Loy Krathong – Not quite what I expected
If you remember my post from a few months ago about what I wanted to achieve in Thailand then you will remember that one of my goals was to photograph the Loy Krathong festival. Well I’m happy to say I completed that particular goal. I did indeed go to two different celebrations of the holiday and I took pictures at both which you can see below. I am happy to say I had a great time at both celebrations and I am happy with the way the photos turned out. However, I will also say I was not really ready for what the festival turned out to be as opposed to my expectations. If you google “Loy Krathong” as I did before coming, you will see images of a horde of lanterns taking off into the sky. This is what I was hoping for and looking so forward to photographing. These were also almost completely absent from the festivals I attended. In truth, that Loy Krathong is not common and only found in certain places and tourist centers. Traditionally, the holiday is celebrated with small, floating lanterns decorated with banana leaves, flowers and topped with incense. This is Loy Krathong I experienced and while it was not quite the event I was hoping to photograph it was enjoyable nonetheless.
My first celebration took place in Sukhothai, the first capital of Thailand and a thriving tourist destination. The main draw to the city is the historic old capital which goes into overdrive for the Loy Krathong holiday. I was fortunate enough to make a Thai friend to accompany me for a fine Saturday afternoon. Below are some of my photos and some by my friend from the nighttime festivities.
Overall I had a great time, but in terms of seeing the festival I was relatively disappointed. It was simply too touristy if that makes sense. The crowd was too dense, the vendors too fake. It felt like I was trying to ice skate in Rockefeller Center. It was a good experience, but it didn’t feel like a real experience. Even then I felt that the celebration in my small town would be more special.
Which brings us to Wednesday, the day of the actual holiday and a different experience altogether. This celebration was as far from a tourist experience as it gets. As usual in my town, I was the only white guy around and I was welcomed with open arms. A group invited me to drink with them, another wanted me to take their picture, a student introduced me to her sister and a teacher from my school invited me to release my own Krathong with his family. The atmosphere was wonderful and everyone was cheerful There was a huge stage playing host to a youth beauty pageant or young dancers and plenty to eat and see.
But again in terms of photographs I was sorely disappointed by the lack of flying lanterns. I was feeling disheartened by the photos I was taking…until I found the Takraw court.
So even though my favorite photos wound up not being of the festival in particular, I call both outings a success overall. I enjoyed the contrasting experiences and was thrilled to take part in the celebrations.