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30 In Culture/ Religion + Spirituality/ Thailand/ Travel

Loi Krathong – Festival of Light – Bangkok, Thailand

When Matt and I came back to Bangkok we had no plans and done no research. In all reality we came here to go to the hospital to have my cast removed. We just happened to be here for Loi Krathong and we never would’ve known if it weren’t for our favorite Bangkok hostel, PanPan Hostel, we never would’ve known that our first night there was the famous Loi Krathang festival. 

A Little About Loi Krathong – The Festival Of Light

The festival of light is celebrated in different ways across Southeast Asia, although it’s a different name in other countries and regions. However, the translation of the Thai name of the festival is literally ‘to float a basket’. This festival occurs on the last full moon of the rainy season. Some say the roots are in the ancient rituals of paying respects to the water spirits from the days of animism. Basically, you buy or make the krathongs, which are like a floating basket of offerings. They’re made up of different things like bamboo, banana leaves, food and flowers. (This made me feel slightly less guilty for placing the offerings in the river.) Then you light incense or candles in them, make a wish/ask for a blessing and place them in the river. (Have you seen photos or been to the lantern festival in Chiang Mai? This is the southern Thai version of the same festival.)

My Experience Celebrating Loi Krathong

As I mentioned before, We hadn’t planned to experience this festival because we honestly had no idea that it was going on. As such, we didn’t research the best place to celebrate, but we asked the girl at our hostel where we could celebrate as the festival had already started. She told us to walk until we saw the river, basically. So, that’s what we did. Matt and I power-walked about 30 minutes through crazy traffic peeking down different alleys to find the river. We saw several riverfront restaurants and such, but nowhere that we could observe the happenings. We passed thousands of krathongs being sold along the street. They’re so bright and colorful. Then, we stumbled upon Wat Yannawa.

Loi Krathong at Wat Yannawa

At first, I felt very self-conscious being in both shorts and a tank top. However, I looked to the people manning the gates for advice and they said it was okay because of the festival. This temple was a gorgeous place to celebrate. Because it isn’t in the old town, it’s a place that’s less explored. This means that we were two of the only non-locals celebrating here. Also, with it being in a temple we got to see lots of extra festivities within the temple.

Cultural Tip: As I learned during the photo on the left, you don’t hand money into a monk’s hands. You should place them on the table or in an offering place. 

The krathong being sold on the streets are actually a bit cheaper, but I’m really glad that we purchased them from the monks because the money goes back into the temple. This is actually one of the oldest temples in Bangkok, so I love helping fund its preservation. After purchasing your krathong, you light the incense and candles before placing them into the river.

Matt captured the experience so beautifully and respectfully. He always kept his distance and just used zoom lenses. 

 

Because there is a fenced area behind the temple that steps down into the river there was a group of men to help you get your blessing from your hands into the river.

My wish/blessing being placed into the river. Interestingly you can see the carp preparing to eat the krathongs made of food. Also, as boats pass, the wake often topples the krathongs or at least extinguishes the candles. It’s an interesting aspect to witness.

Although we didn’t get to see the biggest spot to participate in Loi Krathong, we had a much more intimate, local experience. The people were generous to explain how to participate and to be a bit more lax about my dress, especially since I was only on temple grounds, not in the actual wat. I’m so glad that we were informed of Loi Krathong just in time to celebrate here in Bangkok.

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30 Comments

  • Reply
    Kavita Favelle | Kavey Eats
    December 2, 2017 at 3:03 am

    How wonderful to experience this beautiful festival of light, especially as you didn’t even know about it in advance! And good on your hostel for alerting you. A nice bonus for a trip that was for wholly unrelated purposes!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      December 3, 2017 at 1:47 am

      I know! I was so excited that they let us know! It was a great festival to get to take part in!

  • Reply
    TravellingDany
    December 2, 2017 at 3:19 am

    I always wanted to attend, and it was so fortunate that you were there right on time! It’s good that the hostel staff told you!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      December 3, 2017 at 1:48 am

      I know! We were so lucky! You’ll have attend sometime!

  • Reply
    Christina
    December 2, 2017 at 3:28 am

    Thai festivals are so gentle and peaceful. Loi Krathong is particularly special, with all those amazing lights.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      December 3, 2017 at 2:14 am

      That’s very true; except Song Kran. That one’s crazy! The lights give it such a sweet, spiritual feel.

  • Reply
    tombourlet
    December 2, 2017 at 5:34 am

    I’ve just come back from Bangkok so I’m gutted I wasn’t there for the Loi Krathong festival of light, it looks stunning. Hat’s off to the hostel for letting you know as well.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      December 3, 2017 at 2:16 am

      Oh no! You just missed it! I’m glad that they let me know too! One of the many pros of finding a great hostel!

  • Reply
    Marcus and Mel
    December 2, 2017 at 5:55 am

    It’s always good when you accidentally stumble across a place or an event when travelling. It was good that the locals help explain the festival and made you feel welcome.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      December 3, 2017 at 2:21 am

      Isn’t it?! They were so wonderful. I’ve never felt unwelcome in Thailand.

