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Float Your Troubles Away During Loy Krathong

October 19th, 2010 by

Loy Krathong is a nationwide festival in Thailand, and is celebrated by floating constructs of leaves, candles and offerings along rivers, streams and waterways. Learn more about “The Festival of Lights” before heading out to float your own water lantern.

Loy Krathong

Photo courtesy by Back to Nothing.

Loy Krathong originated in the ancient capital of Sukhothai some eight centuries ago when villagers placed offerings in the water to appease the water goddess Mae Khongkha for any pollution they’d made in her rivers the previous year. They made them from the trunks of banana trees and decorated them with candles, flowers and incense. The name Loy Krathong itself comes from the words “Loy”, meaning “float”, and “Krathong”, which is a circular float filled with decorations and offerings. Today, believers add nail clippings and hair strands in order to carry away misfortune, as well as coins.

Krathong

Photo courtesy by Dane Larsen.

If you want to release your own misfortunes to the waters of Thailand, you can buy a ready-made krathong near the waterways. Some krathongs are made from plastic and styrofoam, though these are heavily discouraged by the government because of the toxic ingredients (kind of defeats the purpose!).  A growing number of krathong are being made from bread, which not only dissolves harmlessly but can feed the wildlife along the river. As night approaches, head for a body of water, add a personal belonging to the float such as nail clippings or hair, then send it off with a prayer or a wish. It is said if the krathong floats away from you, you can enjoy blessings in the coming months. If it floats back on the other hand, don’t look forward to your wish being granted.

Yi Peng Festival

Photo courtesy of Jonn.Gordon.

The most popular places for Loy Krathong are Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. In Bangkok, your best bet is to get a seat at any of the restaurants between Krungthep and Krungthon Bridges along the Chao Praya River. A flotilla of fourteen boats furnished with lights will travel between the two from 6pm to 8pm. Booking a room in Shangri-La Hotel which overlooks the Chao Praya River will also give you a good look at the floating illuminations.

In Chiang Mai, air lanterns called “Khom Loi” are sent to the heavens by the dozens, creating a wonderful spectacle in the sky. Their version of the festival is called Yi Peng and is also meant to carry away grief and misfortune; you can find the launch point besides Tha Phae Gate on the shores the Ping River. The Chakungrao River Hotel is astride the river, making it easier for guests to arrive at the gate.

Finally, the beaches of Phuket are enjoying an off-shore wind this time of year which will boost your chances of sending your worries away. Small children will also offer their services to carry your krathong farther off-shore to improve your chances for blessings. Poppa Palace Hotel is just three minutes away from Patong Beach in Phuket, which makes it a convenience for beach festival-goers.

Krathong launch

Photo courtesy by []o} Stephen.

The 2010 Loy Krathong will occur on November 21. Some places like Saphan Taksin and Santichaiprakarn Park will be overcrowded, which not only means fighting for a slot along the river, but also handing over your krathong to a guy with a stick who will place it in the water for you. And then there are the teen bandits who wade into the rivers and raid the krathongs for the few coins they carry. Avoid these places and head for Chatuchak Park on Paholyothin Road or the sizable ponds in any of Bangkok’s twenty-one public parks. While still crowded, these places offer a much more relaxed experience compared to the major lakes and rivers. Finally, expect the rivers to be dotted with wax and styrofoam the next day; Thai officials regularly remove a million krathongs from the water after the festivities.

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