Thailand sparkles as the country celebrates one of its most colourful and picturesque cultural festivals – Loy Krathong, also known as the Festival of Lights.
To celebrate the water goddess Phrae Mae Khongkha, millions of Thais float (loy) a little raft (krathong) commonly made from banana trunk and topped with flowers and candles. The krathongs carry the hopes, wishes, and gratitude of individuals, and represent the act of letting go of the old and ushering in the new.
Loy Krathong is celebrated nationwide every year, on the night of the full moon of the twelfth month of the Thai lunar calendar. The festival takes place at the end of the year – usually November- and is a special occasion for both Thais and travellers who flock to the country for this dazzling festival.
Thailand was the #1 most visited country on Airbnb in Southeast Asia last year, with Bangkok being the most visited city in the country. This Loy Krathong, Airbnb has already seen a 17 per cent surge in international guests searching for a stay in Thailand*. The most popular destinations during this festive period are Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket, Koh Samui, Hua Hin, Koh Pha Ngan and Krabi.** Many are flocking to The Land of Smiles for the end-of-year holidays – Airbnb has seen approximately an 88 per cent spike in searches by China travellers for November-December travel to Thailand and an over 15 per cent increase in searches by Australian guests in the same period.***
If you’re thinking about visiting Thailand this holiday season, make it one to remember and join the festivities! Read on for Airbnb’s recommendations of the best destinations and places to stay to experience Loy Krathong.
Renowned for its mountains and lush forests, Chiang Mai in Thailand’s north is home to the traditional Lanna culture. Loy Krathong celebrations are marked by large ceremonies and illuminated temples and are held at the same time as the Yee Peng festival, where Thais release thousands of paper lanterns (khom loi) into the night sky – making for a truly incredible sight.
Flowing through the heart of Chiang Mai province is the Ping River, a popular place amongst locals and visitors alike to float krathongs. Tha Phae Gate is another; located on the east side of the old city wall. The surrounding moat is a local favourite and popular gathering place, while Three Kings Monument in front of the old town hall has a lively atmosphere and attracts many to join in the activities.
You can’t leave Chiang Mai without trying the local delicacies, and there are many to choose from. Some must-tries are sai oua (a northern Thai sausage), nam ngiao (sour and spicy noodles with tomato soup), and the always popular khao soi (creamy coconut curry with crispy noodles).
Thailand’s vibrant capital transforms every Loy Krathong, as the city embraces its cultural roots and traditions in a spectacle not to be missed. The main water artery of Bangkok, the Chao Phraya River, is a popular destination for visitors and locals to float krathongs and where you can join in the festivities against the backdrop of iconic landmarks such as Wat Arun. Alternatively, make your way to Wat Saket where you can enjoy a memorable Loy Krathong by one of Bangkok’s oldest canals, Khlong Maha Nak, and explore the iconic Golden Mount nearby.
A short stroll from the Chao Phraya is the hip neighbourhood of Song Wat – recently voted one of the world’s 40 coolest neighbourhoods in 2023 by TimeOut – with an eclectic mix of art galleries and historical buildings to explore. While exploring Bangkok, don’t forget to try the city’s food offerings, from street food vendors offering Thai staples such as pad thai and pad krapow, to markets such as Jodd Fair and Michelin-starred eateries.
There’s much more to Phuket than meets the eye. Famous for its beaches and islands, Phuket is steeped in history, and dotted with temples and shrines making for a unique Loy Krathong experience with an island-style vibe. There are more than 30 beaches where locals often float their krathongs. Alternatively, explore some of the less touristy and equally popular spots, such as Sapan Hin Lake and Suan Luang Park in Phuket Town, or Nai Harn Lake in the south or Bang-Ma-Ruan Lake in the north.
When in Phuket, don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy some of the freshest seafood caught daily from the Andaman Sea. Delicious Southern dishes to try include kaeng som (sour and spicy soup), massaman (a flavourful, slightly sweet Thai curry) and kaeng tai pla (an intensely spicy curry with fermented fish). And while enjoying island life, don’t forget to explore the history and Sino-Portuguese architecture in Phuket Town.
Note *Based on internal Airbnb data on inbound guest searches for stays in Thailand for check-in in October 2023 vs check-in in November 2023.
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