Loy Krathong (ลอยกระทง) is a very old festival which takes place on the full moon of the 12th lunar month (so the date is different every year). In 2018, the date will be November 22nd. Last year it was November 3rd. Loy Krathong is an old tradition and the exact origins seen unclear. It was maybe adapted from an old Indian festival to honour Buddha or may have originated in the Sukhothai era (13th - 15th centuries) and is also thought to be about giving thanks to the Hindu goddess of water, Ganga (Phra Mae Khongkha in Thailand). There are many links between Buddhism and Hinduism, being that the Buddha was born in India. The Loy Krathong festival is not as huge in Phuket compared to Chiang Mai for example, but nevertheless it seems that everyone does it! Every year there are events at Patong beach, Karon beach (at the lake), Chalong Pier and Naiharn lake, at Sapan Hin and Suan Luang Park in Phuket Town and at Bang Wad Reservoir and pretty much anywhere else there's a beach or a lake to float a krathong! Local news websites normally update exactly when and where the festivities will take place. Hotels may also have their own Loy Krathong events for hotel guests.
What happens on Loy Kratong? Well, aside from a bit of a party, the idea is to "Loy" (float) your Krathong for good luck and to let go of anything bad from the previous year. And what is a Krathong? Well, it's like a little floating home made container normally vaguely resembling a lotus leaf, with added flowers, incense, candles ...
(above) Floating a Krathong
People will often add coins, and maybe hair and nail clippings, hoping for good luck and casting off bad luck. A few years ago I wrote about How To Make A Krathong. We sometimes make them ourselves, sometimes it's easier to buy one on the day - people will make them and set up stalls to sell you a krathong. They are traditionally made of banana stem, banana leaves and then you add the decorations. You can also get krathongs made of bread which is good because they don't pollute. Styrofoam krathongs have hopefully now been banned everywhere.
(above) Making Krathong at home
(above) Or you can always find people selling krathongs on the night ...
At some locations there are also beauty contests and who-can-make-the-best-krathong contests. You'll also find plenty of food and drink at the big Loy Krathong events. We used to always go to the Bang Wad Reservoir which is quite close to home, it was always busy there. More recently we prefer to be somewhere quieter by the beach to float our Krathong.
(above) Quite a few years ago .... our daughter with a krathong at Bang Wad Reservoir
(above) Loy Krathong at Bang Wad Reservoir - as you can see there are a lot of krathongs in the water! They say that your krathong should float away from you for good luck - if it comes back to shore that's not good luck, so it's best to give it a bit of a push and make sure the wind is behind you!
(above) Loy Krathong at our daughter's school many years ago. At school they normally make their own krathongs and dress up in olde traditional clothes.
(above) My wife lighting the candles and incense before floating our krathong out to sea at a quiet beach.
The festival coincides with the Yi Peng festival which is largely celebrated in northern Thailand and is also based on merit making, praying for good luck. Rather than krathong, paper lanterns containing a fuel cell or candle are lit and float into the sky. The lanterns used to be made with a bamboo frame, but more recently a wire frame is more common. These are called kom fai or kom loi. These things are getting to be a bit controversial, since they burn out and then the frame, often made of metal, falls down to litter the land or the sea. In 2018 I'd be careful letting lanterns go unless you are sure it's allowed ... not strictly legal, certainly banned in some places.
All you need to do is light the fuel, let the hot air rise and watch them go. One time at home we found that lighting the fuel was not so easy with a bit of a breeze. One of the lanterns took off and then landed again in the garden next door.. then took off again and got stuck in their TV aerial. I thought the burning fuel would burn their TV cable, but the lantern blew off to safety in the end. We used to tell our young kids that the lanterns floated up to the sky and became stars :)
(above) A kom fai burning and ready to release!
If you are in Phuket for Loy Krathong it's certainly something to get involved in. Maybe your hotel has an event or if you're near one of the main events, I'd certainly go and float a krathong!
More Phuket Festivals
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Songkran in Phuket
Phuket Old Town Festival
Hungry Ghost Festival