- An illuminated boat drifts past Wat Arun, one of the most striking landmarks in Bangkok on Loi Krathong night. An illuminated boat drifts past Wat Arun, one of the most striking landmarks in Bangkok on Loi Krathong night.
- Buddhist monks release lanterns into the sky in the Loi Krathong Festival at Wat Phan Tao in Chiang Mai. Buddhist monks release lanterns into the sky in the Loi Krathong Festival at Wat Phan Tao in Chiang Mai.
- An illuminated giant krathong is floated in the pond in Sukhothai Historical Park. An illuminated giant krathong is floated in the pond in Sukhothai Historical Park.
- Illuminated lanterns are floated in the pond in front of Wat Sa Si in Sukhothai Historical Park on Loi Krathong night. Illuminated lanterns are floated in the pond in front of Wat Sa Si in Sukhothai Historical Park on Loi Krathong night.
- Local people in Tak province float their krathongs one after another in the long line onto the Ping River. (photo by courtesy of TAT) Local people in Tak province float their krathongs one after another in the long line onto the Ping River. (photo by courtesy of TAT)
- Cultural performances are presented on stage on the bank of Ping River, filled with glittering coconut-shell krathongs. Cultural performances are presented on stage on the bank of Ping River, filled with glittering coconut-shell krathongs.
The Most Romantic Festival of Thailand
On the night of Loi Krathong day, Thai people will go to the nearby river, canal, lake or pond, say their wishes and float their colourful krathongs on the water after lighting the candles. The word loi literally means “to float,” while krathong refers to the lotus-shaped container. So loi krathong simply means to float such container on the water. As the festival’s highlight is made by the lights from hundreds of candles that twinkle on the water, it is also known as the “Festival of Lights”.
This annual festival takes place on the evening of the full moon day of the 12th month in the Thai lunar calendar, which usually falls in November when the water level is high and the weather is pleasantly cool.
Origin of Loi Krathong
Like many other Thai festivals, Loi Krathong has an Indian and Brahmanical origin. In ancient India, people observed a similar festival by floating lamps on rivers to worship the Goddess of Water which, according to Brahmanism, is one of the four elements of nature, the others being earth, air and fire.
The precise origin of Loi Krathong festival is unclear, but according to legend, it is believed to have originated in the ancient capital of Sukhothai during the 13th - 14th century. A court lady called Nang (Miss) Noppamas, a consort of the King of Sukhothai, made the first decorated krathong as a gift for the king. Basically, the purposes of the festival are to pay homage to the Buddha’s footprint, to worship the goddess of water and to wash away sorrows.
Loi Krathong has been the most romantic festival of Thailand, especially in modern times. Almost without exception, young lovers will go out in pairs to spend the evening together, floating krathong, and enjoying many activities and entertainments such as live music and dance, cultural performances, krathong making contest and beauty contest.
Traditionally, the krathong is made from a cross section of a banana tree trunk and elaborately decorated with banana leaves and flowers. But some modern krathongs are often made of bread or Styrofoam. A bread krathong will soon disintegrate and be eaten by fish. The banana trunk krathongs are also biodegradable, but the use of Styrofoam krathongs is strongly discouraged by the government, since they pollute the water and are very difficult to decompose. Normally, people will put flowers, joss sticks, candles and coins into their krathongs, and make a wish before floating them on the river, canal or pond.
Places to Celebrate Loi Krathong
Thai people joyfully celebrate Loi Krathong festival in all cities nationwide. Apart from Bangkok, the festival is celebrated on a grand scale in these three northern provinces – Chiang Mai, Sukhothai, and Tak.
Bangkok (Nov 22)
There are various locations in Bangkok that you can participate and enjoy. Most Thai people flock to the banks of the Chao Phraya River to float their krathongs. The festivities, typically including music, dance, food stalls, and many fun-filled activities, will be grandly held in the following places:
- Rama VIII Bridge, near Phra Pin Klao Bridge
- Riverside shopping malls – Asiatique, the large open-air mall near Sathon Bridge; Yodpiman River Walk at Pak Khlong Talad Pier; Maharaj Lifestyle Mall near Wat Phra Kaew
- Riverside hotels – Most hotels located along the Chao Phraya River host a special event to celebrate Loi Krathong with traditional Thai buffets, traditional Thai dances, and delightful music.
