I love lights! Sparkling, glittery, warm glowing, lights! The lights on the Eiffel Tower, the lights on the Bay Bridge, the lights on a Christmas tree, and now the lights of a November Thai sky – comloi’s.
Most of you have probably heard of Loi Krathong by now. It’s been largely talked about across the world, gaining popularity in the last decade among foreigners. Whether you learned about it in a National Geographic article, have traveled to Thailand before, or just recently when I uploaded a myriad of photos to Facebook I’m sure you were captivated by what you saw. If this is your first time learning of Loi Krathong then enjoy!
For a short history on the festival read here, it’s quite good and a nice simple explanation: Loy Krathong
Essentially, Loi Krathong (floating banana leaf and flower) and Yi Peng (floating lanterns) have merged into one celebration. Originally separate celebrations they now fall on the same full moon of the 12th Lunar Month. The idea is that the lanterns float away, taking your misfortunes with them and the loi krathong is placed in the river as a thank you for the water. In modern day people use these occasions to make wishes for the future. (Make sure to read all the way to the bottom for my 3 wishes!)
One thing you’ve probably noticed by now (besides all of the beautiful photos of floating lanterns) is the spelling of the holiday. Remember when I told you the Thai language is not written with a Roman alphabet?
That is why you will find and come across many different spellings – this is the case with all Thai words translated to English.
The spelling I use above is my personal preference and the first way I learned to spell it. I guess old habits die hard. Even if it was only a week old…
We had planned to make our way back to Chiang Mai for Loi Krathong when our school coordinator informed us of Sukhothai. He said “You must go to Sukhothai, much better for Loi Krathong!” Well, ok. It ended up being a very easy decision for us to make as Sukhothai is much closer to us, requiring a bus ride of only 3 hours as opposed to the 6 to Chiang Mai. We know we will be visiting Chiang Mai again before departing Thailand so it wasn’t to much to sacrifice. We quickly searched for a place to stay and informed some of our nearby fellow CIEE/OEG teacher friends of our plans. A few of them decided to join us!
We stayed at Pai Guesthouse which was a phenomenal cute and clean place we found at the last minute. We were very lucky to find a place to stay in Sukhothai let alone this little gem! Sarah and I arrived Saturday morning around 11am. We took a 7 am minibus from Maesot. We thought it would be a quick little trip without to much excitement – but of course we were wrong. We’re in Thailand. The journey was about an hour and half longer than expected due to having a tire problem (still not sure what) and our driver stopping to take many smoke breaks. I guess if he needs his cigarettes to stay calm and focused on the road I can’t complain. I am trusting him with my life after all. We weren’t on any time constraints either so mai pen rai (no worries, remember?!).
After checking in to Pai we jumped on a tuk tuk truck (think hop-on hop-off bus Thai style) for 30 baht each and made our way to Old Sukothai where all of the festivities are held. (Truly, there isn’t too much to do in the new city so all visitors spend their time in Old Sukhothai.) This took about 30 minutes as, per the usual ,we made many stops. The locals also use these trucks so we saw many faces getting on and off as they headed home or to work. We arrived at the park and walked in. Little did we know you had to have an entrance ticket – so off we went to the Ticket counter to get ours. Foreigners 100 baht, Thais 20 baht. We’re constantly “discriminated” against when it comes to purchasing things and it’s one of the many first things you learn to accept here. Sarah and I laugh every time because this would neverrr fly in the States. For the Thai’s, it’s just the way it is and it’s nothing personal. I think.
Sukothai Historical Park was great. I believe there are three separate areas of ruins to see but we only entered the main one and toured around it. Some of the temples are so fascinating! It was really great to spend the afternoon walking around especially as it was not too busy. I think that was the blessing in disguise with visiting Sukhothai – although it was busy and the occasion was properly celebrated – it was never chaotic feeling as I imagine places like Chiang Mai were. It was nice to be in a lower-key setting with a small group of friends.
The park really does a wonderful job of bringing the experience to life. I caught myself saying “It’s like Disneyland!” a couple of times. Mostly due to the fact of the amount of effort that went into making the Loi Krathong event ‘genuine.’ Right down to having to exchange your money for seashells which are used to purchase freshly made Thai Iced tea from a guy on a boat and delicious Thai dishes. We also watched a staged Muay Thai boxing show put on by kids and some talented fire breathers.
We took many (uhem, hundreds…) of photos during the day so go ahead and multiply that number for night. What a change it was when the sun went down and the lights came on! Side note: We may have taken a small exit break out onto the streets for some cold beers in between day and night. We were parched! 🙂
Night came and then the fun began. We sent off our lanterns, ate food, watched others send off theirs, chatted with those near us, and enjoyed the views of the lit up temples, ruins, and lanterns in the sky.
It was a great night that ended with more eating, drinking, and catching up. What more could you ask for?
Sunday afternoon we all met up for some lunch at a locally known hotspot for Sukhothai noodles. Great, simple, noodle dish that never disappoints. After our bellies were full we made the 15 minute walk to the bus station, after failing to find a tuk tuk and headed back home to Maesot. We arrived around 7:30pm and immediately went to the Maei River where the Thai-Burma Friendship Bridge is located. We were told this is where the festivities would be held locally. We got there just in time to see the parade and make our way down to the river. It was just like a local fair. Games, food stands, lights, and many vendors selling anything you could imagine – especially local women selling lanterns and homemade krathongs. It was really wonderful to see all of the faces of the community we are living in. So often we are only exposed to the students we teach that it is very easy to forget there are many others living in this border town.
After a full weekend of celebrating I was able to make some reflections of my own. You can see them mirrored in the three wishes I lit and let go into the night sky over Loi Krathong. It’s bad luck to say them out loud so instead I will post the photos.
I’m looking forward to the coming year.