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Thailand’s Festival of Lights: Everything You Should Know About Loy Krathong

Photo by Robert Metz on Unsplash

If you happen to visit Thailand this November, there’s a fantastic festival you definitely can’t miss -Loy Krathong. Known as Thai Festival of Lights, Loy Krathong is one of Thailand’s most enchanting and the second best-known festival after its New Year’s festival Songkran. The Festival is held annually all over the country, as well as parts of Laos and Myanmar (Shan State) where it is called Tazaungdaing. Read on and find inspirations for how you can experience Loy Krathong as fully as possible.

What is Loy Krathong?

Krathong is a Thai term which refers to a piece of banana trunk decorated with flowers, banana leaves, candle and incense sticks. The word Loy means to float in the Thai language. When put together, those two terms simply mean floating banana trunk festival. Modern krathongs are mostly made out of bread or Styrofoam. But Styrofoam krathongs are sometimes not allowed as they pollute the water and they are difficult to decompose. Bread Krathongs are more environmentally friendly as they are biodegradable and in most cases eaten by fish.

Why do Thai people want to float a krathong? There are many stories regarding how the festival originated. One of the versions is that Thai people have long been closely involved with rivers for ages as Thailand is an agriculture based country. This means rivers are like their own blood veins. And to show respect to the river, basically the goddess of the river called Pra Mae Khongkha, Thai people decided to make a Krathong to worship and ask for forgiveness. The Thais now also see it as a time to wave goodbye to misfortune, wash away sins of the past year, and make wishes for the coming year.

When is Loy Krathong celebrated?

Loi Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In the western calendar, this usually falls in November. The exact date is announced a month before the festival.

Hence the following dates are not confirmed dates. They are the full moon days on which the festival is based.

Loy Krathong Dates :
2019: November 13
2020: November 1

Fun facts

  1. The four components of a krathong are symbols of Buddhism. The candle is a symbol of knowledge and wisdom. The joss stick is a symbol of purity and sympathy. The flower represents worship of monks who are disciples of Buddha. The worshipping item is used to make merit for deceased ancestors.
  2. Strands of hair, nail clippings or even bits of clothes that one doesn’t use anymore are often put into a krathong to get rid of the bad stuff of the past.
  3. Coins are added to krathong to bring wealth and as a way of making merit.
  4. For the romantic at heart or young couples, Loi Krathong is the time to make a wish for happiness together.
  5. According to a survey done by a certain condom company, Loy Krathong is the festival, second to Valentine’s Day, when teenagers lose their virginity.

Where to celebrate Loy Krathong?

Loy Krathong is celebrated all over Thailand. You can go and enjoy the festival almost everywhere in the country where it has water. However, there are certain places which hold the festival in a much bigger scale. And our recommendations are Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, and Bankok.

Photo Credit: quiggyt4, Flickr

Bangkok

Bangkok is is one of the great Loy Krathong destination. The city boasts many ponds and waterways in public parks where families, friends and lovers gather and set off their krathongs. Watching the route that a krathong takes is a popular way for couples to predict what the future holds for their relationship. Wat Arun and Wat Yannawa are also good options for launching krathongs down the Chao Phraya River.

Advice: Buy krathongs made of natural materials, including banana leaves, banana tree bark, spider lily plants and bread, instead of Styrofoam, glossy paper and brightly hued petals.

Best locations for Loy Krathong Festival in Bangkok:
  • Asiatique (Riverside)
  • Wat Saket (Riverside/Old City)
  • Phra Athit Pier (Riverside/ Old City)
  • Maharaj Lifestyle Mall (Riverside/Old City)
  • Lumpini Park (Silom)
  • Benjasiri Park (Sukhumvit)
  • Benjakiti Park (Sukhumvit)

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Yi Peng Festival 9-12 November, 2019 to celebrates traditions and activities that are unique to the Lanna people and their culture.

