You might wonder why beauty contests form part of the Loy Krathong celebrations. The answer takes us back 700 years to the reign of King Phra Ruang. An intellectual woman of legendary beauty had just become one of the King’s ladies in waiting. Her name was Nang Noppamas and, after being in her new position for only five days, she prepared a sophisticated lantern in the form of a lotus flower with candles and birds carved from fresh exotic fruits.
The king was thrilled and ordered from that day forward a celebration of the full moon of the twelfth lunar month of every year. The celebration would be marked by floating lotus shaped lanterns down the river to pay homage to the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha. Officials and ladies of the court soon had their own select competitions for the best lantern decorated with flowers and candles. However, the royal consort Nang Noppamas is still considered to be the very first lady to have floated a Krathong and therefore, in homage to her beauty and charm many beauty pageants or “Noppamas contests” take place during the festival. This legend, though widely accepted in Thailand, is disputed by some. There are claims that the festival originated in India, as there are similarities to the Deepavali “Festival of Light”. Whatever its origins, this is a festival not to be missed.
Other venues in Thailand to celebrate Loy Krathong
Loy Krathong is celebrated throughout the country; however the main venues outside the capital are:
Chaing Mai in Northern Thailand, situated in the foothills of the Himalayas. In the small town of Mae Jo they celebrate with thousands of small hot air balloons/lanterns floating into the air, the hot air lanterns are known as “Khom Loy”. Is where the festival originated in North central Thailand.
Sukhothai is 427km north on Bangkok, here the festival and celebrations can last almost one week! With Lantern competitions, sports events, Buddhist celebrations, Floating markets, street parades, exhibitions of local crafts, sound and lighting shows, traditional singing, and beauty contests, candle displays and fireworks.
Ayutthaya situated in the very Heart of Thailand celebrates with Krathongs, lantern dancing, displays of Thai folk dancing, live open air theatre, fireworks and lanterns.
Tak, is the north Western province on the border of Myanmar (Burma). In Tak they traditionally make a coconut snack called “Maing” and hence they have a lots of coconut shells left over. The shells float easily and are used instead of banana leaves as the Kathrong base; they can be filled with flowers, candles and incense or filled with oil and lit to make attractive glistening floating lights along the Ping River.
Where ever you are in Thailand head for the waterways. Loy Krathong is one of the highlights of the Thai festive calendar and it’s worth booking your hotel and flights well in advance. This is a visual feast, a truly unique festival and an unforgettable experience.