Loy Krathong - Thailand

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A woman in traditional costume raises a lighted sky lantern in Chiang Mai.

Everyone has them, perhaps not in writing, but always present nonetheless. Countries, places and events that they would like to experience once in their life. We are talking about a bucket list that summarizes all of this. At the top of our list is to see the festival of lights with the sky lanterns rising in Thailand for ourselves. And as luck would have it, we are in the right place at the right time!

Loy Krathong is celebrated nationwide, especially in the cities of Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Sukhothai. The date varies every year, as it is based on the full moon in the twelfth month of the Thai lunisolar calendar. Which usually means November. We ourselves thought long and hard about where we would like to marvel at the festival of lights. Sukhothai and Chiang Mai were on the shortlist and we opted for the latter. We can still experience both festivals unplanned, but more on that later.

The festival of candles originated in India and was first celebrated in Sukhothai before spreading across the country. Translated, Loy Krathong means floating raft and that brings us to one of the main protagonists of the festival. Everywhere you look there are stalls lined up with elaborate boats made from palm leaves, candles and flowers. They come in every imaginable color, shape and size. They are supposed to absorb all the anger and other negative energies so that the person can start their life afresh afterwards. Offerings in the form of coins or bills are often added to the boats. 

A woman lets a colorful flower boat with candles and incense sticks into the water.

Now you might be asking yourself where you should spend the Festival of Lights. Chiang Mai or Sukhothai? We happened to be able to experience both festivities, as the festival starts a week earlier in Sukhothai. Perhaps you have the opportunity to make a short stopover during your trip. If not, it all depends on your preferences. 


A brightly lit road leads through the ancient ruins of Sukhothai.

Do you prefer things to be quieter, more traditional and a little more authentic? Then Sukhothai is the place for you. The surroundings are simply beautiful. The ruins of the historical park are illuminated with candles and torches. Various shows and fireworks leave nothing to be desired and you will get your money's worth with a stroll through the food stalls. Flower boats can also be launched on the various lakes between the temples. Only the sky lanterns are missing, as it is forbidden to let them fly anywhere on the grounds. Only just before the big fireworks display are some released into the sky. However, admission is free and there are no costs even during the day. During Loy Krathong, the historical part is freely accessible to everyone. And we have one more tip: make sure you look for accommodation in Old Sukhothai, otherwise the journey home can be a long one.

A man lights individual candles in a lake between the ruins of Sukhothai.
A woman lights a candle and prays in the ruins of Sukhothai.
A magnificent sunset with an illuminated temple in Sukhothai.
Individual sky lanterns rise into the night sky near Sukhothai.


Long exposure of the drifting boats and the fireworks in Chiang Mai.

Are you more of a party person? Do you like it loud and colorful? Then off you go to Chiang Mai. The whole city turns upside down over the three days. Parades, fireworks and floating boats are of course a must. The starting point for the parades, which take place daily at 19:00, is Thapae Gate. From there, the decorated and elaborate floats make their way towards the Ping River. It gets loud on the riverbank as the locals and tourists set off fireworks every minute. And we're talking about the really loud fireworks here. The first colorful flower boats are already floating in the water and all kinds of food is on offer at the food stalls. On the main day, the night of the full moon, the first people start to let off sky lanterns on the Nawarat Bridge. It is generally forbidden everywhere and the police sometimes crack down on it. Nevertheless, you can watch a few people at a later hour and enjoy the magic. But in order to experience the mass display, you have to go to a separate festival a good 30 minutes outside Chiang Mai. But the price is over 150 dollars per person! 

A woman smiles at the camera and colorful lanterns hang in the background.
A large firework display over the river in Chiang Mai, reflected in the water.
A lighted lantern rises into the sky.
Small bright dots rise up into the night sky of Chiang Mai.

No matter which city you choose, there is something magical about the Festival of Lights. Chiang Mai also has a lot more to offer, especially during the day. The old town is lined with temples, but one in particular stands out, Wat Doi Suthep. Its golden roof glistens down on the city from high above. And it just so happens that a hiking trail leads up to it, so it's the perfect balance to the evenings in the city!

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