Activities:
  • “Tam Phang Patit Song Fa Haksa Mueang” (Light the Lanterns to Guard the City), 9-12 November, 2019, from 18.00-23.00 Hrs., at the Three Kings Monument.
  • Yi Peng Colourful Lanterns Show, 9-12 November, 2019, from 19.00-22.00 Hrs., around the city moat and gates.
  • Opening Ceremony of the Yi Peng Festival 2019, 10 November, 2019, at 18.00 Hrs., at the area in front of the Tha Phae Gate.
  • Yi Peng Little Boys and Girls Contest, 10 November, 2019, at 19.00 Hrs., at Chiang Mai Municipality Office.
  • Mister and Miss (Thephi-Thepphabut) Yi Peng Contest, 10-11 November, 2019, from 19.00-23.00 Hrs., at the area in front of the Tha Phae Gate.
  • Spirit House and Chedi Khao Worship Ceremony, as well as asking the Goddess of the Ping River for forgiveness, 11 November, 2019, from 08.09 – 10.30 Hrs., at the Chiang Mai Municipality Office, Wat Si Khong Pier.
  • Handmade Krathong Made of Banana Leaves and Fresh Flowers Contest, 11 November, 2019, from 09.00-15.00 Hrs., at the Chiang Mai Municipality Office.
  • Cultural Performances, 11-12 November, 2019, from 19.00-22.00 Hrs., at the Chiang Mai Municipality Office.
  • Releasing Lanna-style Krathong Sai, 11 November, 2019, from 19.00-22.00 Hrs., at the Ping Riverside, in front of the Chiang Mai Municipality Office.
  • Giant Krathong Parade Contest, 12 November, 2019, from 19.00-23.00 Hrs., from the area in front of the Tha Phae Gate to the Chiang Mai Municipality Office.
  • Fireworks Display, 12 November, 2019, from 19.30 Hrs. and 21.30 Hrs., at the Ping Riverside, in front of the Chiang Mai Municipality Office.
  • Suep Hit San Hoi Hom Poi and Revering Phra Siri Mangkhalachan, 10-12 November, 2019, from 10.00-23.00 Hrs., at the Chiang Mai Religion Practice Centre.
  • Listening to Sermons and Lighting Lanterns to Revere Phra Chedi, 10-12 November, 2019, from 09.00-22.00 Hrs., at Wat Lok Moli.
  • Music for Creativity, Culture for Happiness, 10-12 November, 2019, from 18.00-24.00 Hrs., in front of the First Church of Chiang Mai – close to the Nawarat Bridge.

Sukhothai

Sukhothai Loy Krathong and Candle Festival 2-11 November, 2019 commemorate the glorious era of the Sukhothai period with the magnificent Sukhothai Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as the setting for the festival’s activities.

Daily activities:
  • Ceremony to Welcome the Dawn of Happiness – offering dried food to Buddhist monks, at 05.55 Hrs., at Saphan Bun, Wat Traphang Thong.
  • Exhibition at Lan Pho, at the back of Wat Chana Songkhram.
  • Lan Thet Lan Tham (Sermon of the Great Birth), at 13.00 Hrs., at Dong Tan.
  • Talat Laek Bia (the ancient market of the Sukhothai Era), Folk Sports Show, Sword and Staff Fighting Show, Thread-wound Fist Thai Boxing Show, at 16.00 Hrs., at Sala Si Lang (The Four Pavilions).
  • Traditional Thai Music Performance, at 17.00 Hrs., at Wat Chana Songkhram (on the Khon performance stage).
  • Khao Khwan Wan Len Fai (Sukhothai Gala Dinner), at 17.30 Hrs., at the area in front of Wat Maha That, Sukhothai Historical Park.
  • Light and Sound Performance, at 19.30 Hrs., at Wat Maha That.
  • Khon Performance, Joe Louis Traditional Thai Puppet Show, Lakhon Nok (play performed by males), and Lakhon Nai (play performed by females), at 20.30 Hrs., at Wat Chana Songkhram.
  • Fireworks Display, at 20.30 Hrs., at the pond of Wat Sa Si (Traphang Trakuan).
  • The Legend of Thao Si Chulalak Performance, at 22.30 Hrs., at the pond of Wat Sa Si (Traphang Trakuan).
  • Fireworks Display, at 23.00 Hrs., at the pond of Wat Sa Si (Traphang Trakuan).

