One of the more colorful festivals of Thailand is Loi Krathong, marking the end of the rainy season and following the lunar calendar. The festival is mostly timed at the end of October or the beginning of November.

First some “technical data”:

“Krathong” is a small vessel, made of banana or coconut leaves and decorated with flowers, candles and incense sticks (it looks a little like a birthday cake). According to a Thai tradition, it is set out to float on (preferably) a river to pay respect to the river goddess. The “floating away” also symbolizes the sins and other bad things to be taken away from the owner of the Krathong. Often a hair, a piece of fingernail or a small coin are placed on the floater as an offering.

Another way of celebration, particularly in northern Thailand, is by lighting up a lantern balloon.There sure will be fireworks all around.

Of course, something romantic like that called for clever business people to take over the idea and turn it into something slightly “kitschy”.
So if two lovers place their krathongs on the water, the time they float alongside each other, was interpreted as the time this love would last and, soon, Thailand has its own version of Valentine’s Day, to be exploited by flower shops and candy factories.

If you want to take part in this festival in Bangkok, you should try to get a place near the river to watch the floating, which can be a beautiful and almost magical sight.

Good luck with that, because thousands of other people will try that, too.

Setting Krathongs out to float

You may also try to get a place on the river, since some river cruise companies offer special dinner cruises on the Chao Phrayra River during the festival. From aboard, you can watch the impressive sight of hundreds of people, floating their Krathongs from the river banks.

If you are staying at a hotel and there is no body of water around, you might have to float your little flower boat on the hotel’s pool. This is not really traditional but, sometimes, it has to do for the moment. 

One good place to go also is Lumpini Park, to have a moonlight picnic.

…that is, if you are not easily disturbed by another thing, this festival brings with it – the “Loi Krathong”songs. Some of them will be played in an endless loop over the loudspeakers in parks or other public places.

But let’s be fair. It is a nice, mostly romantic festival with many smiling faces and an all around peaceful atmosphere.

One of the best places to celebrate Loi Krathong is a historical park in the Sukhothai province or in Chiang Mai, where it is more balloons and fireworks than floating a Krathong.

Now, you might ask what happens with the hundreds of thousands of little (or bigger) floaters after the festival is over. Most of them get cleared away by local people and city workers of course, but many still get away and clog up canals or sewers.

But help is on the way since more and more vendors start selling Krathongs, made from recycled paper, which dissolves easier and faster than styrofoam, or floaters made of bread, which also dissolves quickly and, on top of that, will be eaten by fish.

This way, you may not only appease the goddess of the river, but also Mother Earth.

Recycled- paper, traditional palm leaf and "bread" Krathong (left to right)