Loi Krathong in Bangkok
The “Floating Crown” Festival
Taking part in festivals while remaining off the tourist trail in a city like Bangkok can be quite easy, if you know where to look. Originally we had planned on going to Asiatique, a waterfront complex, which was said to be hosting the “big event” for Loi Krathong this year. A little bit of rain drizzle, along with thoughts of the immense crowds and horrific traffic both heading there and coming back, were more than enough to change our minds. We thought we’d just wander to something a little more local to our apartment, in the Bang Sue region of Bangkok. What we thought would be something quite small and low key turned into one of the most interesting cultural experiences I’ve had in Bangkok.
What is Loi Krathong?
Loi Krathong is festival celebrated all over Thailand, and in parts of Laos and Burma. It happens annually on the 12th full moon of the of the Thai lunar calendar (usually in mid to late November). The name Loi Krathong roughly translates to “Floating Crown”, and comes from the practice of floating crown shaped boat down the river. It’s origins are a little vague, but it may come from the ancient practice of paying respect to water spirits. Traditionally, the Loi Krathong boat is made from banana tree trunk and leaves, folded into a crown shape. They’re decorated with flowers, incense candles and sometimes a coin as an offering. When the Loi Krathong is released into the river, or body of water, a wish is then made for good luck.
We had asked a local where we might go to release our Loi Krathong, expecting to see a few locals doing the same. As we approached Kiak Kai Pier, we were greeted with hundreds of food and souvenir stalls, vendors selling various arrangements of Loi Krathongs, from simple to very elaborate, and crowds of people all making pilgrimage to Wat Kaeo Fa Chulamani – the Buddhist temple found next to Kiak Kai Pier. I can easily say, we were pretty much the only foreigners found in the mix of the thousands of Thais there. I think I saw only one other, who may have been lost, as he was was buying discount (possibly used) shoes from one of the vendors. We followed the crowds into the temple where we were blessed by a Buddhist monk who was happily spraying passer-bys with a water soaked whisk. There was music, prayer in the temple, food vendors, and chaos all around. We traditionally walked clockwise around the temple before making our way towards the pier steps into the water where the Loi Krathongs were being released.
After lighting our insense and candle on the Loi Krathong boat, we made a wish and released it into the choppy water of the Chao Phraya. It drifted around amongst the hundreds of others nestled in the bay, before making it’s way onto the main body of water. When we came back up to ground level, we saw many others lighting Yi Peng lanterns, which coincides with the same full moon of Loi Krathong. Fireworks could be seen happening all along the river. An old restaurant and local bar are also found at the pier, so one could easily stay and enjoy all the happenings, while drinking a local cocktail or eating some delicious Thai cuisine.
SEE – Photos & Videos
GO – Getting There
As mentioned earlier, we stayed off the tourist trail for our Loi Krathong celebrations. The area we celebrated at is not the easiest place to get to with local transportation such as buses and sky trains. It may be most easily accessed by either taxi, or taking a ferry along the Chao Phraya River (the main river in Bangkok) to Kiak Kai Pier (N21).
Do – Activities & Attractions
Stay – Accommodation
Eat – Restaurants
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
Safety – Possible risks
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Pay – How much does it cost?
Responsible Travel – Best Practices
Reality Check – Be Aware
As mentioned, this isn’t the most accessible location to celebrate Loi Krathong. It was, however, a very local celebration, and much less commercialized than some of the other events. I imagine similar events happen at many of the piers along the river and the klongs (canals) that branch off from it. I think this particular pier was so busy due to the temple located next to it. You don’t need much to prepare for this event, as you may purchase your Loi Krathongs there, for prices ranging between 30-100 baht (approx $1-3 USD), depending on the size. Perhaps wearing sandals, and shorts you don’t mind getting a bit wet would be ideal. All in all, this was a fantastic event, and a lot of fun with a heavy dose of cultural immersion! Highly recommended if you happen to be in Thailand at this time!
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Have you participated in Loi Krathong? What was your experience with it? Have you ever participated in other water-based festivals?
Please feel free to share your stories and thoughts in the comment section below!