One of the most picturesque festivals in Bangkok is the evening of Loy Krathong, 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 twelfth 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 site, 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 for many reasons. The main rice harvest season has ended and 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 the 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 krathongs into rivers and small canals called ‘klongs’. Today, a pond or lake is also good. 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 ‘Yee Peng’ festival, although people often fly lanterns in Phuket and Samui, too.
Where can you float a Krathong in Bangkok?
The main Loy Krathong celebration in Bangkok has been held at Asiatique since 2013. Perviously 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.
Loy Kratong Festival at Asiatique
If you are ready experience Loy Krathong the way the locals do, head to Asiatique, the riverfront night market, which is where you will find the biggest crowds and some impressive shows. Be warned that traffic in the area will be very bad and there will 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.