Celebrating Loy Krathong along Bangkok's Chao Phraya River

Celebrating Loy Krathong along Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River

Loy Krathong is a huge festival celebrated in Thailand. Find out what it is all about and follow Kat through her journey in Bangkok.

Wan pen dauan sib song Narm-m nong tam ta-ling Rao thang lai chai ying Sa-nuk gan jing wan loy krathong …”

The tune of “Loy Krathong” played in my head as I sat in the vehicle, on my way to celebrate one of Thailand’s biggest festivals along the Chao Phraya River. Even though I am not Thai and understand not a word of the Thai language, I’ve heard the song numerous times when I was a kid and became familiar with the tune.

Loy Krathong is a huge festival in Thailand and one of the most important holidays in the country. It is celebrated during the full moon night of the twelfth month of the Thai lunar calendar – typically in November. In different parts of Thailand, the Thais celebrate the festival in myriad ways. In Sukhothai, thought to be where Loy Krathong originated, the locals honour the occasion with performances retracing the glorious past of the former capital. In Chiang Mai, thousands gather to send beautiful paper lanterns soaring into the sky in a spectacular fashion.

For my first Loy Krathong, I was in the capital of Thailand, Bangkok, where Thais of all ages gather once a year by the banks of the Chao Phraya River to release floats onto the river. “Loy” means “to float” while “krathong” refers to a floating vessel specially made for the festival. A traditional krathong is intricately decorated with folded banana leaves, candles, flowers, and joss sticks. Its heart is made from the cross-section of a banana tree trunk, though there are other variations made of bread or the less environmentally friendly styrofoam.

I looked out of the window at the throngs of people on the road, and wondered if they were on the way to “loy” a “krathong” too. The vehicle soon stopped at Chakrabongse Villas, set in the heart of Old Bangkok. Built in 1908, Chakrabongse Villas is the former residence of Prince Chakrabongse of Thailand and has since been transformed into a boutique hotel by the daughter of the prince.

Walking through a tunnel intertwined with leaves and bright yellow lights., I felt like I was making a grand entrance under twinkling stars. Given the setting, it was hard not to feel like royalty. I was led to the Chakrabongse House, an exclusive restaurant housed in a teak pavilion on an elevated deck.

The restaurant overlooked the Chao Phraya River, which was lighted up by a parade of illuminated barges on the water. Mirroring the coloured lights, the river shimmered like a blanket of sapphires, rubies and emeralds scattered all over. In the distance, Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn, shone like a golden beacon against the dark sky.

Dinner was a spread literally fit for royalty. The chef had put together the evening’s cuisine using the Royal Family’s own recipes. The six-course dinner exquisitely prepared with the finest ingredients was a delight to savour. It was the first time I ate Thai food fine-dining style.

As I basked in the glow of the moonlight, I wondered if this was how Prince Chakrabongse and his family dined when they were living there. This would probably be the closest experience of the royal life I could get.

At long last, it was time for the highlight of the night – releasing the krathong onto the river. The purpose of the ritual is to acknowledge the river as the source of all natural abundance, and also to honour Buddha. Sending a krathong out onto the river signifies letting go of anger, hate and negativity. The flame of the candle on the krathong symbolises longevity, fulfilment of wishes and a release from sins.

I got the candle and joss sticks on my ornate krathong lighted up and slowly made my way to the private dock. Holding the krathong firmly with both hands and praying that the breeze would not blow out the flame, I gingerly walked to the end of the dock where a couple of men awaited to help lower the krathong onto the river with sticks.

As I wistfully watched my krathong float away into the darkness, it was more than just physically letting go of my krathong. An inexplicable feeling welled up deep inside me, like I was letting go of something else too.

I wasn’t sure if I could make a wish. I made one nevertheless, gave my krathong one last longing look and walked away from the surreal, almost poetic moment.

Special thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai Airways International for making this trip possible, and to Thai Beverage Public Co. Ltd. for hosting the dinner. 

Thai Airways International operates daily flights to Bangkok from Singapore.


About Author

Kat Goh

Wordsmith by trade. Photographer at heart. Kat Goh travels around the world to feed her soul and tells stories as seen through her eyes and heart. Follow her blog and instagram


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