Loi Krathong is a festival celebrated in Thailand during the full moon of the 12th lunar month. We scheduled our trip to Thailand to be in Chiang Mai for the festival, during which thousands of paper lanterns are released into the sky. Loi in Thai means “to float,” while a krathong is a decorative vessel usually made of flowers and containing a candle or incense sticks. During the festival, thousands of lighted krathongs are also floated on the country’s rivers, canals and ponds in honor of Buddha. Revelers often make a wish before floating their krathong and are said to let go of negative thoughts in the process. Some believe Loi Krathong originated in Sukhothai, an ancient Thai Kingdom and UNESCO World Heritage Site some 200 kilometers from Chiang Mai, and we were fortunate to visit on the day the festivities started.
The ruins of ancient Sukhothai were illuminated and strung with twinkling lights. Though we had spent the better part of the day exploring the site in depth, the glowing pink and gold chedi made it feel as though we’d stepped into a fairy tale.
Huge crowds gathered to watch as costumed performers danced to an ever-changing display of lights and a story was being narrated over the sound system. The show culminated with a fireworks display and the release of about 50 paper lanterns into the night sky.
After things wound down, we found a lantern vendor who kindly showed us how to light and release them. The tissue-thin paper is attached to a wire base, with a flammable wick at the center. After using a disposable plastic lighter to get the flame going, we held the lantern close to the ground so it could fill with hot air. This is easier than it sounds as the paper gets quite hot and has to be held perfectly level. Our first one caught fire and was incinerated in seconds. Our second lantern lifted off only to get stuck in a tree. (Don’t worry, this is apparently a common problem and the 90% humidity keeps the trees from catching fire.) Once we worked the kinks out of the system, we were ready to join the other revelers. It was a wonderful introduction to Loi Krathong!
What’s the most spectacular festival you’ve ever attended?
Beautiful photos. Can I ask what type of camera you use? I was at the Yi Peng estival in Chiang Mai and almost no good shots:)
Thanks! I use a Canon PowerShot s95 – a simple point and shoot. I keep it on the auto setting with the flash turned off and it seems to work pretty well most of the time. We had a tough time getting good shots at the Chiang Mai festival as well. Too many people and moving targets.
This looks to be a beautiful festival. I like how they light up the ruins. I think you meant the lighting of the lanterns was harder than it looks. I would like to see the one where thousands of lantens are released. Mom
The photos don’t do it justice – the place was breathtaking! Lighting the lanterns was the easy part. It was the release that takes some practice!