TOP EVENT! Loi Krathong Festival of Lights – Thailand
- One of the most enchanting and magical festivals in the Thai calendar, takes place on the night of the full moon in November, marking the end of the rainy season. Night skies all across the country become illuminated as glowing lanterns are floated into the air and rivers and lakes glisten with candles as tiny boats are set afloat in honour of the Goddess of Water. The roots of the festival lie firmly in Buddhist origins and the beliefs centre upon the concept of ‘letting go’ or ‘being freed’ from your troubles. As the lantern or boat is launched and drifts away, it is believed that people can be released from their ‘Durkkha’ or suffering and may wish for good luck in the future. The name of the festival comes from the small lotus shaped boats, which are called ‘krathong.’ Made of banana leaves and filled with candles, incense and other offerings. The boats can also contain locks of hair, photographs or symbolic remnants of the past.
Floating leaf krathong (banana leaf boats) for Loi Krathong Festival in Thailand
Yi Peng Lantern Festival – Chiang Mai, Thailand
- For those lucky enough to be in Chiang Mai at this time, the festival, known as ‘Yi Peng Lantern Festival’ is a wondrous sight to behold. One of the best places to watch the spectacle unfold is on the banks of the Ping River in Chiang Mai where thousands of people cast their fortunes into the night sky. The paper lanterns, known as ‘khom-fai’ look like big luminous jelly fish hovering up above. Parades, music, markets, street entertainment and of course lots of street food surrounds the festivities by the river.
Lanterns at Thapae Gate in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Bon Om Touk (Water Festival) – Cambodia
- Bon Om Touk, in Khmer, or the Water Festival to you and me, begins on the night of the full moon in November, marking the end of the rainy season in Cambodia. It is one of the most enjoyable and vivacious festivals in the country that attracts thousands of captivated partakers to the capital Pnohm Penh. The event celebrates the amazing natural phenomenon of the reversing flow of the Tonle Sap River. The marvel occurs when the water levels of the lower Mekong become so high during the monsoon season that it forces the water back upon itself. Not only is it an important cultural event, it indicates the beginning of a plentiful fishing season for many Cambodians who rely on the water as a vital life source. The festival continues for three days as a carnival spirit envelopes the city. There are street parties, market stalls, floats, dancing and firework displays, but the main event is the traditional boat races on the Tonle Sap River which date back as far as the 9th century, Competitors sweat it out in energetic heats as hoards of spectators line the riverside. The exhilarating final is watched by the King of Cambodia himself.
That Luang Festival – Vientiane, Laos
- A deeply religious event, the That Luang Festival in Lao’s capital, Vientiane takes place, like most Buddhist Festivals on the day of the full moon in November. On this day, before the break of dawn, thousands of Buddhists surround the beautiful golden temple, That Luang to say prayers and give alms to the monks who have travelled from all across the country for the festival. As the sun rises, the tradition is to circle the stupa three times in an anti-clockwise direction. Flower processions, market stalls, live music and dancing ensue.
The Angkor Photo Festival – Cambodia (23rd to 30th December)
- For one magical week in December, Siem Reap will be abuzz with some of the best works of photography from all over the world. The 8th Angkor Photo Festival kicks off on December 1st, and the week-long festival will feature over 120 photographers in a series of indoor and outdoor exhibitions as well as daily evening slideshow projections. Curated by Program Director Francoise Callier, this year’s festival will also feature two renowned figures in photography as guest curators – Munem Wasif from Bangladesh and Eddie Marsman and Marco Wiegers from the Netherlands. All events are free and open to the public. For more information check out the Angkor Photo website.
‘In God We Trust’ Taken by one of the guest curators © Munem Wasif – Agence VU