Loi Krathong, also spelled Loy Krathong, is not only one of the most picturesque times to be in Thailand, but also a time to celebrate Thai culture and partake in personal reflection and self-renewal.
Every year, Loi Krathong falls on the night of the twelfth lunar month (usually in November), at the end of the rainy season when the full-moon lights up the sky. The sight of thousands of Krathongs, their flickering candles sending a thousand pinpoints of light far into the horizon is a truly magical site, and there are plenty of places around Thailand where you can get involved with the festivities.
What is Loi Krathong?
The history behind the festival is complex, and Thais celebrate for many reasons. The main rice harvest season has ended and it’s time to thank the Water Goddess for a year’s worth of her abundant supply, as well as an apology for polluting the waters. Some believe that this is the time to symbolically ‘float away’ all the anger and grudges you have been holding onto, and including something like a lock of hair is seen as a way of letting go of the dark side of yourself, to start anew free of negative feelings. If your candle stays alight until your Krathong disappears out of sight, it means a year of good luck!
Traditionally, Thais release their krathongs into rivers and small canals called ‘klongs’. Today, a pond or lake is also good. Many places host a string of cultural activities, such as ‘Ram Wong’ dance performances, krathong-making competitions and a beauty contest. People have started releasing lanterns in Bangkok, but this is only a small part of the festival. For the full lantern experience, head up to Chiang Mai for ‘Yee Peng’ festival, although people often fly lanterns in Phuket and Samui, too.
What is a Krathong?
There is no equivalent word in English for ‘krathong’. You may hear people referring to it as a small boat, vessel, receptacle or container. In the run-up to the festival, many shops and market stalls will display ready-made Krathongs, or in parts so you can assemble and decorate as you wish. In the past, krathongs were made from natural materials – usually a section from a banana tree trunk, crafted into a lotus shape by using folded banana leaves, and these can still be found for sale around the main festival sites. More recently, Thais have become more creative in their craft and design the krathongs from coconut shells, flowers, baked bread, potato slices, some breaking with the conventional lotus leaf shape in favor of turtles and other sea creatures.
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Where can you celebrate Loi Krathong in Thailand?
If you are ready experience Loi Krathong the way the locals do, head to Asiatique, the riverfront night market, which is where you will find the biggest crowds and some impressive shows. Be warned that traffic in the area will be very bad and there will be long queues to take the shuttle boat in front of Saphan Taksin BTS Station.
The action kicks off around sunset, and there are plenty of krathongs to buy around the river, you can even watch the traditional banana leaf folding method, or have a go yourself. The large boardwalk area in front of Asiatique will host the main events, including the retelling of the Loi Krathong story via music and dance, a launch site for your krathongs, an illuminated float procession and a firework display. If the crowds here sound too much, there are plenty of other spots along the Chao Phraya river to watch the festivities from.
Previously it was held along the banks of Wat Saket in the Old City, which is still a popular place to celebrate. For anyone around Khao San Road, head to the nearby Phra Athit Pier.
Many hotels in Bangkok host a Loi Krathong event at their swimming pool area (contact your hotel for more information). You can try your hand at Loi Krathong, or even the traditional ‘Ram Wong’ dance, without fighting your way through crowds of people outside the hotel grounds.
At Suan Nakarapirom in Phra Nakhon district, visitors will be brought back into the charming old Thai atmosphere when people clad in the traditional Thai costumes and take part in cultural activities of Rattanakosin period with the highlight – a Loi Krathong ceremony in ancient Thai style – scheduled to take place on the full-moon night of 25 November. Meanwhile, several fun-filled cultural activities dedicated to Loi Krathong will also be featured at the Public park near Rama 8 bridge. Throughout three nights, there will be an illuminated boat procession to light up the River of Kings with seven illuminated boats set to run from Bangkok Bridge to Rama 8 bridge nightly.
The River Festival 2015, hosted by Thai Beverage, will be held at seven unique spots along the Chao Phraya river including four temples – Wat Arun Ratchawararam, Wat Chetupon Wimonmangkhlaram, Wat Prayurawongsawas, and Wat Kalayanamit Woramahawihan – and three riverside attractions – Tha Maharat, Yodpiman Riverwalk, and Asiatique the River Front. Each of the venue will feature Thai way of life and cultural performances. Free charter boat services will be available on two routes: the Yodpiman Riverwalk – Asiatique route; and the Yodpiman-Tha Tien (Wat Pho)-Tha Maharat-Wat Arun-Wat Prayurawongsawas route.
