Loi Krathong, is, as I understanding, the festival of the floating lanterns. The ceremony uses darkness and flame and air to symbolize the releasing yourself from the bonds of your past sins and mistakes as you continue down the path to enlightenment.
I was a little worried about this whole event as the large crowds known to attend and thousands of flaming floating lanterns in a small space didn't exactly sound like and incredibly good combination, but we were all pleasantly surprised to discover that the whole ceremony was very well organized and under excellent control.
We arrived just early enough and found an excellent parking spot within easy walking distance of ground zero. On the temple grounds large metal tiki torches were described a large grid and each group was allowed to choose a square on the field. We had a mat that just fit in the square and the ten of us made ourselves comfortable with the picnic we had brought. The beginning of the ceremony was already underway, amplified on loudspeakers strategically placed around the field. We were still borderline close to one, but the spot we had was dark and the people were very orderly throughout.
We sat and ate and prepared our lanterns for takeoff, while watching a few early releases that just couldn't wait test the winds above.
We were too far back to be able to see most of the procession and ground show in the beginning, but when the ceremony really got underway there was English translation provided to keep us all involved. They gave us instructions for following the chants and we watched quietly as the Thai around us chanted and kowtowed following the head monk's prayers. Then the torches were all lit and blessed.
Chaos broke loose at this point as some people began lighting their lanterns from the torches and ushers with blowhorns shoved through the crowds telling them to put the lanterns down - it wasn't time yet!
Finally we were all invited to stand and light our lanterns and within second the grounds were aglow with a thousand earthbound lampshade struggling for their freedom.
Then we were told to release them. In a moment the sky was absolutely filled with thousands of floating lights.
Finally the lantern supplies were exhausted and the crowds began to slip away towards cars. The thousand lanterns followed our hour-long journey back to the city, carrying the memories of mistakes and sins past away on the wind and into the deep night.