Author: Iain Page - updated August 2019
Of all the different celebrations in Thailand including New Year celebrations and the Chinese Vegetarian festival, our favourite is undoubtedly the Loy Krathong festival. The nature of the festival is much more representative of the true culture of Thai people in general, being a festival of a genteel nature and about respect for other persons.
The name itself comes from two Thai words: Loy meaning "to float" and Krathong, a decorative floating object traditionally made from various parts of the banana plant. The festival occurs on the eve of the full moon on the twelfth lunar month (a.k.a. November). This year the Loy Krathong Festival in Phuket will be celebrated on Wednesday 13th November 2019.
Although the origins of the festival are disputed, it is widely believed to have first started in the ancient kingdom of Sukothai. Many believe that the festival centers around the goddess of water "Phra Mae Kongka" and is an opportunity for the Thai people to pay their respects and express gratitude to her. Respect is shown by the lighting of a candle on the float, putting a few small coins on top and gently placing the krathong onto the surface of the water.
Every year Oui, Abbie and I visit our local festival by the lake at the northern end of Karon Beach. We always start by checking the wind direction before choosing where to place the krathong in the water so that the wind will take the krathong into the middle of the lake rather than blowing it back towards us. Next we approach the lake's edge, light the candles and incense sticks on the top of the krathong, put a few small coins between the leaves and place the float into the water. After some moments of meditation we make our wish and then gently push the float away from the edge. The idea is that the candle should stay lit but this is not always possible especially if there is a strong sea breeze. The longer the candle is alight the more chance of your wish coming true!
Every year between the lake and Karon beach the local authorities set up a large stage for continuous entertainment throughout the evening. The entertainment is wide ranging from local school children performing traditional Thai dance routines to live bands and even a beauty contest! In true Thai festive style, expect lots of noisy music and a multitude of happy, smiling faces.
Also, in traditional Thai style you will find a multitude of market stalls containing all sorts of food items from meat sticks to scrumptious desserts. You may even come across a stall selling a variety of fried bugs! After all, any regular visitor to Thailand will be well aware of just how much Thai people love their variety of food! Drinks of all types are also for sale ranging from local juices and shakes to beer and cocktails!
You will also find many stalls selling krathongs. Be aware that the krathongs get cheaper the further away you are from the center of the festivities so try to purchase on the way to the festival rather than once you are there. Also, many stalls sell krathongs made by local school children with profits going to help their school.
With so many persons, including guests to Thailand, participating in the festival we ask people to please be respectful of the environment and also the other people around them. When choosing a float please make sure that it is one made of natural materials that will biodegrade rather than plastics or styrofoam. Also, please place them in the lake NOT the sea. After the festival the local authorities in Karon are able to clear the krathongs from the lake and dispose of them in an environmentally friendly manner.
You will also see floating lanterns for sale (khom loy) that can be lit and sent up into the sky. The thoughts behind this is to hopefully send any bad things in your life up and away into the sky with the lantern. Although they look beautiful twinkling away in the night the rims are often made of metal which generally end up on the sea bed once the fire dies out. Therefore, please think twice about whether you actually need to light one yourself. Also, be aware that they are, in themselves, a fire hazard that can also drip oil shortly after take off. Please therefore ensure that you light them well away from other persons to avoid accidentally injuring anyone.
Come and join us for some sensible, eco-friendly and safe Loy Krathong fun in Phuket!
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