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Loy Khratong 2554

Next week Chiang Mai will celebrate the festival of Loy Krathong, or Yee Peng as it’s called in Northern Thailand. It’s Chiang mai’s second biggest festival after the Thai New Year festival of Song Kran in April, and lasts over several days. Loy Krathong is a lunar festival and the main day is the full moon night of the twelfth Lunar month which this year falls on 10 November.

Yeepeng Festival 2011

If you’ve not seen it before Loy Krathong is both a fun party and enchanting experience of the old Lanna Kingdom’s culture and tradition. I still remember my first night at Loy Krathong, relaxing early in the evening at an outdoor restaurant overlooking the serene waters of the Ping River. It was a cool, clear night and looking skyward I spotted what I first thought was an airplane, but glowing in a strange way.

I asked Note, my young Thai companion about it, he laughed, made some comment about “stupid Farang” and explained it was a Khom Loy or fire lantern. As the evening progressed the sky filled with hundreds of Kom Loy all silently floating skywards and, in accordance with Thai beliefs, taking with them everyone’s bad luck. Slowly the Ping River filled with hundreds of little lights as Krathongs, small banana leaf floats holding candles and incense, drifted downstream.

Krathongs are set adrift on rivers and waterways all over Thailand. Make a blessing or say a prayer as you gently push your Krathong out into the water and all your bad luck floats away. The ritual also appeases the goddess of water. It’s a beautiful sight to see hundreds of little lights bobbing peacefully along the river. Less peacefully, fireworks are let off in abundance in celebration and, In Chiang Mai Kom Loy lanterns, miniature hot air balloons traditionally made from Rice Paper are launched everywhere.

Khom Loy LaunchFloating Khratongs
Launching a Khom Loy Fire Lantern and floating Kratongs on the Ping River during Yeepeng festival

The centre of Loy Kratong activity in Chiang Mai is Narawat Bridge where Thai’s gather in large numbers to float their Kratongs down the river, launch Khom Loys and party well into the night. It can seem like a war scene with so many people launching fireworks, and throwing firecrackers. Indeed the firecrackers have already started a week before and will provide the background sound to Loy Khratong from late afternoon to the early hours of morning for the next ten days or so.

Other traditional celebrations include the Kratong parades with carnival floats accompanied by escorts in beautiful lanna costumes. Especially not to be missed for those who like the male form are some of the local college floats with handsome northern Thai students walking wearing nothing except Lanna style Sarongs. This year the Katoeys should be back too.

Our friend Frank at asiancoop.com has lot’s of Loy Khratong picturs on his blog. Here are a couple of the boys in the parade to give you some idea. Click the pictures for more.

Loy Khratong boys in paradeBoys in Loykhratong parade
Handsome Thai guys clad only in lanna style costumes are a great attribute of the parades

The full schedule of events can be found here in Thai. For an English version checkout Chiang Mai Mail on Facebook

The main days of the festival are 9-11 November with full moon day, 10th being the biggest. The parades are scheduled on 10 Novemeber – small Khratong and 11 November Large Kratong and fireworks display. The parades run from Thapae gate down Thapae Road to the Municipality on the river. They usually start around 19:00 and take some time to progress. Many other events are held around Thapae Gate, Three Kings Monument, around the moat and along the river.

  1. jaafar says:

    I have to agree. The firecrackers and loud explosions go on for at least three days. What they have to do with Loi Krathong beats me.

    Since the firecrackers set dogs to barking (and make the dogs miserable), LK is my least favorite Thai holiday.

  2. DAVID says:

    What those who promote Chiang Mai don’t want ‘outsiders’ to know is that LK is a horrendously noisy affair.
    Yes, the floats, lanterns, decorations and costumes are wonderful but THE FIREWORKS …..
    I live here and I tell you that, along the Ping River, the fireworks have been exploding since October 5th and will continue for another couple of weeks.
    I wont get into a discussion about the irony of ‘poor’ people still having enough money to explode or the irony of celebrating the Water Goddess during terrible floods.
    Suffice to say that, if the likes of the Tourism Authoirity of Thailand and numerous websites were honest, they would warn everyone that the fireworks have been allowed to become an intrusive aberration that detract from what was and should be a peaceful celebration.
    So, if you want peace during LK time of the year (November), go elsewhere.

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