to live for all. That's a cue to power down your tablets and smartphones, and slap on your mojo suits. This year, it's not just Valentine's Day we have to look forward to tomorrow, but two more important, cultural holidays are also marked on the calendar for this coming Friday.3-4-1. In addition to the international day of love, this Friday is also being observed as an important Buddhist holiday, Makha Bucha, commemorating the initial assembly of the Gautama Buddha's first 1,250 disciples some 2,500 years ago.

Moreover, on the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, February 14, 2014 will mark the Lantern Festival, which marks the official end of the Spring Festival, signaled by the first full moon of the Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year (which began on the New Moon of January 31).For those who are still undecided on how best to spend this auspicious evening in Phuket, here's a list of itinerary suggestions and ideas for everyone couples and singles, rich and poor, alike. Romance 101: The moon will be bright and full on the evening of the 14, so it could just be your lucky night for love. Wooing is the name of the game, so be sure to remember the two (controllable) golden elements: food and mood. While a meaningful, mutual culinary affair is going to cost you one way or another if not money, then certainly time setting the right mood can be a little bit easier if not cheaper to facilitate. For starters, bring your date on a pre-sunset stroll through King's Park (map here) or Saphan Hin Park in Phuket Town, for example, or along any one of the many beaches across the island, chatting about the birds and the bees, waves crashing on the shore as the velvet dusk slowly engulfs a fiery horizon you get the point.

Another romantic walk would be a promenade among the Chinese Lanterns strung throughout Phuket Town for Chinese New Year. The reflection of the moody red light cast from the paper lanterns glistening in each other's eyes could add a romantic twinkle to your evening.And if your date's not up for the walk, two words (or one really) viewpoint. Phuket has many of them, all along the west coast (near Kamala and Kata, for example), with some hidden gems along the virgin northeast coast, and definitely refreshing views from the two main hills in town, likewise.Fingers interlocked, the sun has set, it's time for food. If you can afford to spend a little more on wining and dining, all the more conducive for love love love Phuket is certainly a culinary haven with just about everything on the menu.

Important: before you make reservations, find out if your date has any particular diet restrictions. Trust me, you don't want to pull off their blinds as you arrive to your favorite seafood restaurant only to find out he/she is a vegan. The less "fails" you have on the night, the better shot you have at getting the sparks flying. Do your homework!Scratch the indoor, shopping center restaurants and try to pick somewhere open-air, or with huge windows or a skylight offering visual access to the cosmos. Viewpoint restaurants (such as those on Khao Rang, Tor Sae and Big Buddha hills, for example) are ideal. Allow the stars and moon beams to work their wonders.For those of you (like the author) who aren't looking forward to any date on Friday night, treat yourself anyway. Most local eateries will be business as usual on Friday, and Valentine's Day is hardly more than a fad in Thailand anyway, so you won't really stand out eating by yourself on this day.But if you're shy still, plan on an early dinner to avoid the crowds. In addition to couples, many Chinese families will be out for a feast (some at home, some on outings) in observance of the initial moon after the spring festival. Everyone should start to come out around 7 or 8pm. Makha Bucha Candles won't only be alight at dining tables this Friday evening, but at all the local Buddhist temples as well. Head to the nearest Wat for a candlelight procession that will take place on Friday night.

There are three major Buddhist holidays in Thailand when the candle procession takes place: Makha Bucha Day, Visakha Bucha and Asalaha Bucha.Each holiday falls on the night of a full moon and each commemorates an important event in Buddhist literature. Makha Bucha is to commemorate the first 1,250 enlightened disciples who came to learn the "Middle Path" and "Triple Gem" teachings of the Gautama Buddha in Northern India more than two and a half melenia ago.The candle procession involves encircling the Ubosot or ordination hall three times with a candle and three joss sticks the number three symbolizing Buddhism's triple gem the Buddha (enlightened one), the Dharma (teachings) and the Sangha (community of followers).

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