Loy Krathong

by MaryLou Driedger, Sep 19, 2009 | Destinations: Thailand / Chiang Mai
Lovely women in traditional costume served our Loy Krathong dinner.

Lovely women in traditional costume served our Loy Krathong dinner.

Lovely women in traditional costume served our Loy Krathong dinner.
Releasing special Loy Krathong lanterns
Beautiful krathongs ready to release in the water
Firing up the lantern for release

The fireworks were still exploding at 2 am.  We spent four days in Chiang Mai Thailand during the Loy Krathong Festival. It is a holiday officially celebrated on the evening of the full moon in November, although the festivities in Chiang Mai extended to the nights before and after the full moon as well.

'Loy' means to float and a ‘krathong' is a raft. Thai people make little rafts or boats out of banana leaves for the festival. They decorate them with flowers and burning incense sticks and set them afloat in rivers. The krathong are said to sail downstream with all your sin and suffering loaded aboard. You can just float your troubles away. Our hotel in Chiang Mai was staging a krathong contest and I took pictures of some of the beautiful banana boats people had decorated and entered in the competition.

Once your problems from the past are released with your krathong you are ready to make wishes for the future. You explode fireworks and at the same time launch a large hot air lantern made from rice paper into the sky. It carries your hopes and dreams up to the heavens.  We got to do this on Friday night after a round of golf and dinner at the Chiang Mai Highlands Golf and Spa Resort along with hundreds of other people.

The lanterns are called kome loy. They are lifted up into the sky after the air in the lantern is heated and expands. To do this you light a small burner suspended on metal braces at the bottom of the lantern.  We were lucky to receive help with our kome loy from a Japanese woman who was visiting the Chiang Mai golf course. She had been in Thailand the previous year during Loy Krathong and knew how the lanterns worked. As our lantern filled with hot air we had a hard time holding it down and finally it just whooshed out of our hands. It got caught briefly in a tall tree. My heart stopped for a minute because I was sure the branches would start on fire, but just then a gust of wind lifted the lantern and it went soaring up higher and higher. We watched it for a long time before it disappeared from sight. The sky was peppered with hundreds of pinpoints of light as the people around us sent up their lanterns. Then the fireworks started exploding in the inky sky.

The following day while we ate supper outdoors by our hotel pool in Chiang Mai the sky was literally ablaze with fireworks.  As lovely Thai women dressed in traditional Loy Krathong costumes served our meal, thousands and thousands of lit rice paper lanterns floated by overhead. At 2 am we woke up to the sound of firecrackers still being exploded.

I was surprised there were no reports in the newspaper the next day of forest fires. Chiang Mai is surrounded by jungle and I was sure an errant lantern would land unexpectedly and set the thick forest ablaze. Apparently the three Buddhist gods who are honored at the festival were protecting the trees.

It was great fun to be in Thailand to take part in their unique autumn festival. I made a very special wish as I set my kome loy into the sky on the night of Loy Krathong. I'll have to wait and see if it comes true.

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