Loy (Loi) Krathong is a beautifully elegant holiday celebrated at the first day of the 12th lunar month (sometime in November) throughout Thailand. It is ideally suited to Phuket Island as it involves placing small, boat-like structures called "krathongs" in the rivers, lakes or the ocean. The krathongs contain candles and other items such as flowers, foods, coins and joss sticks.
Then, people watch as the krathongs float away ("loy" means "float"), sink or until the candles go out. When many people do it simultaneously, it is a magnificient spectacle. The krathongs bob up and down, and from side to side as they are pulled this way and that in the turbulence of the waters. Small fragments and light come forth from the darkness. Together, these tiny lights in the night create a soothing, calming panorama which those watching will always remember.
It has been said by some that the holiday developed in imitation of the Indian Lantern or Divali festival and that the concept of the krathong originally represented the three major Indian Gods: Vishnu, Shiva and Bhrama. Thais, however, believe that the Loi Krathong holiday merged with an older Thai holiday celebrating the end of the rainy season.
It is said that a queen of the king of Sukhothai, Phra Ruang, presented him with a lotus shaped krathong she had made. The king was so impressed, that the he ordered its design copied and that it be floated over the farmlands, which were still flooded from the rains of rainy season.
It has come to be believed that floating a krathong commemorates the Buddha walking on the Narmada River, or possibly honors Phra Uppakhut, a devoted follower of the Buddha. The holiday is also explained as honoring the Goddess of the Water, Phra Mae Khlongka, and asking for her blessing.
The floating of a krathong is accompanied by prayers for good luck and a good life and it is believed or hoped that one may float away ill fortune, bad feelings, and the bad aspects of personalities along with the krathong. To do this, people place hair and fingernail or toenail clippings in the krathong.
Loi Krathong celebrations are held at many waterways and beaches on Phuket Island. The west coast beaches are ideal for celebration as the currents carry the krathongs – and their contents – far out to sea. All of the major beaches have ceremonies, with the Patong Beach ceremony being the largest. Two places in Phuket town, Saphin Hin and Suan Luan (King Rama IX Park) are also popular places to celebrate, as is Chalong Bay.
Participants should bring krathongs to the beach, river or lake of their choosing after the sun sets. People can make their own – a traditional krathong is made of the cellulose trunks or leafs of the banana tree, but today one can improvise – or they can buy ready-made krathongs. These are easy to find on Loi Krathong Day as they are sold at numerous stalls set up for the occasion and by vendors who plan to make a nice profit.
People should wait until the full moon is in clear view and then, in the light of the full moon, launch the krathong. On the western beaches, some participants "help" their krathongs get a good start by swimming or wading them out into the ocean. According to tradition, it is a very good sign of the future if the krathong proceeds away from the sender: it is a rather poor sign if it comes back!!
Certainly the west coast beaches are a good launching place as the tides will "help" the boats proceed on the journey. It is has been reported by fishmen that krathongs have been sighted long distances from land. Participants in Loy Krathong can sing the festival song, "Ram Wong Wan Loy Kra Tong" the words of which are – more or less – as follows:
The Loy Krathong Song
Thai Version – Karaoke spelling
Wan pen duen sib song
Rao tang lai chai ying
Loy Loy Krathong
Loy Krathong kan lace
Ram Wong Wan Loy Krathong
|Listen to the Loy Krathong Song
Some events have developed to accompany the actual krathong launching. One is the Nopphamas Queen Contest. This is a beauty contest named in honor of Nang Nopphamas, who was the lady who is said to have invented the krathong and recommended it to King Phra Ruang.
Ladies that enter this contest dress and groom themselves in traditional Thai style. Another event is the Krathong Making Contest, which is very popular both among children and adults. Visitors to Phuket should ask their hotels or guest houses about information on these events.