One of the best parts about teaching and living in a different country is the ability to travel around that country and explore many new places. During the year that I lived in Thailand I went on many trips. I was fortunate enough to go all over Thailand, from mountains to beaches, to even beyond Thailand to experience Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and more. I have loved most of my experiences traveling but some will really stick with me long after I return to the States. One of these trips was when a fellow American teacher and I went to Sukhothai to celebrate Loy Krathong.
Loy Krathong, the festival of lights, is celebrated all throughout Thailand usually in the first half of November. It is believed that Loy Krathong started in Sukhothai around 1238 when the city was flourishing very powerful in Asia. Due to it originating in Sukhothai, each year they have one of the biggest celebrations for the holiday. This was why I found myself booking an overnight bus to visit the city during their festival this year.
When we first arrived in Sukhothai we spent the day bicycling around Sukhothai's historical park. Sukhothai was at one point the capital of Thailand and therefore has many impressive ruins and lots of historical information on Thailand a long time ago.
One of my favorite parts of living in Thailand has been meeting Thai people. I strongly believe that Thai people are some of the kindest and most generous people in the world. This trip ended up being a beautiful example of just that. A friend of mine from America used to teach in Sukhothai, and she told some of her old coworkers that I would be in Sukhothai for the festival. One of her coworkers, so excited to share with Americans what Loy Krathong was all about, came out to the park to show us around and teach us about the festival we were experiencing. It made the experience all the more authentic.
As it started to get dark, workers quickly went about and put out small candles on top of the ruins, strings of lights between the trees, and hanging lanterns all over the park. All of the sudden the entire park was sparkling with lights. The look made me absolutely awestruck.
One of my favorite parts of the night came during dinner time. My friend, and two new Thai friends, went to the market inside the park. Here you exchanged Thai baht for seashells. Seashells used to be a form of payment in Thailand a very long time ago. The idea was to really bring you back in time and pretend you were at a market back when Sukhothai was the capital of Thailand. We bought many traditional Thai dishes to share and ate them family style together.
The most popular part of Loy Krathong is the floating of leaf boat lanterns in large bodies of water. These krathongs (the word means leaf boat in Thai) are filled with small candles and flowers. Sometimes Thai people will add coins inside to make merit with Buddha. Thai people believe that as these lanterns float away from you, you wish for good luck in the upcoming year.
After people released their krathongs, there were fireworks and flying lanterns in the sky. It was a beautiful sight to end the festivities.