One of the most spectacular festivals celebrated anywhere in Asia is the evening of Loy Krathong. Every year on the night of the twelfth lunar month – usually November – at the end of the rainy season when the full moon lights up the sky, Thai gather around lakes, rivers and canals to pay respects to the goddess of water. But it’s the way they pay their respects that is so spectacular.
All over Thailand, thousands of Krathongs – beautiful lotus shaped rafts, decorated with candles, incense and flowers – are released onto the water. The sight of thousands of rafts lit by their flickering candles and drifting as a fleet of tiny lights far towards the horizon is a truly magical sight. In Thai ’loy’ means to float, while a ’krathong’ is a small container – traditionally made from a piece of banana tree trunk – containing a candle, incense and flowers.
The history behind the festival is a little complex and Thais celebrate the festival for different reasons from region to region. Coming after the main rice harvest season, some thank the Water Goddess for a year’s worth of hydration for their crops and as an apology for polluting her waters.
Others believe that the festival is the time to symbolically ‘float away’ all anger or old grudges you’re holding onto. Placing a fingernail or a lock of hair onto your Krathong is seen as a way of letting go of the dark side of yourself, to start a new free of negative feelings.
If your candle stays alight until your Krathong disappears out of sight, its interpreted to mean a year of good luck. Traditionally, Thais release their krathongs into rivers and small canals called ‘klongs’. Many places host a string of cultural activities, such as ‘Ram Wong’ dance performances, krathong-making competitions and a beauty contest.
The main Loy Krathong celebration takes place in Bangkok and is held at Asiatique. There are huge celebrations in all the major tourist centres, like Chiang Mai and Phuket, as well as on Islands like Koh Samui and Phi-phi.
If you’re travelling through Thailand during the festival, make sure you book ahead as it’s a very busy time. Prices tend to surge around Loy Krathong – especially in the tourist centres – so be aware.
The best plan is to find a bar or restaurant with a great view of a river, lake or canal and set yourself up for the evening. You’ll have to keep snacking or drinking to keep the table, but you’ll get a great view of the festival without having to fight the crowds.
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