Last few days has been some of the most enjoyable I have had whilst here in Thailand as we celebrated Loi Krathong. It is celebrated on the 12th lunar month, which is usually mid-November and is the ‘festival of lights’, it’s one of the oldest Thai traditions… and one of the most enjoyable!
Krathong floats are made from basic materials easily found around the village and reflect the simplicity of life, although we bought our’s once we were at the river! These are made with banana leaves, flowers and decorated with a candles and in scent sticks.
Loi Krathong is a ritual in which offerings are made to Mae Khongkha — Mother of Waters, the Thai equivalent of the Hindu goddess of water, as a way of saying thank you for providing life-sustaining water throughout the year. It is said that the offerings are made as a way of saying sorry or to beg her forgiveness for carelessness in polluting the water.
Setting the Krathong adrift into the river is seen as a symbol of casting away your grief, misery and ill-fortunes and in many cases placing hair or clipped finger-nail into the Krathong is seen as a way of ridding yourself of a spell of bad luck or misfortune. Coins are sometimes also placed in the Krathong as offerings. The festival is also seen as a very romantic time and is a time to make wishes for happiness together and success in love!
For the last week, fireworks have been going off constantly…. and I mean during
the day, the night and even one at school! Not quite the same as the fireworks back home these are fireworks that are all about the BANG! On Wednesday I travelled to Sungmen, a town 10km out of Phrae city however still in Phrae province and where Andy lives. There are parades all around the province for the duration of the festival and I got to take part in one, walking with Andy’s school- Thepnaree Bilingual School. Everyone who was taking part was in traditional dress, either the elaborate dresses and suits or ‘Moham’ the traditional Thai blue material which is famous in Phrae. I have my own Moham shirt which I wear on Friday’s at school so I did not look out of place in the Parade!
We set off with the call of ‘farang farang!’ every so often. (Basically ‘look a white person!!’) Everyone in the parade was having a good time and I was even given my own lantern so I was not left out! There were huge floats with Loi Krathong beauty queens on top, marching bands and loads of people lining the street to watch!
Once we made it to the park we were met by the new American teachers in my school, Joey and Tracy. We decided not to stay at the Sungmen festival, instead travelling another 10km down the road to Den Chai where there was an even bigger festival taking place. It’s hard to describe the scene however as it’s a light festival everywhere is lined with candles, lanterns, and lights… it really is beautiful!!
We all bought some fireworks… which couldn’t be further from the UK as in front of us in the queue was boys who could only have been in Primary school getting some of their own fireworks- another show of Thailand’s famous health and safety… or should I say lack of! Coming from a country where we are health and safety MAD, the sights you see here are quite unbelievable! We then went and bought some Chinese Lanterns and then finally our Krathong
We lit our Chinese lanterns and made a wish (Which I am not going to share!) and let it go… simple yes?? Wrong! Andy and I lit ours first… to add to the fire that was inside the lantern there was also fireworks hanging of the bottom of it… not good when we let it go to early and it would not rise and the fireworks start when it is only a few meters of the ground!! DOH! Ours made it up just in nick of time; however the real laugh was with Tracy and Joey.
They had watched our effort- so knew what to do… they lit the fire… waited, ready to go… set the fuse on the fireworks…. it went up… up… down… down… down… AHH! The Thai people round about us were doubled over laughing as Joey ran after this lantern trying to get it away from people/ trees/ the ground before the fireworks started…. up… up… down… down… down! A Thai ran over and pushed it back up just as the firecrackers went off which brought about huge fits of laughter from everyone around!! (Wouldn’t get that reaction in the UK that’s for sure!!!) As it finally left the ground everyone was laughing as it slowly started to rise whilst the fireworks were still going off even though it was still just a wee bit to low!
We then began to play with the fireworks, which like I said before are more about the bangs than the flashes! Then it was onto the main part… The Krathong! Andy and I took ours down to the water’s edge and put some of our hair in the middle, lit the in scent sticks, the candle and then said a little prayer before placing them into the river. Was really nice watching them floating down the river together with our prayers and wishes floating down too.
The next day was the actual full moon and when most of the activities were
taking place, after school we were travelling to the next town to another festival however this time we were going to watch Andy fight! We were meeting at Lee’s house and usually a two minute journey on my bike took be 20 as I could not get past the huge parade! After not being able to cross I finally asked a policeman how I could get round the parade, next minute he stopped the parade and let me cross right though it!! Eeek!
It’s the first time I have properly seen Andy fight I don’t know who was more nervous… Me or Andy! It was a great fight and went right down to points as both fighters were still going after the 5 rounds, the Thai’s loved it!!! Usually I really enjoy these fights however when it’s someone you care about in the ring I could hardly watch!! Unfortunately the other boxer won… a once Phrae Champion! Gulp! However Andy did an awesome job!
The Friday night was a pretty low key event, with both of us shattered after the busy week we put on a movie and had an early night as we were up early the next day for Chang Mai!
I have been to Chang Mai several times now, however it is almost definitely one
of my favourite cities in Thailand and was even prettier with the Loi Krathong decorations still up! We had Japanese for lunch (as when you get to a big city you have to take full advantage of the food!!) and as we both had a few things to get so went our separate ways to do a bit of shopping. That night we had an awesome Italian (with wine!!!) before going to check out the lights that were put up for the festival, was beautiful!! Looking up to the sky you could still see the Chinese Lanterns floating around and there was still that excitement in the air! We walked around and visited the night bazaar where we got a few things for Christmas before going out for a well deserved Mojito! The next day we went to the cinema (an actual cinema!!) and a massage before getting on the bus home.
Has been an amazing few days and has definitely made Loi Krathong my favourite festival… there is something so magical about the whole thing and I felt like I was in a Disney movie!!
So with the festival over things are back to normal…. will just have to wait to see if my wishes come true!