Lights, Lanterns & Loi Krathong

Thousands of glowing lanterns slowly lift off into the sky as colourful floating flower displays drift down the river. No, this is not a scene out of a movie – the picturesque setting is part of Thailand’s real-life Loi Krathong festival. Held annually during the full moon of the 12th lunar month, Loi Krathong is one of the country’s most prominent and appreciated holidays, drawing thousands of international visitors to Thailand each year. This year, Loi Krathong will be held from 14 – 16 November, with the most important night of festivities taking place on 15 November.

You may have seen one of the many gorgeous photos of paper lanterns lighting up Thailand’s skies before, but what is Loi Krathong all about?


The legacy of Loi Krathong

There are many theories about how Loi Krathong originated – from honouring Buddha’s footprint in the Nammathati River in India to giving thanks to the Thai river goddess Phra Mae Khonkha for providing water and marking the end of the rainy season. However, the festival’s exact origins are still debated to this day. Regardless of its background, people from a range of cultural backgrounds appreciate the enthralling beauty of the holiday and see it as a time for family and friends to come together, enjoy each other’s company and let go of any concerns weighing them down from the past year. 

Throughout the country, families join together to give thanks at temples and enjoy the variety of contests, parades and cultural activities on display during the festival. The main draw for many travellers is the sight of Loi Krathong’s two most recognisable symbols – the lanterns soaring up into the sky and the floating flower displays in the water. Loi Krathong directly translates to “floating krathong” in English, referring to the festival’s signature decorative banana leaf and flower floating displays. The Thai people will add candles, incense, sweets and coins to their krathong as a gift for the river goddess before placing them in a body of water to float away with hopes of good luck. Of course, the paper sky lanterns known as khom loi are probably one of Thailand’s most famous icons and are released by the thousands into the night sky during the festival.


Where to celebrate

While Loi Krathong is held throughout the country, there are a few extra special places within Thailand to enjoy the celebrations – including Bangkok, Sukhothai and the ever popular Chiang Mai, where the holiday corresponds with a traditional Northern Thai festival known as Yee Ping.

Built 720 years ago, Chiang Mai’s walled Old City and riverside Tha Phae Road are filled with activities, decorations, events and crowds. Throughout the festival, the city’s centre plays host to lengthy parades filled with traditional music, dancing and elaborately decorated floats. Light displays also spring up around the Old City, particularly around the gates of the city walls and the centrally located Three Kings Monument. The most delightful activity of all occurs on 15 November, when celebrators heads towards the Mae Ping River to set off a stunning array of lanterns, krathongs and fireworks.

What to do with children during Loi Krathong

While Chiang Mai is an excellent destination for family fun year-round, the added beauty and excitement of Loi Krathong makes visiting the city during the festival extra special for everyone. Most of the festivities take place in the evening, but families can fill their days with the city’s many leisurely activities – including traditional Thai cooking classes, boat rides along the river, visits to the acclaimed Chiang Mai Zoo or a nearby elephant sanctuary, exploring local markets and zip-lining through the jungle. Once the sun starts to set, make your way to Tha Phae Gate to catch part of the parade, watch traditional Thai dance performances and fill up on street snacks. Wandering east from the gate toward the river, stop in at the many Buddhist temples along the way and marvel at how they’re made even more beautiful with the addition of colourful paper lanterns, decorations and flickering candles. Be sure to purchase a khom loi lantern of your own to release once you reach the river, or buy an intricate krathong, which functions as a fun art project for children as they simultaneously take part in a Thai cultural tradition. There will often be krathong-making workshops held throughout the city, or within the convenience of your resort.


Where to stay

Scenic Chiang Mai offers no shortage of places to stay, regardless of travellers’ tastes or budgets. With the recent opening of Anantara Vacation Club Chiang Mai, Club Points Owners can now enjoy exclusive access to the resort as well as the added amenities that the nearby Anantara Chiang Mai Resort & Spa offers. Adorned with contemporary décor that showcases time-honoured Lanna aesthetics, both resorts envelop guests in the timeless ambience and welcoming hospitality that Thailand has come to be known for. Situated along the Mae Ping River, the two resorts are well-located in the heart of the city, just minutes away from Thae Phae Bridge – which sees a high concentration of fireworks, floating lanterns and decorative krathongs being released into the river as locals and travellers alike gather together to celebrate the magic of Loi Krathong.

Loi Krathong is a popular holiday that draws travellers from around the world to Chiang Mai. Accommodation, travel plans or tours during the festival should be booked well in advance.

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About Anantara Vacation Club Editorial Team

Anantara Vacation Club, launched in 2010, is an exclusive collection of luxurious Vacation Ownership resorts and suites, offering each generation the opportunity to explore the world’s most exciting destinations. Owners can purchase Club Points that determine the length of stay, time of year and the size and type of accommodation. Visit: Contact us:

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