Published in Villa 88 Magazine, Spring 2016 issue
Even as the gorgeous beaches of Thailand beckon, make another journey to explore the country’s rich cultural heritage through the festival of light.
Words by PRIYANKA PRADHAN
Hearts pounded to the beats of drums, as young Thais paraded across the streets of the historic town of Sukhothai to celebrate the festival of lights, Loy Krathong. The costumes were a feast for the eyes while the taste buds were tantalized by street food such as roasted silk worms, potato pops and grasshoppers on skewers. If there’s ever a time to experience the country’s spectacular cultural side, it is this.
The parade kicks of with much fanfare and excitement, as locals flock to see elaborate sets and costumes that represent Thai identity, pop culture, as well as characters and episodes from local folklore. Soon after the parade, more than a hundred candles are lit in little pods decorated with leaves and flowers, to be set afloat on the lake.
It’s a rare pleasure to watch the festivities in Sukhothai, the birthplace of the Loy Krathong festival, as the quaint town comes alive in a frenzy of colors and lights. Rooted in 14th century Theravada Buddhist tradition and early Thai-Lao-Shan history, the festival comes from the legend of a beautiful woman called Nang Nopphamat. She was known to attract the reigning King Ramkamhaeng’s attention, by crafting a lotus-shaped o ering with a candle and fruit carvings, and floating it downriver. Ever since, the ‘Loy Krathong’, which could be loosely translated to ‘floating basket’, has been symbolic of good luck and hope for the Thai.
The cultural journey takes one next to the city of Chiang Mai, located in the beautiful mountainous province of Thailand. Known as the cultural capital of the country, Chiang Mai plays an important role in the evolution of Loy krathong and its sister festival, the Yi Peng. Here locals gather to light paper lanterns (called khom loy) with candles and illuminate the night sky, to symbolize letting go of bad luck and misfortune—a celebration that evolved along with Loy Krathong and coincides with the days of the festival, in the Lunar calendar. When seen in tandem, the floating water baskets and lanterns in the sky o er an unforgettable visual spectacle.
The last leg of the journey is the e ervescent capital, Bangkok. Fireworks, temple fairs and festivities light up the city while major roads are blocked and reserved for the legendary Loy Krathong to parade through the city—like the one in Sukhothai but with the inimitable signature of Bangkok’s raucousness, pomp and flourish.
Loy krathong is a beautiful time to experience Thailand for a more spiritual and cultural connection with the country. The festival helps understand local culture like little else can, leaving one with fresh hopes, luck and goodwill.