Tak

Tak Loy Krathong Sai Festival 9-13 November, 2019 is famous for its Loi Krathong Sai or the floating of a long line of coconut shell krathongs.

Activities:
  • Preparation to invite the Royal Inauguration Krathong, Krathong Sai Procession, and seven threads of the Krathong Sai Processions, at 17.00 Hrs., at the area in front of the Shrine of King Taksin the Great.
  • Releasing of the nine Royal Inauguration Krathongs and Lanterns, each from His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn and the other eight members of the Royal Family, Krathong Sai Boat Procession, and 7 threads of the Krathong Sai Processions, at 18.30 Hrs., at the area in front of the Shrine of King Taksin the Great
  • Ceremony to Invite the Royal Inauguration Krathongs and Lanterns to be housed at the stage in the middle of the Ping River, on 9 November, 2019, at 21.00 Hrs.
  • The Opening Ceremony & the Floating of the Loi Krathong Sai Festival and a Thousand Floating Lanterns 2019, on 9 November, 2019, at Lan Krathong Sai by the Ping Riverside, at the foot of the Somphot Krung Rattanakosin Song Roi Pi Bridge.
  • Experience traditional food for dinner, on 10 – 13 November, 18.30 Hrs. onwards, at Lan Krathong Sai by the Ping Riverside, at the foot of the Somphot Krung Rattanakosin Song Roi Pi Bridge.

Lampang

Lampang Ngan Sapao Chao Lakon is the only location in Northern Thailand that still makes ‘long sapao’ or floats junk-like krathongs.

Roi Et

Roi Et “Somma Nam Khuen Pheng Seng Prathip” is one of the province’s most important Buddhist events that celebrates the history and culture unique to the Saket Nakhon (former name of Roi Et) people.

Somma Nam Khuen Pheng Seng Prathip 2019 (Roi Et Loi Krathong Festival 2019)

10-11 November, 2019, at Somdet Phra Si Nakarin Public Park and Bueng Phlan Chai, Roi Et

Activities: Ceremony to Pay Homage to the City’s Sacred Spirits, Krathong and Giant Lantern Contest, Environmentally-Friendly Krathong Contest, Thida Saket Nakhon Beauty Contest, Somma Nam Khuen Pheng Seng Prathip Thai Folk Dance Contest, and the replica of Saket Nakhon City’s Krathong Procession.

As well as Bangkok and the six unique destinations that TAT provides support for the Loi Krathong celebrations, local and international tourists can enjoy the ‘krathong’ floating activities at different locations all over the country.

Ratchaburi

Ratchaburi Loy Krathong Si Festival at Wat Sai Ari Rak, celebrates traditions and activities that are unique to the Mon people living along the Mae Klong River, including floating krathong cups made from eco-friendly colour paper and taking part in Buddhist ceremonies to pay respect to the Buddha.

Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya Ancient Capital Loy Krathong Festival at King Naresuan the Great Monument near Thung Phu Khao Thong, hosts several activities including a krathong-making contest, beauty contests, cultural performances and a moon-bathing ritual to bring good fortune.

In addition to the Loi Krathong celebrations in Samut Songkhram, Chiang Mai, Sukhothai, Tak, Lampang, Roi Et, Ratchaburi and Ayutthaya, the Loi Krathong Festival is celebrated throughout Thailand with activities and events varying depending on the location.

