It was recently Loy Krathong in Thailand. Loy Krathong happens on the night of the full moon in November, so this year it happened on 3rd November. We were in Thailand last November, and experienced Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai. Lotus baskets adorned with candles and incense float along rivers, lakes, and ponds across Thailand. For centuries, people have gathered on this day of the twelfth lunar month that marks an end to the rainy season. In some provinces, like Chiang Mai, thousands of paper lanterns are released up into the sky. It is believed that floating away one’s bad luck (loy) on these flower baskets (krathong) brings blessings and good luck.
Where we stayed
While we were in Koh Samui, we were told about the celebration, and as per our usual holiday style, we didn’t have anything planned for the period of time after we left Koh Samui. So we did as we were told, and bought flights up to Chiang Mai, and booked the most amazing hotel – the Dwangtawan (also on the recommendation of the hotel owner in Koh Samui). The hotel wasn’t outstanding in a lot of respects – just an ordinary 4-star hotel, you might think. But we booked the business rate, which gave us access to a floor for business guests. We had breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea included in the rate, as well as evening cocktails. We didn’t have to go down to the main breakfast hall, and our laundry was included as part of the rate. We ate room service in this hotel a few times. The total bill (probably around 6 – 8 dishes) came to less than one meal out in Koh Samui. Pretty useful for a family with little ones.
What we did in Chiang Mai
We arrived at midday, so after looking at our room we literally set out to wander the streets. No real plan, just an idea of checking out the neighbourhood. We were not too far from the Night Market, and we fancied looking at it before the night time. It kind of helps you navigate that bit better if you’ve seen it in the light.
We walked over the river and then looped back at Tha Phae Gate. Along the river, people were getting ready for Loy Krathong. They had stalls of krathongs, and those not yet finished were being weaved in front of our eyes.
First evening in Chiang Mai
For our first evening we went to the Night Market for our evening meal. It’s basically a giant warehouse space with food stalls around the outside (think food festival type stalls) and hundreds of plastic chairs and camping tables in the middle. You can buy all sorts of foods, from French crepes to Indian dahl, and of course a huge variety of Thai food.
After we’d eaten and drank, while the boys played and refused all food, we set off again walking toward the river. There we found thousands of people buying krathongs and setting them free along the river.
We paid a few baht for a krathong, and got the stallholder to light the candle in the middle. Then we passed through what felt like hundreds of people to get to the river, where we set the krathong free.
As we walked back up to our hotel with our two tired little boys, more baskets were being weaved and a group of university students called to James to help them make one. Our little crafty boy loved to be involved.
This basket was not set free along the river. It lived in our hotel room until we left, wilting and browning. I wonder if the room cleaner was itching to tell us it was meant to be sent along the river!
Meeting the monks
James had quite enjoyed being blessed by monks in the Grand Palace in Bangkok, it seems, and when we wandered around a temple and saw some giving blessings, James asked if he could go forward too.
Meanwhile Noah made sure his hands were clean. Ahem. After a little look around the temple we went back to the hotel for a much needed rest!
Our second day in Chiang Mai
The next morning we again set out for a wander around the streets. We decided not to go too far, and to have some time watching tv and relaxing, knowing that the main event was going to be quite late in the evening.
We went along to Tha Phae Gate, which is basically a city wall. Apparently there are often entertainers here, but when we visited there were hundreds of pigeons.
There are temples everywhere in Thailand, it seems, and all of them full of gold and dragons, and bells. Pretty fun for little boys, as they run up and down making all the bells ring.
After a wild bath time back at the hotel, we set out again to release a krathong into the river. Tonight was a bit extra since there were also lanterns being sent up into the sky. It was so romantic; actually we witnessed two proposals!
The sight of thousands of softly glowing flower baskets floating up and down the country against the backdrop of a moonlit horizon makes this a picturesque and magical Thai festival.