Loy Krathong, the real deal

Hi again, folks!

Previously I talked about Loy Krathong as described in the literature. Now I will tell you my first-hand experiences. To what degree they are identical, you decide. But I have to warn you: if you already have nice illusions and would like to keep them, do not read any further!!! Read the previous one instead.

The unforgettable day
I spent most of the daytime with my sister, playing computer games, because she said it’s not worth going out yet. The real action, she said, starts happening in the evening. So, at around 6-7 we tried to decide where to go to float our Krathong. Being in Bangkok, the logical choice was the Chao Phraya river, so after having dinner, we went there.

Celebrations have started already at the local City Hall. We watched the Miss Noppamart contest and the exhibition of magnificent Krathongs for the competition. I took pictures of each Krathong. The first- second- and third prize winners were the most beautiful, obviously, but the others looked nice too.

At eight, after we looked at everything, we decided it is time to float our krathong. It was a nice one: a mid-sized lotus-shaped floatie masterfully crafted from banana leaves and stem and a variety of colorful flowers. A candle and three incense sticks completed the artwork. (Needless to say, I didn’t make it – we just bought it at a nearby shop. )

Unfortunately, by eight the place became incredibly crowded. The first shock came to us when we got to the shores of the mighty Chao Phraya. The river was nice, as always: stars and a reddish full-moon flickered on the surface, as a gentle wind disturbed the water. I thought “finally, I’ll get to see whether it feels like the way written in those books”. I felt quite excited.

My excitement turned to shock and disbelief when I saw that thing on the shore. A boat – and many others already in the middle of the river. Though I saw what other people were doing, I hesitated. “No way – this cannot be! We were supposed to gently float our krathongs at the shore, watching as the hundreds of tiny lights are slowly carried away!” But, seeing my sister’s example, I set my doubts aside and followed her, as police shoved people into the little dinky like herding cattle to the slaughterhouse. Once inside, the smell of the boat reminded me of that too.

We rode about five minutes when the boat stopped. People lighted their candles and incense sticks and flocked to the side of the boat. Once again, I looked doubtfully at the high railings. “How the heck are we supposed to let our krathongs float through that?” I asked Nongsao. But if you know how practical Thai people are, you won’t be much surprised to find out that they just flung their krathongs into the river, much like a frisbee.

I tried my best to lean over the railing as much as I could, and told sis to hold me tight when I felt like almost falling into the dark, murky water. I let the krathong slip from my fingers, and with a soft “plop” it went… I crossed my fingers and hoped that it won’t sink – it felt quite heavy in my hands! – but it floated, though the weak flame of the candle couldn’t take the abuse.

My relief was short. The krathong floated towards the back of the boat, where water was gushing out from the side (I don’t know the right term, but hopefully you know what I’m talking about if you’ve seen a boat before). The currents carried the krathong directly under the flowing water, so it got doused pretty roughly. So that was it for the incense sticks too.

By that time, the Krathong was nothing more than flotsam, swimming downstream along with other garbage on the river. And that’s how I felt it too. We didn’t make an offering to the water goddess; we didn’t float our sins away; neither did we send any wishes with it. We just polluted the river, plain and simple. I was very disappointed and disillusioned.

I can give you, as an advice, the lesson I learned from this experience: if you have a beautiful vision of something that seems to be real, and one day you will have the chance to experience it for real – run as far away as possible! Don’t do it, or you will risk a bad trade: your imagination for the cold reality.

Of course, it’s easier said than done. In fact, I am about to violate my own advice again – but I was always such a fool! Hopefully, some of you are smarter.

Oh, I forgot to tell you what happened afterwards: we got back to our places on the boat, then we started our return trip to the shore. Though it only took about five minutes to head out, it took about three times as much to get back. We got in a true Bangkok-style traffic jam on the river, so we were sitting ducks, choking on exhaust fumes. An appropriate ending to this misfortunate “celebration”.

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