Falling on 6 November this year, which is the full moon of the twelfth lunar month, Loy Krathong is hands-down the prettiest Thai festival. Using the below guide, relish the spirit and colour of this unique holiday.
Loy Krathong is best associated with the practice of launching lotus-shaped “boats” (krathongs) in the city’s many waterways. From Brahmin origins during the Sukhothai era, this act expresses reverence to the River Goddess Khongkha, acknowledging the life-bringing qualities of water. Also, as the krathongs float out with the current, celebrants ask the water spirit to absolve them of misdeeds and sail away troubles with the bobbing vessels, which bear offerings of incense, flowers and coins.
Children usually dress in traditional Thai costumes for Loy Krathong. Pick some up at your local open-aired market, or visit Old Siam Plaza, a shopping mall in the Chinatown-Pahurat area, for a great selection.
On 6 November, huge crowds will flock to areas near major water sources, especially the Chao Phraya River. Avoid places such as Saphan Taksin and river-level foot paths and piers, especially if you have small children in tow. Also, beware of pickpockets.
You might see young boys swimming in the murky waters alongside the krathongs. No need for alarm – they are there to snatch up coins left on the vessels.
In order to reduce trash, don’t launch krathongs constructed of styrofoam, glossy paper and brightly hued petals. Instead, opt for those made of natural materials, including banana leaves, banana tree bark and spider lily plants. You can also choose a version made entirely out of bread, which will dissolve into the water as fish food.
Places to Go
1. Nagaraphirom Park – This lovely park by the Chao Phraya River, near Wat Po and the Grand Palace, is a great vantage point for the Loy Krathong festivities taking place on the river, including illuminated boat processions and firework displays. From 4 to 6 November, the park will host various cultural performances and shows. Call TAT’s Contact Centre at 1672 for more details.
2. Asiatique – Another wonderful spot to watch the activities on the river, Asiatique [http://www.thaiasiatique.com/index.php/en] will feature their own Loy Krathong ceremony and krathong-making workshop; various traditional craft demonstrations, such as Thai-style wind mobiles in the shape of a carp; and many other cultural displays.
3. Riverside temples — From 1 to 6 November, the River Festival 2014 is a cultural extravaganza packed with activities, such as night-time temple visits, an outdoor cinema, Chinese opera and other performances, and a Loy Krathong celebration. Temples hosting the festivities include Wat Phra Chetuphon, Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn), Wat Kalaya and Wat Prayoon.
4. Wat Saket/Golden Mountain — Here, a lively Thai temple fair encompasses rides, games, theatrical performances, tons of food stalls and more. Beginning at dusk and running for a week, culminating with Loy Krathong on the last day, the temple also attracts local pilgrims who will climb the 300-some steps to the top of the Golden Mountain to make offerings to Buddha images, ring bells for good luck and admire the views.
5. River cruise – Many companies provide Loy Krathong dinner cruises, so you can enjoy the sights and sounds from a private boat or barge; these include Loy Nava, Bangkok Day Tours and Chao Phraya Princess, among countless others.
6. Riverside hotels – For complete comfort, luxury hotels such as The Shangri-la or Mandarin Oriental offer a Loy Krathong dinner package, which will include a privileged location to witness the beautiful spectacle or floating krathongs, as well as exclusive access to the river. Also, Mandarin Oriental usually hosts an elaborate krathong competition for their staff; the stunning entries are displayed in their swimming pool for all to enjoy.
7. City parks – The lakes of Lumpini Park, Benjakitti Park and Benjasiri Park are lovely places to float krathongs. These parks are also easy outing choices if you have young children. Bring a picnic dinner or enjoy the ample selection of street food available, and leisurely soak up Loy Krathong’s colourful, fun-loving vibe.