Forget autumn in New York – November in Thailand is where the magic really happens. As we move towards the end of the year, Phuket’s infamous rainy season is drawing to a close (while Koh Samui is at its rainiest) but since the silly season hasn’t kicked in yet, you have a good chance of avoiding the crowds. But there’s also another great – and very photogenic – reason to visit Thailand in November. This is the month of Loi Krathong, or the Thai Festival of Light.
For the uninitiated, Loi Krathong is an incredibly beautiful annual festival celebrated throughout Thailand. The name Loi Krathong means “to float a basket” in Thai. More specifically, krathong is a small lotus-shaped basket crafted from banana tree trunk, laden with flowers, artfully folded banana leaves, incense and candles – not unlike the intricate offerings you see dotting the streets in Bali.
During the annual festivities, locals and visitors release thousands of picturesque baskets to rivers and lakes (don’t worry, the traditional banana trunk krathongs are biodegradable). Loi Krathong follows the Thai lunar calendar and in 2018, the festival falls on November 23. If you want to witness the iconic sky lanterns, it’s best to head to Chiang Mai where the northern Thai Yee Peng festival (November 21 – 23, 2018) coincides with Loi Krathong and sees countless lanterns released up to the sky.
There are more than a few alternate stories explaining the origins of Loi Krathong festival and indeed, the Thai people celebrate the festival for a variety of reasons. The festival relates to the end of the harvest season and a lot of emphasis is also placed on Thailand’s abundant rivers where the krathongs were traditionally released to. Whichever version you follow, people from all walks of life can appreciate the symbolism that goes into this scenic ceremony – letting go of your worries and the things which no longer serve you while also giving thanks for the things you have and releasing your hopes and dreams out to sea, so to speak.
Loi Krathong is celebrated throughout Thailand so you’re bound to catch the festivities no matter where you find yourself in the Land of Smiles. Traditionally the krathongs were released to rivers and streams but today, lakes and ponds are also acceptable. In beachy destinations like Phuket baskets can also be sent out to sea in popular locations like Patong, Kata and Karon. Chiang Mai in northern Thailand hosts one of the most photogenic celebrations – but keep in mind that unlike the free Loi Krathong celebrations elsewhere, Chiang Mai’s Yee Peng festivities require purchasing tickets in advance.
There’s no need to sweat over mastering the art of krathong making, as the beautiful lotus shaped baskets are widely sold close to all the popular rivers, ponds and beaches where locals gather to lay down their offerings. If you’re unsure where to witness the festivities, check with your villa or hotel staff for some local insight.
Loi Krathong is easily one of the most beautiful holidays celebrated anywhere in the world and definitely deserves a spot on any self-respecting traveller’s bucket list. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Thailand during the festivities, get yourself to the nearest water, pick out the pretties krathong and simply enjoy the magic.