- Riverside temples – Wat Pho, Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), Wat Saket, Wat Kalaya and Wat Prayoon.
- Public parks – Lumpini Park, Santichaiprakan Park (near Phra Arthit pier), Benjakitti Park and Benjasiri Park are lovely places to float krathongs in the pond.
Chiang Mai (Nov 21 – 23)
In Chiang Mai, Loi Krathong is uniquely celebrated alongside the Yi Peng Festival, which involves the launching of thousands of paper lanterns into the air for good luck. It is believed that by sending off these lanterns, a person can send one’s sins and bad luck into the air. Houses and temples are decorated with lanterns during this period too.
There is a parade of giant illuminated krathongs passing through Tha Phae Road before being floated on the Ping River. Besides, there are fun-filled activities every night, such as Miss Noppamas beauty contest, krathong parade contest, fireworks, live music and cultural performances.
The focus of celebrations are around Chiang Mai Municipality and Nawarat Bridge which connects Tha Phae Road on the western side of the Ping River with Charoen Muang Road on the other side. It is the best place to see the floating krathongs, fireworks, and lanterns which are set afloat all along the riverside of the river Ping. Another place to see Yi Peng mass lantern release event in Chiang Mai is at Mae Jo University, situated about 20 km north of Chiang Mai town. Lanna Meditation Sanctuary, which is located at the back of the university, is the traditional venue for the yearly mass lantern release event to pay homage to Lord Buddha during Yi Peng Festival.
Wat Phan Tao, an old temple located on Phra Pok Klao Road, is another place that holds the spectacular Yi Peng Festival. Here the monks beautifully decorate the garden, hold candle lighting and meditation ceremony, and then release hundreds of lanterns into the sky.
Sukhothai (Nov 16 – 25)
At this old capital of Thailand, the Loi Krathong festival will be celebrated grandly for 10 days at the magnificent Sukhothai Historical Park, the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One of the main highlights is the spectacular light and sound show portraying the legend of this festival which is displayed at Wat Mahathat, a famous ancient temple in the historical park. At the end of the extravaganza, thousands of paper lanterns will be released into the night sky, illuminating the ancient ruins. A large number of visitors will come to the historical park with their krathongs made from either banana or palm leaves, and decorated with flowers, candles and joss sticks to send off onto the large pond in this historical site.
There are many events during the festival, for example, the showcases of old-style Sukhothai village and market, procession of large krathongs, procession of townspeople, all dressed in traditional costume, Miss Noppamas beauty contest, fireworks display, arts and crafts demonstrations, cultural performances, traditional music and dance, a night bazaar and many more activities.
Tak (Nov 18 – 22)
In Tak province, Loi Krathong is celebrated in a unique style which is called “loi krathong sai”, literally meaning “floating krathongs in line”. The event takes place on the banks of Ping River near the Rattanakosin 200-years Bridge.
What’s unique about the krathongs made here is that they are not made from banana tree trunks, but from coconut shell and filled with candle wax and candlewick. Instead of launching their krathongs freely anywhere, here the local people float their krathongs one after another continuously and let them sail down the Ping River in long straight lines, making the whole river sparkle with light.
Other remarkable activities include the procession of the royal krathongs, procession of lanterns, a light and sound presentation, fireworks and cultural shows.
If you want to join the festival in any of these provinces, we highly recommend that you make a hotel reservation as early as possible. So wherever you are on that day, you should go out in the evening to join the celebrations and float your own krathong, or at least to see this unique festival that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
- Schedules are subject to change without notice. For more information, please check with Tourism Authority of Thailand, tel. +66 (0) 2250 5500 or click www.tourismthailand.org. For package tours to Chiang Mai, Sukhothai and Tak
- provinces, please contact Alex Holiday Co., Ltd., Tel: +66(0) 2880 7388, +66(0)8 1818 3805 www.alexholiday.com