As some of you will know, Thailand just finished celebrating Loy Krathong, an annual full moon festival that usually takes place in November. So first of all, IH Bangkok sends you a belated happy Loy Krathong! We hope you had lots of fun wherever you were, be it on the beaches of the south, in the beautiful northern highlands, here in Bangkok, or anywhere else! For anyone reading this who isn’t aware of Loy Krathong, hopefully you will have some idea of what it’s about by the time you finish reading, and that it excites you like it does so many who live in or visit Thailand.
To give some idea of what Loy Krathong is about, the ‘krathong’ itself is an ornate floating object, traditionally made from a piece of trunk from a banana tree and decorated with banana leaves and flowers. Since the festival is historically a way of paying respect to the water goddess, candles are also placed on the krathong. These are then floated down the river as an offering to the goddess. However, in modern times, the festival is also celebrated with fireworks, music, partying and, depending where in Thailand you are, sky-lanterns. Meaning there is something for everyone!
Like many foreigners, I had never heard of Loy Krathong before coming to Thailand for the first time in 2012. Thankfully, my Thai friends ensured I got to experience everything about this charming festival. I was staying in a town outside Chiang Mai; the first sign of the festival I saw was the sudden arrival of boxes of fireworks, lanterns and candles. We decorated the outside of the house with dozens and dozens of small candles; the effect that night was fabulous as candles lined the front yard and balcony. We then set off some fireworks and released our lanterns into the air before leaving for Chiang Mai, where we would be sending our krathongs down the Ping River.
We parked our car by the river where a bridge crosses into the city and carefully made our way down the muddy riverbank. One by one we stepped onto a small jetty that jutted into the river. The krathongs themselves are gorgeous and mine was decorated with lovely purple and white flowers. Along with a coin, some Thai people also cut off a bit of hair to add to the krathong, apparently to take away bad luck! It seemed odd but I went along with it. When it was my turn I crouched down and gently placed my small, flowery, banana tree boat on the water and used the river to send my offering to the goddess. As it turned out, my 2013 was pretty amazing, so perhaps the goddess was pleased with my offering!
After sending our krathongs down the river we watched hundreds of others being sent with them by the people of Chiang Mai. Then, perhaps the most spectacular event of the festival in Chiang Mai, was watching hundreds of sky-lanterns being sent into the night’s sky at the same time. This has to be seen to be truly appreciated as the sky is filled with floating blocks of light. It was an impressive introduction to Loy Krathong. I have since enjoyed the festival in Bangkok, alongside the Chao Phraya River, and it is always a fun, exciting event, and the fireworks are even more amazing here in the capital. But the festival in Chiang Mai is something I will always remember fondly, and was one of the many experiences that led to me falling deeper in love with this fascinating country.