If you want to see Bangkok shine unlike ever before, visit the city for its Loi Krathong or “Festival of Lights.” During the annual event, set for November 4 to 6 during the full moon, locals take to the Chao Phraya River to release krathongs, delicate floats made of banana leaves or lotus and topped with incense, flowers and candles. The result is a lit-up river that casts a romantic glow over the surrounding cityscape.
Part of Buddhist lent, the festival began as a way to honor the goddess of water. Thai people celebrate by crafting and floating the krathongs, which is supposed to wash away misfortune. When putting the luminaria in the water, people usually make a wish, and some believe that if the candle continues to burn until as long as the float is visible, the wish will come true. Couples often send off a krathong together.
The most popular Loi Krathong celebration usually takes place at Asiatique, an open-air riverfront market that’s a mall-like version of Bangkok’s famous night markets. While official details are still coming together, the festivities typically start around sunset, when you can purchase lanterns to join the flotilla of floats or watch the banana-leaf-folding demonstrations. Along Asiatique’s large boardwalk, expect to learn the story of Loi Krathong through music and dance, watch a float procession and take in some fireworks. Another big celebration during the three-day festival will be at Nakrapirom Park in Rattanakosin Island. There, you also can witness displays of illuminated boats and fireworks lighting up the nighttime sky.
For a more exclusive party, head down the river to The Peninsula Bangkok for its Festive Bangkok Getaway package. During a two-night stay, you’ll create your own krathong and launch it from the hotel’s pier, wake up to a complimentary breakfast buffet for two at the River Café & Terrace, enjoy a six-course dinner at the outdoor Thiptara Thai restaurant (along with live music and dance performances) and get 20 percent off any services at The Peninsula Spa Bangkok (we recommend the Ama-Releasing Abhyanga, which includes a salt and oil body scrub, facial, shower and massage). If you prefer to dine at the on-the-water River Café & Terrace, you’ll have a buffet spread and a chance to watch a traditional Thai puppet show from the lauded Joe Louis Theatre. And if you want a six-course Western feast, The Lobby lounge is your spot, and you won’t have to miss out on the live music and dance here, either. The hotel staff usually joins in on the fun and offers its own impressive rafts, which makes the atmosphere that much more vibrant.
Also along the river, Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok ushers in the festival throughout its restaurants. At Riverside Terrace — perched right along the water — waiters donning beautiful traditional costumes will greet you. As you partake in the international buffet, watch classical Thai dancing and, afterward, bring your own krathong to the water’s edge and check out the fireworks. Get a view of the river and a Thai dance performance at Lord Jim’s, the hotel’s second-floor seafood spot. Though if you really want good positioning, opt for the top-floor at Le Normandie, a French fine-dining restaurant that overlooks the water. At Sala Rim Naam, the hotel’s restaurant across the river, local folk musicians and dancers will entertain while you peruse the Thai buffet. Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok usually goes all out for the festival — in the past, colorful lanterns and flowers were strewn throughout the property, elaborate ice sculptures were lit up outside and revelers were everywhere.
The St. Regis Bangkok has a more city-centric location (it’s in the Ratchaprasong District) but will still commemorate Festival of Lights. Its Art of Celebration — Loi Krathong two-night package is a family-friendly option with accommodations for two adults and two children, daily breakfast for the group, a Thai family dinner any night of the stay, BTS train tickets so that everyone can go to the riverside festivities and a krathong craft class with your butler.
Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok will also celebrate in another part of the city (it’s attached to shoppers’ haven Siam Paragon mall). Head to the luxury hotel’s Brasserie Europa for a buffet dinner with tempting barbecue stations (and free-flowing alcohol for an additional fee). While you won’t be near the river, you’ll sit on the outdoor terrace surrounded by a large garden and the striking free-form pool. Participate in a krathong-making session and then set your handmade lantern in the swimming pool to appease the water goddess and secure your own good luck.