Loi Krathong is one of Thailand’s most colorful and visually stunning festivals. An annual event, the ‘festival of light’ is celebrated all over Thailand, and this year will take place on November 23.
During the festival, Thais old and young make a pilgrimage to a nearby river or lake and release floating ‘krathongs’ onto the water.
The delicately decorated krathongs, often built with banana leaves and flowers, carry food and coins and are lit by a small candle. Some even include nail and hair trimmings to get rid of the ‘bad’ parts of the person making the offering. When released in great numbers, the drifting krathongs make a beautiful scene.
The ceremony is a symbol of ‘letting go’ of one’s grudges and anger and starting anew, seeking forgiveness from the goddess of the water for past indiscretions. Think of it as the Thai equivalent of a yearly Catholic confessional!
In the northern city of Chiang Mai, Loi Krathong also coincides with the festival of Yi Peng. Whereas for Loi Krathong people float away their woes on water, during Yi Peng merit is made by releasing a lantern (called Khom Loi) into the night sky. When done en masse, the scene is spectacular and resembles thousands of flying jellyfish!
So where’s best to see Loi Krathong and Yi Peng? Here’s our two Baht’s worth…
Loi Krathong in Ayutthaya
In our opinion, Ayutthaya is one of the best places to see the Loi Krathong festival in Thailand. Once the capital of Siam, this sleepy ancient city is home to the ruins of many temples and monasteries and is an area of great spiritual value to Thai people. It’s also a fantastic location to take a picture or 50.
During Loi Krathong many Thai’s from surrounding provinces gather at Beung Phra Ram in the center of the Historical Park to release their krathongs onto the large lake and enjoy the dancing, music and food – after all, it wouldn’t be a Thai festival without all these things in abundance!
Loi Krathong in Bangkok
Not to be outdone, Thailand’s capital offers plenty of festivities down at the Chao Phraya River. Bangkokians gather in their droves to wash away their sins…making you question why the capital is nicknamed the City of Angels… Khom Loi aren’t released in great numbers in the city, because, as you can imagine, a sea of floating lanterns rising up into the sky could offer a serious hazard to the city.
Popular places to gather this year will include Asiatique The Riverfront. A lavish riverside shopping and dining boutique complex, Asiatique has proved hugely popular since opening in April 2012. The ‘opening ceremony’ of the Loi Krathong festival at Asiatique will be held on November 24 and will run until November 28.
Loi Krathong and Yi Peng in Chiang Mai
We think however that Chiang Mai is the most spectacular place to see Khom Loi (floating lanterns) take to the skies during Yi Peng. Coordinated releases ensure a majestic and inspiring site and provide the perfect opportunity for photographers, even for the enthusiastic amateurs amongst us.
The most popular place for people to gather to release lanterns is at Thudongkhasathan Lanna in the Sansai District. Don’t just take our word for it though, have look at this incredible YouTube video shot by festival-goer samtihen to get a taste of Yi Peng.
The Yi Peng Festival will also take place at the Tha Phae Gate on November 28 and 29 where an amazing procession of hanging lanterns at Chiang Mai Night Bazaar as well as the traditional beauty contest and a dramatic light and sound presentation on the Ping River can be seen.
As well being the best place to see the floating lanterns, krathongs are also released onto the Ping River by their thousands in Chiang Mai, so if you want to see the best of both Loi Krathong and Yi Peng, we reckon Chiang Mai is the place to be during this captivating festival!