A spectacular celebration of life and light, it’s no surprise that Loy Krathong (meaning “floating vessels”) is one of Thailand’s most popular festivals. Centred around the country’s rivers, lakes and waterways, the event involves floating millions of small boat-like containers, traditionally made from banana trunks and decorated with flowers, candles and incense, in the water.
The date of the festival coincides with the end of the rainy season in Thailand and the symbolic floating of the boats is said to represent letting go of the bad luck, failures and disappointments of the previous year and making wishes about the coming one. If you’re planning to visit Bangkok forLoy Krathong 2019, here’s a rundown of some cultural highlights you won’t want to miss out on:
While krathongs are available to buy from stores and pop-up stalls all over the city in the run-up to the festival, you can make the experience extra special by creating your own. Nowadays, many krathongs are made from bread (rather than banana trunks) and contain written messages, coins, hair or fingernails – just don’t use polystyrene or plastic in its construction, or you’ll pollute the water.
Regardless of whether you buy it or make it, setting your krathong free is the archetypal Loy Krathong experience. If you come to Loy Krathong in Thailandand don’t partake of this ancient tradition, have you even really been there? Luckily, Bangkok has plenty of beaches, ponds, lakes and rivers, so you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to finding a place to set your boat on its way.
Another integral aspect of Loy Krathong in Bangkok is the use of song and dance. This is especially prevalent in areas like Asiatique, where the traditional Thai dance of Ram Wong accompanies a retelling of the story of the festival set to music. For those who want a deeper insight intoLoy Krathong’s meaning, this is an absolute must.
As well as seeing how it’s done by the professionals, you can also try out the dance yourself. Many hotels in the centre of the city or by its rivers host all-day parties, with their swimming pools offering up the perfect place to float your krathong away from the crowds and the ideal opportunity to learn how to do Thailand’s traditional dance from a qualified instructor.
It goes without saying at any time of the year, but during Loy Krathong, Bangkok’s culinary scene is perhaps even more vibrant than normal. With so many people out on the city’s streets soaking up the festival atmosphere, food carts are found at every turn. Take the opportunity to sample Thailand’s excellent cuisine the way the locals do: al fresco and on the move.
Of course, knowing where to find the best gastronomic hotspots is difficult without insider information. That’s where a food tourcomes into its own; led by an experienced guide, you can visit Bangkok’s old markets and immerse yourself in the country’s fantastic cuisine, safe in the knowledge you’re getting the highlights. It’s also a good way to line your stomach for the night of revelry ahead.
Perhaps one of the most magical ways to experience Loy Krathong in Thailand is to float alongside all the krathongs in your very own boat! There are a multitude of companies which offer evening river cruises, often with a buffet (and sometimes with alcohol) included in the price, as well as a traditional live show of music and dance.
Bangkok’s parks are generally closed to the public after the sun goes down, but it’s a different story during festival season. Why not enjoy the novelty of roaming around a public park after dark? Another added bonus is the fact that unlike many hotels or other venues, the parks do not charge you an entry fee or demand payment to float your krathong in their ponds and rivers.
Every year, the arrival of the festival is greeted with the launch of hundreds of colourful fireworks in a truly breath-taking display, andLoy Krathong 2019 will prove to be no different. Alongside floating your own krathong and witnessing the Ram Wong in person, taking in the fireworks extravaganza is another quintessential Loy Krathong experience.
Although Loy Krathong is not a particularly religious festival in general, there is a Buddhist element to proceedings which foreigners are fully invited to engage in. Thai people often associate the festival with rebirth and new beginnings, using the symbolism of the event to try and purify their own souls and become a better version of themselves. Taking place at temples across the city, these ceremonies are a great way to understand the Thai culture more completely.