  • Loi Krathong Tam Prathip 2019 (Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Loi Krathong Festival 2019), on 11 November, 2019, at Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre, Ayutthaya. Activities: float krathongs on the Chao Phraya River.
  • Loi Krathong Krung Kao Festival, on 11 November, 2019, at four corners of the Ayutthaya City Island – under the Pridi-Thamrong Bridge, Chedi Si Suriyothai in front of Chankrasem Palace, Pomphet, and the Monument of King Naresuan the Great at theThung Phu Khao Thong area. Activities: Krathong contest, Nopphamat beauty contest and performances on stage.
  • Loi Krathong Talapat Festival throwing back to the past to join the full moon bathing ceremony, on 11 November, 2019, at Sam Ruean Sub-district Administrative Organisation Office, Bang Pa-in District. Activities: krathong making workshop, handing out Krathong Talapat, and full moon bathing ceremony.

Samut Songkhram

11-12 November, 2019: on 11 November, 2019, at Wat Phummarin Kudi Thong and on 12 November, 2019, – at King Rama II Memorial Park.

Activities:

Floating of 200,000 Krathongs Kap Kluai (banana leaf-sheath krathongs), Krathongs and Illuminated Boats Contest for the King’s Royal Trophy, Mother-Daughter Noppamat Beauty Contest, cultural performances, and workshop on Krathong Kap Kluai making, banana stalk carving, pandan leaves folding, coconut leaves weaving, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How to enjoy Loy Krathong Festival in Bankok?

A: There are lots of things you can do to enjoy the festival in the capital of Thailand. Below are four ways to maximize your Loy Krathong experience in Bankok:

  1. Roam a public park
    Most public parks in Bangkok are close in late night. However, during Loy Krathong , many parks are open for the festival. So this is a good chance to enjoy the park at night and there are no entrance fees for each park and for floating your krathong as well.
  2. Book a riverside hotel
    This is possibly the most exclusive and luxurious way to enjoy Loy Krathong Festival. There are many riverside hotels in Bangkok, ranging from five-star hotels with spectacular river views to the affordable ones that might not be located next to the river bank but close enough to see the view.
  3. Book a cruise tour
    A river cruise tour is one of the best ways to really get into the heart of the festival by literally floating in the river! There are plenty of river cruises in Bangkok. Most of them will offer you a buffet on board, drinks (sometimes exclude), Thai traditional performances and live music performance.
  4. Visit riverside malls
    This can be the cheapest and most entertaining way to enjoy Loy Krathong. Because it’s most likely that you don’t have to pay any fees like an entrance or activities fees. Without those barriers, you will feel the spirit of the festival more as well as the crowd!

Q: What’s the difference between Loy Krathong and Yi Peng?

A: Loy Krathong and Yi Peng are two similar but actually different festivals. First, their most important difference is perhaps where they’re celebrated. Yi Peng is only celebrated in the north of Thailand, and its most elaborate celebrations take place in Chiang Mai. Loy Krathong, however, is observed all over the country. The second difference is the lanterns that are used and how they’re floated. For Loy Krathong, floats made out of banana trees, bread or Styrofoam are set off in water. But for Yi Peng, lanterns are made of bamboo, and fuel cells. They are launched to the sky rather than the water.

Q: How can I get a krathong?

A: It’s easy. You can buy one. You can find them at the street vendors, or if you are a guest of a hotel, it surely can offer you one. Another way to get a krathong is make one yourself. During the festival, most hotels in Thailand offer their guests chances to make krathong themselves.

Q: How do I float a krathong?

A: After you have your own Krathong, head to the water source – most likely rivers, ponds, lakes or even pools! Then light up the candle and incenses, make a wish and let it go!

Q: Do I need tickets for the Yi Peng festival?

A: The festival takes places in various parts of Chiang Mai and is free for all. Traditionally, there are two major lantern releases each year: a paid event in English and the free public event for locals.
The paid event is not run by the government like the rest of the festival and is usually held before or after the actual festival. Tickets cost $100 per person, and it takes place outside the city center. The benefit is that there are no crowds and there are explanations of the event in English.

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