Ko Chang, Thailand – Loi Kathong Water Festival
Tours Travel

Ko Chang, Thailand – Loi Kathong Water Festival

Thailand is a land of enchanting and exotic tastes for foreign visitors, as I learned when I experienced the Loi Kathong Water Festival on the island of Ko Chang.

Koh Chang

In October 2003, the travel bug really bit me. The symptoms led me to sell my business, pack a small backpack with the necessary items, and arrive at Los Angeles International Airport with a major credit card and attitude. A few days later, I was in Thailand and headed for the island of Ko Chang, located near the Cambodian border in the Gulf of Thailand.

Ko Chang is a heavily forested island with small villages lined with beach huts. This is exactly what I was looking for. Spend days lounging in the sun and contemplating my belly button. Unfortunately, I soon experienced the local bacteria, which was not what I was looking for.

Since I had rented my beach cabana for a week with payment in advance, the family that ran the place looked kindly on me. They took pity on me and I soon got fat on Tom Yom Kung and other soups and curries. After four days, I had finally kicked the itch and felt half human. This was good news as it was the night of the full moon water festival.

I had heard of the full moon festivals in Thailand. For party-goers, this was apparently the night the big beach parties happened. On Ko Chang, it was a bit different as the night was catered for real Thais, not tourists.

The Loi Kathong Festival occurs every full moon. Offerings are given to appease the water spirits. These offerings come in the form of banana leaf bowls with flowers, fruit, candles, and incense. The candles and incense are lit and everyone heads to the beach and begins to put them in the water. It’s one of the most amazing light shows I’ve ever seen and beats Las Vegas hands down. Thousands, and I do mean thousands, of little lights floating on the surface of the calm ocean.

After the bowls comes one of the most visually amazing things I’ve ever seen. Everyone is familiar with the paper lanterns used in Asia. They usually come in the shape of a rectangle with a bamboo or light wire frame. Very popular with college students as they are cheap and look better than a simple light bulb.

For the festival, Thai people would take these paper lanterns and close the top. They would then place a small paper plate in the bottom with a candle on it. Light the candle, wait for the heat to do its work, and they had an instant hot air balloon. Once the lanterns were able to float, he simply released them and they drifted slowly over the ocean. It was a spectacle to see that there were thousands of them floating on the water.

As the festival ended, the ocean had been transformed. The air was filled with gracefully floating lanterns, while the water itself was dotted with slowly swaying points of light.

If you intend to travel to Thailand, be sure to time your trip around the full moon. It is a scene you will never forget.

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