Thailand, an alluring Southeast Asian country, is increasingly becoming one of the favourite tourist destinations to visit in Asia. In 2016, a record number of over 32 million tourists set foot on the Land of Smiles for a rewarding holiday in a country reputed for its tropical beaches, royal palaces and elaborate temples. If you are planning to visit Thailand towards end of the year when the weather will be cooler, you should do so in November for the fascinating Loy Krathong (Thai: ลอยกระทง) festival that you should not miss.
Loy Krathong is one of the most enchanting festivals held annually in Thailand to experience an unforgettable holiday, especially in the northern part of the country. This article will provide you with more insight about the festival and how you can enjoy a magical holiday in Chiang Rai, Thailand’s northernmost province, like a local.
What is the Loy Krathong?
In Thai, a krathong refers to a basket decorated with flowers, candle, incense sticks, and traditionally made of banana tree trunk and leaves. Loy in Thai means to float. Therefore, when put together, Loy Krathong (also spelt as Loi Krathong), is simply a festival to float a basket. Modern-day krathongs are often made of bread or wafer instead of banana leaves, which will disintegrate after a few days and can be eaten by fish in the river.
While the exact date of when the festival began in Thailand is not known, a writing by King Rama IV in 1863 claimed that Thai Buddhists adapted the Brahmanical festival to honor Buddha, Prince Siddhartha Gautama. The krathong is made to worship Buddha and the floating of the krathong symbolizes letting go of one’s hatred and anger. It is also a way to thank the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha (Thai: พระแม่คงคา). Today, Thais see the festival as a time to wash away sins and misfortune of the past year, as well as make wishes for the new year.
Is there a specific date to celebrate Loy Krathong?
Because Loy Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the twelfth month in the traditional Thai calendar, the exact date of the festival changes every year. Nonetheless, it is good to know that it typically falls on the month of November in the Western calendar. In 2016 it was celebrated on 14 November, and this year (2017), it was celebrated on 3 November. For 2018, the date is scheduled for 23 November. On this date, people will light a candle and joss sticks on the krathong, then float them on the river, make a wish and also pay respects to the water goddess. So if you would like to partake in the festival next year, keep the month of November free and look out for the exact date which will be announced about a month in advance.
Why should I celebrate Loy Krathong in Chiang Rai?
Yes, there is no doubt that you can join in the celebration of Loy Krathong anywhere in Thailand. However, if you are in the northern part of the country, there is also a chance to take part in another equally, if not more, captivating festival known as Yi Peng, also spelt as Yee Peng (Thai: ยี่เป็ง). Yi means two, and peng means full moon. Thus, Yi Peng is celebrated on the full moon of the second month of the Lanna calendar.
In case you didn’t know, present-day northern Thailand used to be a separate Lanna Kingdom which followed the Lanna calendar. Loy Krathong coincides with the traditional Lanna holiday - Yi Peng, where thousands of lanterns known as khom loi will be released into the sky. Therefore, imagine the grandeur you get to witness with your own eyes if you celebrate Loy Krathong in Chiang Rai! It will be a magical experience you won’t forget!
Enjoy Loy Krathong with refined Lanna cuisine and performance
One of the best places to celebrate Loy Krathong Festival in Chiang Rai is to book a table at popular northern Thai cuisine restaurant called Thanam Phulae. Strategically located by the Maekok River, you can request for outdoor dining at Thanam Phulae to soak in the scenic river views and breeze. Tuck into delectable Lanna specialty cuisine such as northern Thai sausage (sai ua, ไส้อั่ว) and leaf wrapped bites (miang kham, เมี่ยงคำ) while enjoying a traditional dance to celebrate the festival. After a sumptuous meal, check out the stalls in the garden offering a variety of traditional Lanna snacks and games, and remember to pick up your favourite krathong too so that you can float your wishes on the river for the coming year!
Address: Phahonyothin Road, Moo 6 Rimkok, Chiang Rai
Opening Hours: 5.30 pm - 11 pm daily.
Join the locals at the Loy Krathong Festival market
As the saying goes, the best way to discover more about the local culture is to find your way to the markets where locals go. Every year during the Loy Krathong, a special night market featuring a wide array of local street food, clothing, accessories and interesting performances is organised and held at a designated venue. In 2017, it was held from 1st to 9th November at the Military Training Centre Park (known locally as Suan Ror Dor), located across the river from the Wiang Indra Riverside Resort, right in the heart of Chiang Rai town.
Unlike Chiang Rai Night Bazaar or the Saturday Night Market which are relatively small, the night market for Loy Krathong is huge. It would probably take you more than one night just to complete your food tasting at all the food stalls selling mouth-watering snacks and innovative creations. Besides, there are a lot of stalls to satisfy the shopaholic in you too, offering anything from accessories to clothing to toys and many more. For the young and young at heart, you can also try your luck at winning some cute prizes at the various games stalls. The night market is a wonderful place to immerse in the vibrant festival atmosphere. Of course, while eating and shopping to your heart’s content, do not forget to get to the river towards the end of the market. Do watch your steps as you get there because there is minimal lighting and everyone is jostling their way to the river for the loy krathong. No wonder the festival market is being held over a 9-day period annually, because there is so much to explore and enjoy!
Fly Bangkok Airways for more pleasant travel memories
Most tourists would head to Thailand’s bustling capital, Bangkok for a taste of the charming Thai hospitality while admiring the modern cityscape alongside traditional Buddhist temples. Northern Thailand, in particular Chiang Rai, is often off the typical tourist radar because it is deemed less accessible compared to Bangkok or other popular destinations like Phuket. However, you are certainly missing out on what the former Lanna Kingdom’s first capital has to offer in terms of nature, intriguing hill tribe culture and a relaxing lifestyle if you do that.
If travelling time is a concern for you, fret not, you can always hop over to Chiang Rai with a quick domestic flight on Bangkok Airways (PG). As a credible regional airline that maintains a contemporary boutique-like character, there are three daily flights to Chiang Rai from Bangkok, so you can arrive at the charming province in less than one hour and a half from the capital. Other direct domestic routes to and fro Chiang Rai include Phuket, Krabi and Samui, so it is easy to make a round-Thailand trip if you fly with PG.
Furthermore, you will be pleased to know that PG boutique lounges are available to all passengers with no additional charge or hidden fees. In the lounge, passengers can help themselves to a variety of snacks and beverages at the courtesy corner, enjoy free internet access at one of the computer booths or keep little ones entertained at the kids’ corner. Last but not least, there is always the friendly service with a smile that adds more joy to your entire experience with PG from the time you book your ticket to the safe arrival at your destination.
Make your dreams come true in Chiang Rai
Get rid of your troubles and worries, and realize your dreams as you join in one of the most important spiritual festivals in the fascinating province of Chiang Rai. Combine it with an adventure through the mountains in Mae Fah Luang, hunt down exotic night shopping and eating, or even go on an amazing road trip to various parts of the country. Have a magical trip to the Land of Smiles!
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