One of the most colourful festivals taking place at the moment in Thailand is the Lantern Festival in Hat Yai. The Thai slogan translates as “colours of the south”. It is running between 14th and 28th February 2009. This is the third time that they have organized the festival at the Hat Yai Municipality Park. Although this year’s event is very impressive, the city mayor promised that next year would be even more spectacular. The theme of the festival is “Seven Wonders” and there are categories such as International Lanterns, Amazing Fowl and Animals and World of Kids. After wandering around looking at the lanterns, you can then go shopping for OTOP products which have both locally produced food and handicrafts.
The first section at the festival were various lanterns from other cultures in Asia such as Chinese, Korean and Japanese. Thai people have been decorating lanterns for hundreds of years. During the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods, a Brahman rite was performed in the 12th lunar month to welcome the gods. In Buddhism it is believed that creating lanterns is a form of merit making. There are two types of lanterns. In this picture, you can see decorative hanging lanterns made of paper and cloth with a bamboo frame. It is believed that lighting this lantern at night will bring you good luck. Another kind of lantern popular in Northern Thailand is the floating lantern, which can also be hanged, but is often made to float away into the sky. This is done as a merit making exercise to Chulamani in heaven during the Yipeng Festival.
My favourite section of the Lantern Festival was the “Aquarium”. Here you can find Nemo and many of his colourful friends. We walked down a kind of tunnel which was lined with blue fairy lights. Hanging from the inside of the tunnel were the various aquatic animals such as sharks, seahorses, jellyfish and clownfish. The kids obviously enjoyed this section and wanted their pictures taken in front of each lantern. A bit further on, there was also popular cartoon characters from both the American and Japanese cultures. There were also lanterns of African animals such as hippo, giraffes and elephants and also pandas from China. Out on the lake were colourful floating lanterns representing “loy krathong”. I will post more pictures on our ThailandQA.com Forums.
The festival is on every day from about 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. Going earlier in the day makes it easier to take pictures but you won’t be able to fully appreciate the strong colours until it is really dark. There were plenty of people wandering around the park taking pictures of their children or loved ones in front of the various lanterns. However, the people who used a flash will find that the lanterns won’t look that beautiful. The pictures without flash had stronger colours but the people will just turn out as silhouettes. Though, if you do it right, you can make some nice patterns as you can see in this above picture of two sweethearts in front of one of the largest lanterns.
Hat Yai is situated in Songkhla Province in the deep south of Thailand. It is true that they had some bomb attacks in the last few years, however, the whole time I was travelling in this province it never did concern me. Everyone is carrying on as normal. Songkhla borders Malaysia and so it is popular with both Malaysians and Singaporeans who drive up for long weekends. We saw quite a few foreign cars on the streets and most people in the hotels seemed to be Malaysian with some Westerners. Although Songkhla is the provincial capital, it is Hat Yai where most people head for shopping and entertainment. You can find more information about Songkhla Province at our ThailandGuidebook.com website.
Many thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) for flying us down to Hat Yai for the weekend and also for showing us around. I will be posting more reports of our weekend in Hat Yai here at www.thai-blogs.com later this week. We are the number one travel blog in Thailand with an average of 10,000 visitors per day. Visit PaknamWeb.com for the latest Thai travel news and free online guidebooks for Thailand.