Loy Krathong Festival is one of the most visually breath-taking festivals on the Asian continent. Situated in Bangkok, Loy Krathong is where people come together to celebrate the goddess of water through various offerings. Here we delve a little further into the history of the festival, what exactly Krathong is, and where and when you can enjoy the festivities when travelling in Thailand.
The History of Loy Krathong
Like many things in history, the story of Loy Krathong is complex. The basic premise is that it is held that the time when the rice harvest season ends, and its purpose is to thank the water goddess for her supplies over the previous year. It is believed that Krathong was established by Nang Noppams or Tao Sri Chulalak. Controversially it is not a national holiday, but you may be fooled with the amount going on.
What is interesting however, is that it is not just a way of displaying thankfulness, but of admitting wrong, and apologising for the polluting of the rivers and oceans. The Krathongs drifting into the horizon on the water are said to be a metaphor for letting go of all the negativity that may have plighted individuals over the last 12 months.
One particularly interesting tradition is including a fingernail and lock of hair in your offering to let go of your ‘darkness’. It is said to be good luck only if your candle stays alight until out of sight. People take part to try and bring about good fortune upon themselves in romance and in family. It is said the direction in which the Krathong floats is key as to whether it will strengthen or weaken your desired relationships.
The festival is more than the release of the lanterns however, with various other cultural displays occurring throughout the period and across the country.
One example is the Ram Wong dance performance which is very popular with tourists. There are also krathong making competitions which are taken very seriously by the locals, and a series of beauty contests which are another Thai favourite.
What is Krathong?
At the time of Loy Krathong, you can see thousands of brightly coloured Krathongs and their fluttering candles soaring across the sky, deep into the horizon. A site truly majestic, and a once in a lifetime opportunity, Loy Krathong is the pinnacle of Thai festivals. Thais and visitors are invited to release their krathongs into a body of water, traditionally rivers or canals called ‘klongs’ but today this can also be a pond or a lake. The Krathongs themselves are untranslatable to English, but they are in essence, a small boat, that you decorate as you see fit. Historically made from natural materials such as banana leaves, Krathongs such as this can be found for sale around the party sites. Now you can see boats made of coconut shells, flowers, and even bread or potato. Some true Thai innovation on display with some even opting for turtle and other sea animal shapes.
When and where to enjoy the festival in Phuket?
Annually, the Loy Krathong is usually held in November – the twelfth lunar month which happens to be at the end of monsoon season. It now can be seen in Thai capital Bangkok where the main festival has been held at Asiatique since 2013, which is where the largest number of locals congregate to celebrate around the night market. There are a series of impressive shows hosted in the area and because of this it can be a bit of a logistical nightmare travelling in and out of the merriments. The party starts at sunset.
The festival also manifests itself in Phuket and Samui, but for the full authentic experience it is advised to go up to Chiang Mai for the Yee Peng festival. A number of hotels now replicate proceedings at the hotel pool, however for the full experience it is best to go to one of the local celebrations. A hotel version can however include a spectacular firework display and a special feast and so it depends what you want to get from your festival experience.
If you want to head to the riverside, then Asiatique, Wat Saket, PhraAthit Pier, or Maharaj Lifestyle Mall are the locations to aim for. There are also many lakes that are popular for festival goers to release their offerings for the water goddess. There is Lumpini Park, Benjasiri Park, and Benjakiti Park.
Bangkok Hotels with events around the festival include Anantara Riverside, Shangri La Hotel, and the Mandarin Oriental.
So although the monsoon season may not be the obvious choice timing wise for a trip to Thailand, Loy Krathong Festival makes it worth the journey. It is at this time that you can really get a true glimpse of the exquisite intricacy of Thai cultural history, and moreover take part in some of the traditions which make it such a magnificent place to visit.