this week, Koh Tao celebrated Loy Kratong. And although I am currently on the other side of the world, I touch down in Thailand in just two weeks – which makes it the perfect time to share this memory of last year!
it is likely that, if you knew what it was or where it was, you saw a picture of the infamous annual release of Lantern of the Thailand. (You will need to only tempted to navigate the section of journey to a book store, where the images of Yi Peng made the cover of not one but two editions of Lonely Planet Thailand!)
Maybe you heard again the terms Yi Peng or Loy Kratong. Technically, Loy Kratong and Yi Peng are two distinct holidays, although generally they are celebrated on similar dates and are thus often used interchangeably by Western visitors. Although dates vary each year according to the lunar calendar, they often enter November. Yi Peng is celebrated mainly in the ancient Lanna Kingdom North of the Thailand, while Loy Kratong is celebrated throughout the country.
I got the chance to spend two Loy Kratongs on Koh Tao and the other Yi Peng in Chiang Mai, and they are among my favorite of the year in Thailand days. But to be honest, I’ve always been a bit confused about the differences between the two days, hoping this post can clear a clueless colleagues farang!
the two festivals trace their roots back to Brahmanical festivals in India, but were later adopted by Buddhists to honor the two Prince Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, and in the case of Loy Kratong, Phra Mae Khongkha, the Hindu goddess of water. Yi Peng is closely related to the Indian Festival of Diwali, originally celebrated as a recognition for the Ganges ceremony.
Chiang Mai (seat of the famous version of Mae Joe, who, to my knowledge, that happens is more), Sukhothai (where the origin allegedly festival) and Bangkok (always a part!) are all places for the celebration of Loy Kratong. Koh Tao? Not so much. Think about a guide if you happen to find yourself here.
on Koh Tao, the day will begin with a parade that starts in the buildings of Government in Mae Haad and works for the North to Sairee. I confess I have only took the occasional parade in passing, but it will make a point to look more closely next time I celebrate on the island.
that night, things really kick off. In the area of pier Seatran to Mae Haad, a large stage holds traditional dances, a contest of beauty and other festivities, and last year I went down to enjoy with a large group of friends. A highlight of our night was when Ian spotted his old owner killed in a routine of dance on stage. Another was when I spotted the oversized float, I saw in construction proudly on my favorite food of the roadside stand earlier in the week. Koh Tao is a beautiful small community when it comes together.
Loy Kratong is certainly a more casual business and community on Koh Tao peng Yi religiously rooted, I witnessed in Chiang Mai. While we stuck extremely prudent for the version of Chiang Mai, Koh Tao, there was a wide range of acceptability – I chose to wear long pants well. And while alcohol was banned at the event, I attended Chiang Mai, the atmosphere at Koh Tao was much more merry-making and alcohol was welcomed and encouraged by the local population.
and come hungry! There is an abundance of food Thai delicious Street offers, far beyond what you would find in a typical night on the island.
to the beach a few steps away from the dock to the North, Koh own little release Lantern takes place.
the symbolism behind the release of Lantern types is nice. In addition to pay respect to Buddha, these acts allow the time to reflect and to symbolically release negativity, challenges and personal demons.
the term means ‘float’ while ‘kratong’ means a lotus shaped building. Along with the flowers, candles, coins and incense sticks, many Thais will cut their nails and hair to put in their kratongs as a symbol of letting go and consider as extremely bad luck for the Lantern to float them. Sky lanterns, or law of khôm, are considered especially lucky if they disappear from view before the fire goes out.
both are acts of spiritual cleansing and new beginnings. They are also, on a level surface, incredibly beautiful.
dates Yi Peng and Loy Kratong can be difficult to nail (Koh Tao, they are always celebrated simultaneously on the official date of Loy Kratong, where in big cities they can be held separately but in a week or two of each other, and big releases official Lantern can be held the weekend closest to the official date.)
I’ve always found the precise date in keeping an eye on people local expat Koh Tao and Chiang Mai, but often, these groups are closed to tourists. Ask your local guesthouse or dive shop, or visit the site Thaizer, which is a great resource on the demonstrations and Thai parties.
I anticipate I will receive some questions about sustainability event. What goes up must come down, and that means that sky lanterns ends by return to Earth and the kratongs eventually sink into the ocean. My advice is to search the law khôm in biodegradable paper of rice and bamboo and kratongs that are made of natural materials like bread and plants rather than plastic or styrofoam. Better yet, get a kratong then you can be sure that each component is respectful of the environment. Also consider sharing a kratong and a letter of intent khôm between several people.
there are people who don’t meet even these efforts, and they are entitled to that opinion. But I shoot the answer that I give to the cries of the waste at Burning Man: sustainability must be sustainable, and I do not think its possible to ask a country to give up their natural human instinct to collect, to honor the tradition and culture of the party. If you are bothered by the waste Yi Peng or Loy Kratong, I invite you to join one of the island regularly to clean under water diving or beach walks to the trash, or volunteering in one of the charities focused on economy of the island.
no, Koh Tao will never be on a list of the most popular destinations to celebrate Loy Kratong or Yi Peng. But if you want to get away from the crowd and see a small and joyous celebration alongside locals, expatriates and tourists from Thailand and around the world, Koh Tao would be happy to have you.
, while I did extensive research and spend a lot of time in Thailand, I’ll always be but a guest in the country and therefore a flawed Messenger of traditions and religion. Any errors of interpretation are mine and I’d be happy to corrections of inaccuracies!