December 1, 2010
The balloon festival is a major activity in which everyone in the family can see and join. There are demonstrations of balloons lifting into the air in which visitors have the opportunity to travel in a balloon, buy local agricultural products, demonstrations of viticulture by Thai and foreign producers in which visitors can taste wine as well as have a barbecue. There are dancing performances, arts and crafts booths, food and beverage, souvenir shops, and various games and contests. This is a tourism event that is ongoing during the day and night.
Each balloon’s height is equal to a 7-storey building with various decorative designs. This spectacular event is definitely one that should not be missed, especially the light and sound with fireworks and musical presentation.
November 20, 2010 – November 22, 2010
(16.00 – 24.00)
The activities include a procession and Yi Peng Khom Contest as well as various Krathong designing contests. Lanterns will be posed and decorated around the temples and houses. Arches will also be set up. In addition, various fun fests will be arranged to participate in; for example, Lanna cultural performances, light and sound presentation, boat racing on the Ping River, and floating of Krathongs.
Loy Krathong is a festival which occurs on the full moon of the 12th lunar month, a date which usually falls in November.
Loy means to float and a Krathong is a small, hand-made “boat” or “raft” traditionally made from the leaves or bark of a banana tree and decorated with origami-esque banana leaves, flowers, candles, and incense sticks. In modern days, Krathongs are often made of specially baked bread, so the Krathongs are biodegradable, although many use styrofoam.
Many Thais believe that celebrating Loy Krathong by offering a krathong to the Water Goddess, Phra Mae Khongkha, will bring them good luck, particularly for couples, who will go to launch Krathongs together: a particularly auspicious event if the couple crafts their own krathong, although it is more common in modern days to simply buy krathongs from vendors near the water.
During the night of the full moon, many people will light their candles and incense and celebrate Loy Krathong by releasing their floating offering on a river or other body of water. Governmental offices, corporations, and other large groups will collaborate on larger, more elaborate rafts, which are often judged in contests. Loy Krathong celebrations also typically feature fireworks displays and beauty contests.
These beauty contests are known as Noppamas Queen Contests, named after Noppamas, a consort of the King of Sukothai in the 14th century, who is thought to be the first to float decorated krathongs.
Consequently, the tradition of Loy Kratong is believed to have begun in Sukhothai, although it is now celebrated throughout Thailand, with the festivities in Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya the most popular.
In Chiang Mai the Loy Krathong holiday is called Yi Peng. In addition to the krathongs floated in the waters around Chiang Mai, thousands of Lanna-style sky lanterns (khom fai) are released into the sky, part of the lantern oriented Lanna belief in their symbolically auspicious flames.
Grand historical sites dating more than two centuries to the early Rattanakosin period abound in inner Bangkok. Exploring the area on foot, starting with the main roads along the Emerald Buddha Temple and Wat Pho, and weaving through small sidelanes, one will find modernisation has fused well with history and things other we associate with that era.
The Rattanakosin era started in 1782 when King Rama I ascended the throne and built a new city on the eastern banks of the Chao Phraya River. His residence, the Grand Palace, shares the same compound as the Emerald Buddha Temple. Around the city he built 14 forts, reinforcing them with walls 3.6 metres tall and 2.7 metres thick.
But not all of them are on view today. Only two of the forts still remain standing and in good condition, too: Phra Sumen on Phra Arthit Road and Maha Kan on Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue.
Around these historical places new communities have mushroomed. Phra Chan is the name of another fort from that time. Today it’s an road with a pier on its western end called Tha Phra Chan. Here you can find not only various types of food and snacks such as mataba (stuffed roti), crispy garlic bread and roasted duck with rice, but it is also a hub for all kinds of services. The area has three narrow walking alleys or trok packed with shops selling amulets and Buddha images.
Tha Phra Chan is also where you will find fortune-tellers. It is a place where you can buy or rent academic gowns, purchase herbal medicine or even order a pair of customised high-heeled shoes.
Crossing the Chao Phraya River from Tha Phra Chan to Wang Lang pier on the Thon Buri side, you arrive at what today is the Siriraj Hospital. The area used to be the location of the royal residence of Krom Phra Ratchawang Boworn Sathan Phimuk, King Rama I’s nephew and a high-ranking prince.
A must-visit spot here is the local market located in a small lane packed with stalls and shops selling food and beverage, Thai dessert, Japanese sushi and somtam papaya salad. It is also a happy hunting ground for trendy youngsters looking for second-hand goods like clothes and bags, cheap fashion accessories and T-shirts.
From Wang Lang cross the river back to Tha Chang on the Bangkok side. Literally, Tha Chang means elephant pier, so called because during King Rama I’s reign mahouts used to take elephants from the royal stable to bathe there. A short walk from the pier, you will find a gate leading to the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha Temple.
Another landmark in the area is the Silpakorn University which boasts a gallery where works of art are on exhibition all year round. It’s also a nice place to give your tired legs some rest.
Immediately south of the Grand Palace, separated by a road, is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha or Wat Pho. It boasts a 46-metre-long statue of reclining Buddha, yoga inscriptions, sculptures of demons from the Ramayana epic and giant rock sculptures sourced from China.
The temple is also popular among visitors for its highly acclaimed traditional Thai massage.