Nicole Long, our Regional Director of Operations based in Bangkok weighs in about what to expect for the upcoming Loi Krathong celebrations.
Loi Krathong falls in November, on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month of the lunar calendar, an important Buddhist holiday. Thais also thank the Water Goddess for the rains, and symbolically let go of any anger, grudges or misfortune that they may have been holding by sending floating krathongs downriver and releasing floating lanterns into the air. The largest celebrations take place in Chiang Mai and are typically accompanied by a grand parade and street parties.
This year, as the government of Thailand has announced a period of mourning, celebrations associated with Loi Krathong Festival in Chiang Mai have been cancelled. This means that the Grand Parade, fireworks, street parties, and festivities have been cancelled or are prohibited.
However, the releasing of the krathongs in the river and releasing the floating lanterns will continue. So, while this is disappointing in that the celebrations won’t be as “festive” as usual, Loi Krathong will still be worth attending. In recent years, this festival has moved away from its traditional and spiritual roots, and has become more of a large city-wide party. This year we believe that the festival will return to being a spiritual and introspective event, presenting a unique opportunity for travelers. For the time being, we don’t recommend cancelling any Loi Krathong travel plans as the main focus of the festival will remain.
Most bars and restaurants will remain open as usual, but some, particularly night clubs, have closed until further notice. If a bar is open, there must not be any “celebratory” behavior, out of respect for the passing of The King. Alcohol will be sold during the usual hours of 11am-2pm and 5pm-midnight in restaurants and bars, but may not be found in all shops at this time.
For travelers visiting in December and early January, no statements have been released about New Year’s celebrations. There are usually fireworks in Bangkok, and many hotels host gala dinners. We are waiting to see if this year will be different. From what we understand, people expect after 30 days everything will return to normal, but we will continue to monitor the situation for new announcements and changes. Thailand relies heavily on tourism and so we believe that the government will not wish to dissuade tourists from visiting.