On Friday November 3th, Loi Krathong is happening in Thailand. Loi Krathong is the festival of light. Loi means ‘float’ and krathong is the kind of lotus boat they use. The origin of the festival is unsure, some say it originated in Sukhothai, the old royal kingdom, others say it is an ode to the goddess of water. Certain is that it is celebrated on the night of the full moon of the 12th lunar month.
This year it will take place on November 3th. The festival is about letting the ‘krathong’ a lotus shaped boat, made of banana leafs, and decorated with a candle, some incense and some Thai money, to water. It is seen as an offering to Mae Khongka, the Mother of Water, as a thank you for the rice they have gained this season. For some it is also a symbolic gesture to send away the bad luck and anger of the person who lets the boat to water. If the candle on the krathong stays lit until the boat is out of sight, it means a year filled with good luck.
Normally, the krathong are let to water of rivers and small canals called ‘klongs’, nowadays it is also okay to do it on a lake or pond. Furthermore, the festival is extended with extra festivities such as krathong making competitions and a ‘Ram Wong’ dance performance. In Chiang Mai, they give another dimension to the festival, by letting lanterns fly away in the sky. This also sometimes happens in Bangkok, Phuket or Samui, but on a smaller scale.
Are you in Bangkok and want to celebrate this festival? The main event takes place at Asiatique, the big mall on the banks of the Chao Praya river. The former event zone is along the banks at Wat Saket in the old part of town, where there are still many festivities. Close to Khao San Road is the Phra Athit Pier, where there will also be a celebration.
Care for a quieter celebration? Many hotels on the banks of the river offer special events as well. You can enjoy a dinner, fireworks and Thai performance at many different hotels along the river, where it is much less crowded than on the banks of piers. Furthermore, there is the option to go downtown and celebrate at a pond in for example Lumpini Park, Benjasiri Park, or Benjakiti Park.
The main event at Asiatique is where the locals celebrate. The festival starts around sundown, and you can start by buying your own krathong. Furthermore, you can watch the krathong being made, or even give it a try yourself! At the boardwalk of Asiatique, the traditional story of Loi Krathong will be told by singing and dancing, you can let your krathong to water and there are fireworks.
In Chiang Mai, the festival is better known as Yee Peng, and the focus is more on flying lanterns than on floating ones. The festival lasts for several days here, starting on November 2nd, and lasting until November 4th. The festival starts off with a traditional opening, the lighting of the candles and a traditional Lanna dance, at the Three Kings Monument. After that there will be an opening ceremony and a Mr. And Miss Yee Peng Contest at the Lanna Folk Life Museum. On November 3rd, the ‘real’ festival takes place and sermons are held in several temples. At 19.00 hours, the lanterns are let in the sky from the Narawat bridge. On Saturday, there will be another moment to let the lanterns fly away.