If the Vegetarian Festival is one of Phuket’s most fascinating, then Loy Krathong must be one of the island’s most beautiful. This ‘festival of lights’ is traditionally celebrated more in the north of Thailand where grand parades, spectacular fireworks and floating light shows can be observed casting a magical spell over the participants. But the festival of Loy Krathong is also enthusiastically celebrated by young and old alike on Phuket as well, no doubt reflecting the people’s close association with the sea.
The festival, which visitors can readily become involved in, falls on the full-moon night of the 12th lunar month, this year is
on 21st November. Coinciding with the end of the heavy work involved in planting the rice fields it provides time for families
to spend together. In worshiping the Goddess of water, participants praise her bountiful and precious gift whilst at the same time seeking forgiveness for the continued pollution and waste of water. It is also a time when bad luck will be carried away and good fortune will take its place.
The story of Loy Krathong heralds from the Sukhothai Kingdom when Nang Nopamart, a beautiful and learned lady
in the royal court presented a gift to the King; she made a small floating boat from banana leaves in the shape of a lotus flower
and filled it with fragrant blooms. The King and court were enchanted and, ever since, this offering has embraced a touch
of mystery and romance.
The word ‘loy’ means to float, and the ‘krathong’ is the delicate and intricately made floating banana-leaf boats that are set to sail on convenient waterways, shorelines and rivers. Placed in the krathong nowadays is a candle, incense, flowers
and coins. In earlier times, betel nuts and leaves would also be added. When the full moon has climbed high in the sky,
everyone gathers at the water’s edge for the launching. They light the candles and incense, make their secret wish and watch their offerings float slowly away. Visitors to the festival can readily buy the krathongs at the markets or from one of the many roadside stalls and join in the festive mood around midnight.