Loy Krathong is a festival of light which is celebrated throughout Thailand and Laos. It is an annual festival which takes place on the 12th full moon of the Thai lunar calendar year. When I first heard about this event and knowing that we would be around Thailand around November, I knew this was something I didn’t want to miss.
A krathong is a sculpture traditionally made out of banana leaves, flowers, a candle and incense sticks. The krathongs come in all different shapes and sizes and should float on the river. People float their krathongs on the river to pay respect to the goddess of water, to let go of any sins/grudges and to make a wish for the future.
The festival kicked off at Tha Phae Gate with an opening ceremony, followed by a parade of dancers, drummers and lots of elaborate floats. We also watched the monks’ ceremony at Wat Phan Tao temple which is surrounded by candles and beautifully coloured lanterns hanging from the trees.
Ceremony at Wat Phan Tao
The main celebrations are on the second night, the night of the full moon. Our hostel was organising transport to Maejo University where the largest lantern release was taking place. Unfortunately all the tickets had sold out, but apparently we could stand outside of the university grounds and release lanterns from there. Upon arrival we soon realised our view would be obscured by huge trees which surrounded the perimeter of the event. Maybe we should have stayed in town instead? It turns out luck was on our side that night.. somehow all 12 of us from our minivan managed to get in. We may not have had an allocated seat or a lantern, but we were going to see the main spectacle!!
The build up to the lantern release included a mass meditation conducted by the monks. Then the time came.. everyone lit their lanterns as we stood at the back and watched with anticipation. One lovely girl came over to us and offered us one of her lanterns. A generous gesture that we weren’t going to refuse! Words can’t describe how beautiful the lantern release was, I’m not even sure if the pictures can do it justice. The whole crowd gasped in unison as the first wave of lanterns rose into the sky. It was stunning.
On the last night we headed over to the Ping river where there were dancers, a parade, lots of people making wishes and releasing their krathongs on the river whilst fireworks were going off left, right and center. Thankfully the river is just wide enough so that fireworks launched on one side don’t reach the other side. Most of the time anyway. We saw a kid, who couldn’t have been any older than 6, lighting and throwing fireworks. You certainly need to have your wits about you, but the atmosphere was great.
Krathong floating on the river Peng
We really enjoyed the Loy Krathong festival, it was the highlight of our month in Thailand and is something we will remember for a long time to come.
Next stop: Chiang Rai, Thailand