Visit Thailand’s Festival of Lights
Every year, Thailand’s Festival of Lights ignites the night sky and sets temples, houses and every nearby body of water aglow with the gentle light of thousands of delicate lanterns and floats. It’s one of the most mystical and stunning views in the country. Tourists come from all over the world to see the magical sight of thousands of lanterns being released at once into the deep darkness of the starry sky. Few places are more enchanting than Thailand during the Festival of Lights.
Contrary to popular belief, the ceremony that releases the numerous rice paper lanterns into the night sky is actually separate from the celebration famous for releasing hundreds of luminous floats out onto the streaming rivers and flowing bodies of water. However, both events occur around the same time and have been popularly referred to as a single festival. Nonetheless, the two celebrations – Loy Krathong, the float celebration, and Yi Peng, the lantern festival – have become famous worldwide. They are often a package deal for tourists trying to see the brilliance of the combined events.
Loy Krathong – a river of light made of people’s wishes
Learning about and participating in Loy Krathong is wonderfully easy and fulfilling. “Krathong” refers to the float, which is normally made out of bread or banana leaves while “loy” means to float. The locals make the krathongs themselves and attach flickering candles to each one. Often, people will place personal items or coins to the flower-covered floats in hopes of good luck and fortune. Others symbolically place all of their past misfortunes on the floats in order to symbolically send them away on the dark waters.
During the day before the floats are released, vendors and town merchants sell dozens of krathongs to visitors and locals. Tourists are encouraged to buy or make one of the floats themselves and participate in the night’s events.
Let your message take flight during Yi Peng
Yi Peng is the event that fills the night sky with thousands of floating lanterns. The biggest release of the hovering crafts is in Chiang Mai, which creates one of the most photogenic sights in the country. During the ceremony locals celebrate on the streets, in temples, and in their homes, but it is a much quieter festival. Locals take the opportunity to reflect on the stunning sights and meditate. Many people write messages inside the thin rice paper lanterns before sending them away, silently contemplating the magical scenery.
There are numerous locations to watch the lanterns soar and the tiny floats glide across the water, but you can find a particularly good view from the Nawarat Bridge above the Ping River. Because the Festival of Lights is based upon the lunar calendar, the date of the three-day ceremony changes from year to year. However, most of the time the event happens in mid fall, and visitors are told several weeks in advance when the festival will begin.