One of the main highlights of this media trip was to give us an opportunity to experience the enchanting Festival Of Lights, locally known as Loy Krathong (Thai: ลอยกระทง) in Northern Thailand. Being the second most significant holiday in the Land of Smiles after the Songkran Festival happening every April, Loy Krathong usually falls in November, as it is the full moon night of the 12th month in the Thai calendar. It coincides with another fascinating festival that is only celebrated in Northern Thailand – the Yi Peng festival [also spelt as Yee Peng (Thai: ยี่เป็ง)], celebrated on the full moon of the second month of the Lanna calendar.
For more information about the importance of Loy Krathong in Thailand, do read my Trip101 article: Loy Krathong: Float Your Wishes For A Magical Holiday In Chiang Rai. 🙂
In 2017, the full moon of the 12th month in the Thai calendar fell on 3 November Friday evening. Glad that we made it in time to Chiang Rai that evening after a 3-hour long journey on the road from Chiang Mai. While excited by the thought that we would be able to float the beautiful basket decorated with flowers, candle & incense sticks by the river personally, curing our hunger pangs was the first thing on our minds. The organisers certainly knew this “fact”, & brought us to Thanam Phulae (Thai: ท่าน้ำภูแล), an inviting northern Thai restaurant by the Mae Kok (which means Kok River in Lanna language), a short drive from the city centre for the special occasion. After all, food is almost always one of the best things for people to learn more about the local culture isn’t it? 😉
The northern Thai cuisine restaurant is a popular dining spot for both locals & tourists, not only because of its strategic location by the river, but also because it has a romantic outdoor dining area, surrounded by tall trees lit with atmospheric LED lights. Of course, we must not forget the tantalizing Lanna specialty cuisine prepared by the chefs in Thanam Phulae too.
Like almost every meal we had during the trip, too much food was served, till we felt so full & bloated. 😅 But yet, there were still snacks/ desserts (using the 2 coupons we were given) to be claimed from the handful of stalls specially put up in the garden for the festival. Gosh! What a feast for the beautiful night!
Besides the scrumptious food spread, we also enjoyed watching the performers dressed in glimmering traditional outfits dancing gracefully to the accompaniment of soothing traditional music.
Of course, we wouldn’t leave the restaurant without joining in the actual celebrations of Loy Krathong itself! There was an array of krathongs to choose from, be it the traditional type wrapped in banana leaves, or the modern type made of colourful ice cream cones. I picked the latter as it looked more appealing & environmentally-friendly, since the fish in the river could also eat them (if they wish). 😉 Then, we headed to the raised platform on the river bank to float away ill fortune & make wishes for the coming new year. It is said that some Thais put their finger nails or strands of hair in the krathongs to rid off their sins. This is also the time of the year where the locals express apologies to Khongkha, the River Goddess & ask for forgiveness.
Thereafter, we set off for another magical surprise at a bustling night market specially put up for the festival. This year, the festival night market was held at the Military Training Centre Park (known locally as Suan Ror Dor), right in the heart of Chiang Rai from 1st to 9th November, across the river from the Wiang Indra Riverside Resort.
Being the main festive ground in the town of Chiang Rai, we expected the crowd to be humongous, but I was still astonished by the overwhelming response & how horrible the traffic jam was even before we reached the actual venue! I shall let my photos do the talking, for you to have a better idea just how spirited the entire place was.
There was such a huge offering of mouth-watering street food along the seemingly endless rows of food stalls, that we regretted filling our stomachs to the brim at the dinner earlier. No more space to stomach any of those delectable local snacks… sobsob. While old-school carnival game stalls seem to be a thing of the past in Singapore, we could see that the amusement rides & toy claw machines are still pretty sought after with the throngs of people queuing up or gathering in front of the stalls. Did you notice the large cuddly stuffed toys hanging high up in front of the stalls? These were prizes for deserving winners, so generous right? *Envy* Just a little pity that while the sight of sky lanterns floating in the sky was a gorgeous sight to behold, I couldn’t capture it nicely through my camera. So I can only store this captivating sight in my brain. 😛
We were only given 45 min to tour the entire festival compounds, how was that possible? 😯 Hence, to make sure we could get to the river where the main krathong floating ceremony was, a group of us didn’t really stop to taste any of the food, shop or play games. Anyhow, the stretch of stalls was so long it felt like eternity before we finally reached the end of the market where the river is. It was obvious we wouldn’t be able to make it back to the entrance (meeting point) in time, but heck, we didn’t want to give up. (。>︿<)_θ
The crowd by the river was equally, if not more horrendous than at the market, with people jostling one another while heading down the dark slippery slope to the riverside. So we really had to watch our steps carefully, otherwise the consequences might be dire! 😉
It was really not easy to take good photos of the locals floating their krathongs at the riverside under such dim lighting & crowded situation. Therefore, I must give special credit to one of my tour mates, Jenifer for sharing some of her hard-earned photos with me (which I have put in the collage above together with my own) through sacrificing her delicate feet in the mud, LOL. While we were sorry for making the others wait at the meeting point because we returned late, we didn’t regret making our way there, as it was really a memorable experience immersing in the vibrant atmosphere of Loy Krathong!
To conclude, if you are planning a trip to Thailand the next time, why not visit around November to coincide with the Loy Krathong festival? Furthermore, it’d be wonderful to head to charming Northern Thailand instead, where you get to parktake in Yi Peng festival at the same time? 2 festivals at 1 go, that’s the best of both worlds for a truly picturesque holiday I must say! Before you go, check the exact location of where the main festival ground will be nearer the actual date via this website, as the venue changes every year. I hope I’ll be able to join in the enchanting full moon festival again in the near future! 🙂