Tag Archive | "Tumpat"

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Loy Krathong 101

Posted on 29 October 2010 by Joel Quenby

Considered the most charming of all Thai festivals, Loy Krathong offers beauty, romance and renewal. But what exactly is the event, how did it start—and where should travelers experience the celebrations?

Keeping charming traditions afloat: Loy Krathong

Keeping charming traditions afloat: Loy Krathong

“It takes an endless amount of history to make even a little tradition.”—Henry James

Thailand loves festivals. Its relish for pageantry made it the world’s fifth-largest festival hotspot in 2008, according to Euromonitor International. And tied to national identity—therefore deserving its “sa-ngob (serenity) description”—Loy Krathong is probably the kingdom’s most charming celebration.

While the West generally associates full moons with sinister werewolf transformations and the like, the East sees its brightest nights as auspicious. The full moon of the twelfth lunar month signifies the end of Thailand’s main rice harvest. It is time to thank the Water Goddess Mae Nam Kongka (Mother Ganges) for her year’s supply—while symbolically setting misfortune adrift. This period of renewal sees couples wholeheartedly embrace romance.


Loy means “float,” while krathong refers to the trademark lotus-shaped receptacles that are floated in riverways and even at beaches across the country. These days, individuals, villages or provinces enter floats of myriad shapes and sizes—even motorized models—for competition. They all end up stocked with offerings of betel nuts, flowers, joss sticks, candles and coins then ritually launched onto canals, rivers and lakes nationwide. For couples, it can be an anxious time wondering if their respective floats will snuggle together or drift apart.

The magic, mystique and romance of Loy Krathong

The magic, mystique and romance of Loy Krathong

Supplementary activities depend on the location. Any combination of processions, musicians, and marching bands, dancers, costumed theatrics and fireworks may accompany proceedings. Most Thai festivals feature beauty-pageant face-offs in honor of Nang Noppamas, allegedly a 14th-century lovely who pioneered the event.


Some claim the festival derives from a Hindu tribute to the Vishnu. Others, including Thai King Rama IV (writing in 1863), base it on the Brahman Deepavalee ritual. Thailand’s official version teaches that royal consort Noppamas pioneered the krathong for the King of Sukhothai 700 years ago.

However, in The Great ‘Loy Krathong’ Myth! (2007) Stephen Cleary argues that the “legend” was invented by the Department of Fine Arts for an 1850’s novel. The available evidence suggests Loy Krathong descended from Cambodia’s Loy Khom (Float the Lantern)” festival in the mid-eighteenth-century Ayutthaya era.

WHERE: SUKHOTHAI… Hailing heritage

Celebrations in the original Thai kingdom hark back to its glory days

Celebrations in the original Thai kingdom hark back to its glory days

The first Thai kingdom is where Loy Krathong supposedly originated. Thais accordingly consider the World Heritage-listed Sukhothai Historical Park the most significant location for Loy Krathong. They really go to town with a spectacular light and sound show following a procession of oversized krathong from 17 Northern provinces. Locals also reprise bygone folk dancing and costumed theatrics to evoke Sukhothai’s renowned cultural traditions.

WHERE: BANGKOK… Avoid the melee

The metropolis only affords a single day to Loy Krathong, compared with five days elsewhere. Human traffic overcrowding the capital’s canals and riversides can spoil the fun. Santi Chai Prakarn public park and the Chao Phraya River from Krungthep Bridge to Krungthon Bridge resemble rush hour on New Year’s Eve. Lumpini Park offers more sedate going (disregarding kids swimming out to retrieve coins from the floats). To guarantee avoiding the crush, however, any of the five-star riverside resorts conduct civilized festivities—though you will have to pay for the honor.

WHERE: CHIANG MAI… Raising lanterns

Yi Peng festival "khom loi" lanterns create magic in Chiang Mai

Yi Peng festival "khom loi" lanterns create magic in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai offers double the festival fun. Loy Krathong blends into the local Yi Peng revelry. The latter sends negativity skyward in Lanna-style khom loi lanterns. The sight of hundreds of fluorescent, jellyfish-like lamps gracefully floating overhead creates a magical atmosphere. Added to illuminated waterways, buildings, trees and gardens citywide, this makes the historic city a real crowd-puller during the festivals.

WHERE: MALAYSIA: Cross-border appeal…

Loy Krathong celebrations cross Thailand’s southern border to Kelantan in Malaysia, where celebrations focus in the Tumpat area. The festival reportedly draws lots of tourists, so is generously promoted by the ministry of tourism.

Foam krathong harm the environment, so natural materials are preferable. Eco-responsible revelers increasingly head for small canals, even swimming pools, to avoid polluting rivers.

In Bangkok: November 21, 2010; nationwide: November 17–21, 2010

Comments (0)

Sign In

Amy Ma

Food & Drink + Hong Kong

Amy is a regular contributor to the South China Morning Post and Wall Street Journal amongst other publications. [...]

Pua Mench

Hong Kong

Pua is a writing and traveling enthusiast based in Hong Kong, with a weakness for all things related to the culinary arts and healing modalities, and a passion for sustainable living. [...]

Kim Inglis

Wellness Spa

Kim has been an editor and journalist for over 20 years, more than half of which has been spent in Asia. [...]

Nellie Huang

Travel Adventures + Singapore

Nellie has been published in Food & Travel magazine and Lifestyle, and is a contributing author of V!VA's Guatemala Guidebook. She writes to travel, and travels to write. [...]

Sarah Jane Evans

Travel Adventures + Borneo

She has published travel articles in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia in publications including: Vacations and Travel magazine... [...]

Carrie Kellenberger

Photo Blog + Taiwan

She has traveled throughout Asia, finding work as a writer, editor, educator, voice over artist, photographer, and nightclub singer. [...]

Mark Lean

Kuala Lumpur

From writing about music, Mark expanded his focus to design, fashion, food and travel. In recent years, he has explored the highs and lows of Asia. [...]

Joel Quenby

Entertainment + Asia News

Joel is a British writer and journalist who's lived, worked and traveled in Southeast Asia since 2002. He's filed yarns for numerous publications...[...]

Alex Gunn

Chiang Mai

After several diverse careers as a circus performer, school teacher, psychotherapist, stunt pilot and university lecturer he can now be found poking about far flung markets, museums, restaurants and odd places in and around Chiang Mai.. [...]