Sukhotai Loi Krathong and Candle Festival
Home of the Loi Krathong festival in Thailand, no wonder Sukhothai Historical Park in Tambon Mueangkao, Mueang district, will be the venue for biggest light and sound show, spectacularly portraying the legend of this lovely festival of lights. Other surrounding events to take place during 21-25 November include Khan Toke dinner, display of ancient Sukhothai market and traditional Thai ways of life, Kratong competition, beauty pageants, Thai classical music and cultural performances and firework display.
Tak Loi Krathong Sai Festival
Each year, Tak will celebrate the annual Loi Krathong Sai or the floating of a thread of krathongs made from coconut shells, along with the competition of floating a train of 1,000 glittering lanterns or coconut-shell krathongs for a royal trophy. The festival normally takes place on the bank of the Ping River, Rattanakosin 200 years Bridge, Tak and this year the schedule is during 21-26 November. The celebrations will begin with a day of traditional procession of krathongs. Throughout the six-day event, local and international visitors will get the chance to experience the floating of Krathong Sai, light-and-sound presentation, fireworks display and several cultural performances and contests.
Chiang Mai Yi Peng Festival 2015
Yi Peng or Lantern Festival is Chiang Mai’s own version of Loi Krathong. On the full moon night, participants usually let go of the krathong into rivers but local Chiang Mai people will converge to release the ‘Khom Loi’ (lit lanterns) into the night sky, creating spectacular atmostphere. Prior to the fascinating spectacle, the monks will perform chants during on-stage ceremony, making the overall setting joyful and serene unlike anywhere else. Yi Peng Festival will be celebrated during 22-26 November at the old Tha Phae Gate. This year, there will be Kratong contest to get the Royal Trophy of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Other activities include colourful parades, musical performances, beauty pageants, traditional dances, lantern-making contests, fireworks, and lots of food.
Loi Krathong Tam Prathip Festival 2015
Bangsai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre is the centre of Loi Krathong celebrations where visitors will be taken back to the glorious past of Ayutthaya kingdom on this atmospheric night. The celebration is scheduled during 21-25 November and there will also be the beauty queens or Miss Nopphamat contest, traditional music contest amid the relaxing surroundings of a floating market demonstration, as well as a colourful fireworks display, and art and cultural performances throughout the five-day event.
Samut Songkram: Kab Kluay Mueang Maeklong Festival
The venue at King Rama 2 Memorial Park, Samut Songkhram Province is where tourists can enjoy another unique experience Loi Krathong on the night of 25 November. Be amazed with more than 200,000 pieces of Krathong made of banana trunk as they set floats on the river, while also see the Kratong contests and illuminated boat procession which the winners will be awarded with Royal Trophy of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, enjoy Thai folk shows, Noppamas beauty pageant, kratong-making demonstration, and offering food to Buddhist monks along the river.
Ratchaburi Loi Krathong Si and Loi Krathong Sai Mon
Local people of Ratchaburi has its own unique way of celebrating Loi Krathong. According to the traditional belief of ethnic Mon people, on this glorious night, they will light the candle around the temple’s bot and viharn buildings as if giving new blessings to life, followed by the floating of krathongs made from colourful papers which will take place at Wat Sai Areerak on Chokchai Road, Photharam district. Another venue for Loi Krathong celebration is at Wat Ban Muang in Ban Pong district where visitors can see the traditional Mon style of Loi Krathong Sai, along with other activities such as Junior Noppamas beauty contest and cultural shows.
Yi Peng and Loi Krathong Sai at Thai Thani Arts and Culture Village
Pattaya’s newest tourist attraction, Thai Thani Arts and Culture Village has scheduled to organise a special Loi Krathong festival that combines unique celebrations indigenous to Chiang Mai and Tak to showcase the culture, traditions and history of one of Thailand’s most celebrated and impressive events. The Yi Peng and Loi Krathong Sai at Thai Thani Arts and Culture Village is to take place on 25 November, 2015 from 18.00 hrs. onwards. Visitors are encouraged to wear Thai traditional costume to enjoy the Loi Krathong ceremony in ancient Thai style.
All of Phuket’s major west coast beaches take part in Loy Kratong festivities, with a mix of locals and tourists. Nai Harn Lake and Patong Beach usually have the most activity with locals visiting beaches like Kata and Karon.
Two sites in Phuket Town: Saphan Hin Park and Suan Luang (King Rama IX) Park, are also popular places for locals to celebrate. Expect big crowds at both of these locations.