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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