The Loi Krathong Festival is a celebration of Buddha that takes place all over Thailand, though Chiang Mai’s observance is perhaps the most famous. Images and video of the mass release of thousands of lighted paper lanterns have enchanted me for years so we planned our trip to coincide with the festival. As fate would have it, we missed the mass release, which takes place during the Yi Peng Festival a few days before Loi Krathong and at a location some 16 kilometers from Chiang Mai. Yi Peng is specific to northern Thailand and takes place on the second full moon of the Lanna calendar. My disappointment in missing the special event was short-lived, though, as Chiang Mai’s Loi Krathong was truly spectacular. We spent five nights in the northern capital and three of them had a parade. The city’s temples were humming with activity and the monks’ joy was contagious. Best of all, revelers released hundreds of paper lanterns every night and it was magical.
The nightly parades featured elaborate floats, costumed dancers and the repeated playing of the catchy Loi Krathong theme song. We were surprised to see that several floats included images of the Hindu god Ganesh. Marching bands, fire breathers and dancing ponies completed the spectacle that even the monks turned out to watch.
There was even a Mr. and Mrs. Loi Krathong beauty pageant! (We picked up a free magazine in a coffee shop that listed all the goings-on for the festival.)
Seemingly every vendor in town was getting in on the action, from the bakery selling special krathong-shaped loaves of bread to the massage parlor that set up on the street so patrons could have their feet rubbed while enjoying the parade. The flower market was doing a brisk business, selling the raw materials for krathongs as well as their own ornately-styled creations.
To encourage guests to participate in the celebration, our wonderful hotel offered a krathong-making class. We folded and pinned strips of banana leaves to a slice of banana tree stalk, then added flowers, candles and incense. On the night of the full moon, I joined the throngs of faithful at the Mae Ping river to release my krathong. To my surprise, a helpful man had stationed himself in the muddy waters to help facilitate the process. Someone at the hotel told me I should make a wish as I released my float, but I was concentrating so much on not falling in the river that I forgot to say one. Really, though, my wish had already come true.
Would you like to celebrate Loi Krathong?
Wow. Looks amazing!! Great pictures.
Thanks! It was even more incredible in person!
This was all so awsome, I don’t know what to comment on first. I loved the floats – fantastic. Then the release of the lanterns – what an experience. The making of the little float was neat. I loved it all. Mom
Hopefully we can take you to see it in person one day!
be*mused jan says
The whole experience sounds wonderful! I especially liked he photo of the green-suited fellow on the prancing pony. The lantern release looks magical!
So beautiful! We missed Loi Krathong by literally, one week! It looks like a such a beautiful time!
Heather Hall says
Thanks, Caro, it was magical! I walked around all week with the hugest grin on my face. We missed the Yi Peng mass release by two or three days and I didn’t even care! Hope you get to experience it yourself one day 🙂