A GUIDE TO THE LOI KRATHONG LANTERN FESTIVAL
The Loi Krathong Lantern Festival is held on the 12th moon of the Thai Lunar calendar. Your diaries may not have the 12th moon Calendar option, but you can safely assume it is held around mid November depending on when the full moon is. Loi Krathong is loosely translated to “Floating Crown” but it is more commonly known as the lantern festival.
Getting to Chiang Mai may prove to be a difficult affair; flights may be cancelled given that thousands of lanterns light up the sky and can be dangerous for air crafts to fly through. The train is a great option but it’s best to book well in advance as we noticed many of our fellow travelers missed out on tickets and weren’t down for the 10 hour bus journey (450-600 BHT) from Bangkok that we opted for.
The same goes for accommodation in Chiang Mai, we witnessed many backpacker trawling the streets looking for sleeping options. This poses two big problems, the first being the chance you might not find something at all and the second being you will have to settle for something less than desirable or with heavily inflated prices.
Loi Krathong gets a huge amount of attention from tourists however it’s celebrated over a long period of time which can be confusing when you’re trying to work out whats what. The locals celebrate their lantern festival a week earlier which is an amazing event and a much more traditional affair.
The following week will see several parades and activities that make place in the main street which are great to witness however the main celebration takes places a little out of town at the university. At the university hundreds of thousands of lanterns get let off at one time which makes for a touching and memorable experience, not to mention amazing for photos. Keep in mind this event is hugely popular and is actually a ticketed thing. Tickets sell out quickly and are ridiculously expensive considering the Thai cost of living, expect to part with $50 per ticket for the entry plus $20 per lantern you buy. It’s possible to just get a taxi to the university and take photos from outside depending how keen you are.
A cheaper alternative is to just join in the activities prior that take place in the center of town including fireworks, lanterns and water lanterns. We spent an amazing evening letting go of lanterns and were so impressed with how beautiful it was. Lanterns are great value, starting at 50 BHT-100 BHT, haggle if you’re getting a few and be careful lighting them if it’s windy. Be warned the streets are packed out and fireworks are often let off in the middle of the street, people with kids or fire phobias steer clear.
For all the information and the breakdown for the events of the week grab a booklet from your hotel or hostel or from a travel agent. Alternatively check the internet for up to date information and activities.