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Loi Krathong 2014 – A festival of floating lights

All cultures that have been established near water share a special connection with it. Therefore, the people of Thailand and water are knitted in a close bond. The emergence of agriculture brought even more respect for water and the tradition has remained part of Thai culture. To appease the gods that control the harvests, several festivals were created to pay homage to the relevant deities. In Thailand, water can bring both prosperity with bountiful crops and danger when the water channels rise. As such, these festivals and celebrations are an important part of Thai culture.

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The Thai Royal Watercourse Procession

The Thai Royal Watercourse Procession

The Thai have an intensely diverse culture that has many festivals and religious ceremonies that retain the spirit and devotion of the Vedic times. Loy Krathong is one such festival that centers on water and also marks the celebration of the new lunar year.

What is Loi Krathong?

The word “Loi” (or “Loy” in Thai language) translates as “to float”, while the word “Krathong” points towards the tiny lotus shaped raft that floats on water. The Loi Krathong festival is not only a time for celebration – it also has great significance within the culture. The festival commemorates the start of the Thai lunar year. Many Thai consider the Krathong to be a good luck charm for the start of the new year. The floating raft also honors and extends thanks to “Phra Mae Khongkha” – the Thai water god.

Loi Krathong

Loi Krathong

For the modern Thai man, the festival has become a time to simply have fun and let loose. However, others take the event more seriously as it is also a ritual of letting go off the past. It’s an excellent opportunity to let go of one’s rancor, fury, and any grudges that may have built up over the past year. Some people will go so far as to add bits of their fingernails and hair to the Krathong as a representation of letting go of the bad parts of a person’s existence.

If you are a tourist, then make sure you visit the best places for the festival. Since the Loi Krathong commences on the sundown of the full moon of the 12th month in the Thai lunar calendar, it falls somewhere in November according to the western dates.

When is Loi Krathong Celebrated in 2014?

In the year 2014, Loi Krathong is celebrated from November 5 to November 7, with the day of the full moon being November 6.

Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai

Though the Loy Krathong celebrations take places all over Thailand, the best place to witness it is probably in Chiang Mai. In northern Thailand, the Loi Krathong festival is celebrated with exceptional zest. The people of Chiang Mai go all out with, adding enormous amounts of color and dances during this festival.  The festival is also called “Yi Peng” or “the festival of lights” by the locals due to the large number of lanterns that are released in the sky.

Loi Krathong Festival Street Decorations, Chiang Mai

Loi Krathong Festival Street Decorations, Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai sees the festival in full swing and more exuberant celebrators can be seen “coyote dancing” (a form of erotic dancing that originated in the nightclubs of Thailand) in the streets! There are a number of events in addition to the grand launch of lanterns that make the event a fest of color and memories.

You can read more about things to do in Chiang Mai, in our article: Chiang Mai: The Jewel of Northern Thailand

Khom Fai and Khom Khwan

The “Khom Fai,” also known as the “Khom Loy,” is a cylindrical paper lantern that is braced with circular wire rims for stability. Poised at the foot of the lamp is a tray containing cotton drenched in kerosene. The Thai adore fireworks and often the tray has a few crackers attached to them. As a common Thai saying goes, “always a pleasure to see the sparkled dragon spit and blow in the air”.

Within a minute of lighting the lantern, the glowing balloon elevates into the air where the fireworks can be seen by many.

Khom Fai, Loi Krathong Festival, Chian Mai

Khom Fai, Loi Krathong Festival, Chian Mai

It is a common belief amidst the Thai of the north that launching a “Khom Fai” can send a person’s misfortune away into the air. Many people choose to say a prayer when the lantern is released. If the “Khom Fai” disappears from sight before the light goes out, it is considered that the prayer has been heard.

It is also a common practice for people to write their address in the balloon, or directly on the lantern itself. Anyone who then finds the address can claim a small reward from the sender. This is not meant to be a game, but rather a Thai tradition of sharing good fortune.

To the devout locals, the Khom Loy is a ritual to honor the Indic god that resides in the sky, “Phra Ged Kaew Ju La Manee”. The Khom Fai is a fire lantern while the Khom Khwan is a smoke lantern. These tiny floats of light are seen gracing the Chiang Mai sky throughout the festival.