  • Reply
    Hannah
    December 2, 2017 at 6:23 am

    What a beautiful celebration to witness. I have read about light and lantern festivals in other parts of Asia, but didn’t know about Loi Krathong in Bangkok. Sometimes these festivals get appropriated by tourists (such as the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico), and it’s becomes about the spectacle rather than the tradition – I’m glad you got to experience this with the locals – it must have felt very special.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      December 4, 2017 at 7:07 am

      It really was so beautiful! I’m glad we got to experience it with locals too. It was so special and it’s so great to have locals walk you through the experience instead of just being pushed through by a company.

  • Reply
    anna faustino
    December 2, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    As you said, maybe it was better that you got to participate in the event in a low-key local manner. I imagine the main spot would have been much more commercialised. This one sounded incredible. We celebrated loy krathong and the lantern festival in Chiang Mai a few years back and loved it whenever the locals would explain the cultural significance. Sounds like a memorable, perfect evening.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      December 4, 2017 at 7:08 am

      I bet you’re absolutely right. That’s so cool! I’d love to go to Chiang Mai for the Lantern Festival sometime! It looks unreal!

  • Reply
    SkyeClass
    December 4, 2017 at 4:03 am

    This is actually refreshing to find a post that talks about the actual Loi Krathong festival, and not Yi Peng as most of them do. That’s the lantern festival, which coincides on the same weekend, but is really a different festival. While Yi Peng is mesmerizingly beautiful, Loi Krathong is also a great festival, and there’s so much information, history and ceremony. I loved the colors of the “banana boats,” and I could only imagine the rivers in Bangkok would be absolutely covered with them, much more so than they were in Chiang Mai where I got to see it a couple years ago. Just another reason I need to return to Thailand.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      December 4, 2017 at 7:10 am

      Thank you so much. Because we were in a smaller, less touristy area there weren’t as many little boats, but it was still amazing to see all the ones we did see. Yi Peng looks beautiful as well, I’d love to experience it too. I love spiritual rituals and festivals.

  • Reply
    gastrotravelogue
    December 4, 2017 at 9:13 am

    I was lucky enough to be in Chiang Mai one year for Loi Krathong . I also had no idea that it was going to take place and ended up in a small temple on the banks of a river. It was peaceful, colourful and really beautiful. I was so privileged to be there .

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      December 4, 2017 at 10:12 pm

      It’s so wonderful when you get to see these festivals. I’ve heard the festival in Chiang Mai is wonderful as well!

  • Reply
    thevikingabroad
    December 4, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    I didn’t know about this festival at all. It seems like a very unique thing to observe and celebrate. I love travelling to places when they have festivals that are unique for the location. Great tips that you should buy the Krathong from the monks and that it supports the temple. Thank you for this post.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      December 4, 2017 at 10:13 pm

      I’m glad I could introduce you to it! I love giving my money to things that help maintain culture and local things, like temples.

  • Reply
    Megan Indoe
    December 4, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    I love when our travels time up with a cool festival like this! It would have been so cool to see all the floating candles and to be a part of it! Glad they were okay with the shorts and tank too! Sometimes I forget or if you just show up not realizing there’s a festival you can’t really plan for it!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      December 4, 2017 at 10:14 pm

      I’m glad they were too. I would’ve been devastated to miss it because I didn’t have something to cover up with. It’s so different having to be mindful of my clothing here. I try to keep elephant pants and a kimono in my backpack, but then I don’t take the backpack haha.

  • Reply
    Rhonda Albom
    December 4, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    It’s wonderful when you accidently stumble upon something incredible. Wat Yannawa must have been really fun, especially since it’s so out of the way. You got to have a completely unique experience. I didn’t know that you couldn’t put money into a monk’s hand.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      December 8, 2017 at 12:35 am

      I didn’t know that either. I was really embarrassed to have made such a faux pas. At almsgivings the offerings always go in the bags, not in their hands and the money I paid for the blessings here had to be placed on the table first. I don’t know if that’s just in Thailand or in Buddhism as a whole.

  • Reply
    Candy
    December 4, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    So cool that you didn’t plan this and were able to participate 🙂 I worry about appropriate clothing as well, so it was nice to hear that it wasn’t an issue for you to be in shorts and a tank top. Love the photos!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      December 8, 2017 at 12:36 am

      Thank you, Candy. I was really stressing that I was going to miss out because of this. I try to keep extra “modest” clothing in my bag.

  • Reply
    @clairesturz
    December 5, 2017 at 8:23 am

    I love stumbling across local festivals, you were so lucky in the end! Great tip about placing the money for the offering on the table, sometimes you have to make mistakes in order to learn from them, I’m glad the people were so kind and open to you so you could have such a special experience.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      December 8, 2017 at 12:41 am

      We were so lucky to be there for it! I’m so grateful to them as well. Thanks for reading.

  • Reply
    Meg Jerrard
    December 5, 2017 at 10:33 pm

    I do love that about hostels – that you always find out about the best events and festivals happening in town during your time there. Loi Krathong sounds like it was a beautiful experience – and what a great spontaneous find, to also stumble across something which was obviously very authentic, being the only couple of foreigners there.

    So nice that the locals took the time to welcome you into their celebrations and explain what was going on. Nice find!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      December 8, 2017 at 12:43 am

      That’s so true. People talk in hostels unlike any other form of accommodation. IT was absolutely beautiful and I’m so glad that we got to experience it. Xx

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