YOU’VE visited the temples, shopped to your heart’s content and feasted on Thai cuisine, hopped the islands and swam in the crystal blue waters, you’ve got everything covered in Thailand? Enjoyed a festival yet?
November is a good time to travel to Thailand. Nearing the holidays, you are at your best shopping form and you get a shot at your favorite foodstuff in between sprees.
It’s also the month of the Loi Krathong. If your visit falls on one of the most festive times on the Thai calendar, then you’re in for a treat.
Loi Krathong is one of the grandest celebrations in Thailand. The annual festival takes place on the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar. Just like Chinese New year, the exact date of the festival changes every year, and it usually falls on the month of November. It was celebrated on November 25 in 2015, the 14th in 2016, and this year, 2017, it was on November 3rd.
Why is it a treat? Imagine ponds and rivers glowing with floating candles and flowers on the night of a full moon. The scene can be surreal.
Loi Krathong is said to have originated from an ancient ritual honoring the water spirits. Sending out beautiful floaters to the waterway may just be the most appropriate offering.
The festival’s name can be translated as “to float a basket”. “Loi” means float and “krathong” is a small decorative container made of leaves, which are floated on water. It’s traditionally made with a portion of banana trunk or bread. The non-biodegradable floater like Styrofoam is not a wise choice as it’s not eco-friendly. If I read it right, this material is banned this year.
What makes Loi Krathong special is it’s a chance for family, friends or lovers to be together. After lighting the candle or incense sticks placed at the center of the arrangement, each member should hold the krathong, make a wish and gently release the krathong into the water. Aspirations and prayers flow downstream and offered to the spirits.
Luckily, November in Bangkok is a regular thing for me. I have witnessed the celebration several times. The most spectacular was during my stay at the Chatrium Riverside Hotel by the famed Chao Phraya River. I watched the magnificent fireworks filled the sky with colors right from the top floors of the hotel and the flickering lights floating on the river.
Last year, I visited the Benjasiri Park, which was a short distance from the Well Hotel where I was staying. The pond was surrounded with hundreds of people.
What I have yet to experience though is the Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai north of Bangkok. It is said to be the grandest among the Loi Krathongs because it also coincides with Lanna (northern Thai) festival called Yi Peng (“yi” means two and “peng” means full moon day referring to the full moon in the second month of the Lann lunar calendar).
While the krathongs are lighting up the rivers, the Yi Peng is about releasing a multitude of khom loi (floating lantern) into the night sky. Imagine a swarm of fireflies flying to the bright moon’s direction.
Believe it or not, during this year’s Yi Peng festival, flights were cancelled in Chiang Mai.
Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on November 23, 2017.
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