Loy Krathong in Bangkok

The Thai Festival of Lights and Lanterns

    The evening of Loy Krathong is one of the most picturesque festivals in Bangkok. It’s when people gather around lakes, rivers and canals to pay respects to the goddess of water by releasing beautiful lotus-shaped rafts, decorated with candles, incense and flowers onto the water.

    Every year, Loy Krathong falls on the night of the 12th lunar month (usually in November), at the end of the rainy season when the full moon lights up the sky. The sight of thousands of krathongs, their flickering candles sending a thousand pinpoints of light far into the horizon is a truly magical sight, and there are plenty of places in Bangkok where you can get involved with the festivities.

    What is Loy Krathong?

    The history behind the festival is complex, and Thais celebrate it for many reasons. As the main rice harvest season ends, it’s time to thank the Water Goddess for a year’s worth of her abundant supply, as well as an apology for polluting the waters.

    Some believe that this is the time to symbolically ‘float away’ all the anger and grudges you have been holding onto, and including a fingernail or a lock of hair is seen as a way of letting go of a dark side of yourself, to start anew free of negative feelings. If your candle stays alight until your Krathong disappears out of sight, it means a year of good luck.

    Traditionally, Thais release their krathong into rivers and small canals called klongs. Nowadays, a pond or lake is fine. Many places host a string of cultural activities, such as Ram Wong dance performances, krathong-making competitions and a beauty contest.

    People have started releasing lanterns in Bangkok, but this is only a small part of the festival. For the full lantern experience, head up to Chiang Mai for the Yee Peng festival, though people also often fly lanterns in Phuket and Samui.

    photo by Robertpollai (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Where can you float a krathong in Bangkok?

    The main Loy Krathong celebration in Bangkok has been held at Asiatique since 2013. Previously, it was held along the banks of Wat Saket in the Old City, which is still a popular place to celebrate. For anyone around Khao San Road, head to the nearby Phra Athit Pier.

    Many hotels in Bangkok host a Loy Krathong event at their swimming pool area (contact your hotel for more information). You can try your hand at Loy Krathong, or even the traditional Ram Wong dance, without fighting your way through crowds of people outside the hotel grounds.

    Hotels located along the Chao Phraya River are especially popular and often have Loy Krathong events combined with a special dinner and fireworks.

    Riverside locations:

    • Asiatique (Riverside)
    • Wat Saket (Riverside/Old Town)
    • Phra Athit Pier (Riverside/ Old Town)
    • Maharaj Lifestyle Mall (Riverside/Old Town)

    Popular lakes for floating krathongs:

    • Lumpini Park (Silom)
    • Benjasiri Park (Sukhumvit)
    • Benjakiti Park (Sukhumvit)

    Riverside hotels with Loy Krathong events:

    • Anantara Riverside Bangkok
    • Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
    • Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel
    • Shangri La Hotel Bangkok
    photo by Heiko S (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Loy Krathong Festival at Asiatique

    If you’re ready to experience Loy Krathong the way the locals do, head to Asiatique, the riverfront night market, which is where you'll find one of the biggest crowds and some impressive shows. Be warned that traffic in the area will be very bad and there’ll be long queues to take the shuttle boat in front of Saphan Taksin BTS Station.

    The action kicks off around sunset, and there are plenty of krathongs to buy around the river. You can even watch the traditional banana leaf folding method, or have a go yourself.

    The large boardwalk area in front of Asiatique will host the main events, including the retelling of the Loy Krathong story via music and dance, a launch site for your krathongs, an illuminated float procession and a firework display. If the crowds here sound too much, there are plenty of other spots along the Chao Phraya River to watch the festivities from.

    What is a krathong?

    There is no equivalent word in English for ‘krathong’. You may hear people referring to it as a small boat, vessel, receptacle or container. In the runup to the festival, many shops and market stalls will display ready-made krathongs, or in parts so you can assemble and decorate as you wish.

    In the past, krathongs were made from natural materials – usually a section from a banana tree trunk, crafted into a lotus shape by using folded banana leaves, and these can still be found for sale around the main festival sites. More recently, Thais have become more creative in their craft and design the krathongs from coconut shells, flowers, baked bread, potato slices, some breaking with the conventional lotus leaf shape in favor of turtles and other sea creatures.

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