Mae Jo lantern floating

In the north of the country, the Thai people not only float lights or “Krathong” in water channels but also in the sky to venerate the celebrations. The Thai are particular in all cultural celebrations and like to celebrate in a grand fashion whenever possible. The Mai Jo lantern launch is the best location in Chiang Mai to take part of the festivities. The beauty of all those lanterns transcending steadily towards the sky is a truly sublime moment.

Khom Fai, Mae Joe University

Khom Fai, Mae Joe University

The event takes place at the rear of the “Mae Jo University”. It is advised to get there early to secure a comfortable place for witnessing the launch of the lanterns. The site is almost 13 kilometers outside of the locality.

Noppamas Queen

Beauty is also a synonym for Thai culture and shows up in many different manifestations. Vibrancy and beauty is what defines all Thai traditions. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the festival also brings an organized beauty contest with the highlight being the Krathong parade that features the contestants for the title of “Noppamas Queen”.

Noppamas Queen Festival

Noppamas Queen Festival

Legend has it that “Noppamas” was a consort of the King of Sukothai in the fourteenth century. According to the story, this woman fashioned the first Krathong out of banana leaves, shaped to look like a lotus flower, and offered it to her lover. The king then lit a candle, burned an incense stick, and let it drift in the river. Noppamas is considered a symbol of beauty and also as the starter of this tradition.

Places to Stay

We have put together several lists of the best hotels, guesthouses and hostels in Chiang Mai. Check them out:

It is completely understandable for people who are booking places in a different country for the first time to make bad choices. Even seasoned travelers make this same mistake on a regular basis. Expensive hotels are certainly present, but there are cheap options with many of the same amenities.

A good hotel can be found, but only with the proper research. Instead of asking friends, turn to locals and ask them for their opinion. In addition, make sure to read online reviews at trusted travel sites to form a more accurate view of the hotel in question.

Pure luxury

Yes, indulgence can be a good thing once in a while. Too much wanderlust can quickly teach the value of great hotels and classy service. This dream-like accommodation is obviously not cheap and apart from the hefty price, it could include even additional charges. But, even the best of hotels in the city should have reasonable prices. If you have a short stay in Chiang Mai and are there to visit the festival, then opting for luxury may be a good choice to make the event more memorable.

Kodchasri Thani Hotel toes the line between expensive and manageable. The hotel offers classic service and a staff that goes out of its way to look after its guests. The hotel has a luxurious setting and is worth every dollar spent.

Kodchasri Thani Hotel, Chiang Mai

Kodchasri Thani Hotel, Chiang Mai

More time, less money

If you are in the mood to really experience the “festival of lights” and enjoy the celebration, then cut back on your accommodations budget. If you want to visit sites and temples, eat, and go through the whole “Thai experience,” then it is wiser to choose cheaper accommodation.

When I first came to the city, I couldn’t get enough of the splendor. To drink more from the beauty of Chiang Mai, I stayed longer and naturally, I had to manage accordingly. I stayed at Monn Phu Phrai a small, cozy, and  very “Thai” place to stay.

The atmosphere and friendly service is in sync with traditional Thai hospitality and the location is beautiful. The ambiance is great for all tourists visiting Thailand for the first time.

As cheap as they come

I was running on a tight budget last year but I didn’t want to cancel my pilgrimage to Chiang Mai for the Krathong festival. I traveled on a low budget and managed to adjust accommodations because of this great and very cheap place I found. It wasn’t pure luxury or anything, but it was comfortable and the staff was great. Win Place Hotel Chiangmai was a great place. I loved the way they brought the Thai style of decorating to the interior, even though the exterior was something out of the past.

Parting thoughts

My trip to Chiang Mai was a bliss that kept me in a daze. I felt I could stare at the sky forever, afloat with thousands of lanterns. A person can just sit back and drink in the sight of the “Krathongs” floating lazily across the river bank as children raid them for coins. It is simply impossible to fathom the beauty in one visit alone. Even after so many trips, I find something new every time I return.

Loi Krathongs

Loi Krathongs

Other Photos of Loi Krathong Festival

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