Mesmerised by Thailand’s Festival of Lights

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iol travel nov 26 Loi Krathong

AFP

Thai children send their 'krathong', a small lotus-shaped float made of banana leaves, on a canal in the Thai capital during the yearly Loi Krathong festival.

Bangkok - Held annually, Loi Krathong is by far one of Thailand’s most beautiful festivals. It is a time when locals come out to pay homage to the goddess of waters as the full moon of the twelfth lunar lights up the night sky in November each year.

This year Loi Krathong falls on the last week of November and visitors can expect to be enchanted by the sight of hundreds of thousands of ornately decorated candle-lit krathong or traditional banana leaf floats set adrift in rivers and waterways in one of the Kingdom’s oldest and best-preserved traditions.

“Essentially ‘Loi’ which means ‘to float’ in Thai and ‘Krathong’ which means ‘a cup made of leaf’, is a simple ceremony in which a small raft decorated with flowers topped by a flickering candle and incense stick is set adrift on the waterways of Thailand in an attempt to seek forgiveness for past misdeeds.

However, when this spellbinding ritual is performed by millions of people under the incandescent light of the full moon it becomes a spectacle of light, joy and emotion,” explains Thamanoon Kuprasert, general manager of Central, Eastern and Southern Africa for Thai Airways International.

While it is tradition for locals to craft their own rafts, today many opt to purchase a ready-made krathong from the numerous riverside stalls. Although the festival is not a national holiday, a lot of preparation goes into making this a spectacular event.

“Many other festivities take place alongside the floating krathong, such as krathong-making competitions, Noppamas beauty pageants, games, street performances, as well as the much anticipated spectacular firework displays,” adds Kuprasert.

And while the Festival of Lights is celebrated across Thailand, each province brings its own unique traditions and rituals to the festival. In the Northern Thai province of Chiang Mai Loi Krathong is referred to as Yee Peng and visitors can join locals in releasing Lanna-style floating lanterns or ‘Khom loy’ into the night sky.

“These lanterns are constructed from a lightweight bamboo frame lined with mulberry paper. It floats by means of hot air heated by a flaming torch fastened within the lantern. Traditional belief has is that when these huge lanterns or hot air balloons are set adrift and float away, so do the troubles of the persons who launched it,” comments Kuprasert.

Kuprasert recommends the following 2012 Loi Krathong attractions and festivities taking place in Bangkok and Chiang Mai:

Bangkok

Chao Phraya River

Come and see the procession of spectacular 80-ton illuminated barges lighting up the river in their journey from the Memorial Bridge to Krungthon Bridge. Also be sure to take some time to view the sparkling array of illuminated decorations along the river bank.

Not to be missed is the ‘Miracle Light of the Chao Phraya River’ Firework and Music display at Asiatique on the riverfront. This year is the first time that a fireworks display will be co-ordinated with music and involves collaboration between a world renowned fireworks display team and the much loved songwriter, Professor Kaiwan Kulavadhanothai.

Special performances happening in and around Bangkok include:

24 November - A spectacular opening ceremony with a light and sound performance at Asiatique on the riverfront; ‘Nop Bucha Sattha Loi Prapratheep’, a contemporary shadow play performance by Kit Buak Sip with puppet and dance performances; and a repeat procession of the ‘Jong Prieng Loi Prapratheep’ parade taking place throughout the day.

25 November - A performance by well-known Thai choir, Suan Phlu Chorus’, who were awarded second place in the World Choir Games held in the US.

26 November - A contemporary drum performance by the Ongsasilpa Group and TUK Napatsakorn Mitaim.

27 November - A Khon mask cultural performance of ‘Nang Loi’.

28 November - A number of cultural performances will take place by each of the provinces.

Chiang Mai

28 – 29 November - Tha Phae Gate (28–29 November), Amphur Mae Jo (24–30 November).

Visitors to this region can enjoy local cultural performances, local handicrafts. Not to be missed is the

amazing procession of hanging lanterns at Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, the Miss Yi Peng beauty contest, as well as the legend of Yi Peng Lanna hanging lanterns exhibition and light and sound display at the Ping River.

Thai Airways travellers can take advantage of the Thailand & Asia Pacific Delight Promotion and purchase an air ticket to Thailand and Asia Pacific destinations such as Malaysia, Singapore, Bali, China, Indo-China, Australia & New Zealand until 31st March 2013.

For more information, visit www.thaiair.co.za or phone (011) 268 2580.

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