In Samut Prakan, like thousands of other locations around the country, people flocked to the local river and canals to float their krathongs as a way of showing respect to the Goddess of Water. At the city hall, a parade of giant krathongs set off in the late afternoon to circle the city. Fairground rides were set up for the children and of course there was plenty of food for everyone. Throughout the evening there were concerts and a beauty contest to find Miss Noppamas. All of these events are quite typical of what happens in the smaller towns around the country.
For the past few years, the local administration have been building a new waterfront adjacent to the city hall. Like most of their projects, this has been dragging on for a long time. However, this year was the first time that there was no mud and just concrete. I had high expectations of the place being a good location for floating krathongs but I was disappointed. Along the waterfront, there are a number of places where steps lead down to a landing stage. Ideal for floating your krathong. However, due to the full moon and a high tide this landing stage was completely swamped with water. So, the local administration had moored a barge alongside the waterfront. But, this didn’t help much as they had only set up a landing stage big enough to accommodate five people at a time!
A new innovation this year was the water slide. A torch was placed near the top so that people could light the candle and incense sticks in their krathongs. They then recited a short prayer asking for forgiveness for polluting waterways in the past and then asking for good luck for the future. They then launched their krathong at the top of the ramp and watched as it floated down to the river at the bottom. Well, that was the theory and it didn’t always work out. Sometimes the krathong got caught halfway down. But, at least the local authorities were trying to alleviate the problem of people not being able to get down to the water themselves.
In the river, there were half a dozen kids swimming around. In the past, people had paid them some money to push their krathongs out further into the middle of the river. It is supposed to bring you good luck if you can watch the twinkling lights from your krathong as it disappeared into the distance. However, these kids seemed to be more interested in ransacking the krathongs to see if they could find any coins. Some people believe that if you put some coins into your krathong you will become rich in the future.
At about 6 p.m. everyone ran for cover as we were hit by a large rainstorm. Everyone was talking about how unusual this was and that it was probably the first wet Loy Krathong in living memory. Certainly the rainy season usually has come to an end by now. But, it is lingering longer this year. The rain stopped half an hour later and everyone continued with their business. By this time they had started a boat service that took people out to the middle of the river to float their krathongs. I decided I had enough so I went back home. I was planning to come out again later to watch the beauty contest but there was another big thunderstorm.
Strictly speaking, the Loy Krathong festival should only last one day but they have made it a three day event in Samut Prakan. In other places, like Chiang Mai, it can go on for a week. This tradition has apparently been going on for hundreds of years since the Sukhothai period. But, like the Songkran Festival, things are starting to get more commercialized and deviating from the original intentions. They say to float your krathong is a way of asking for forgiveness from the Goddess of Water for polluting the waterways. However, the day after the festival the newspapers are full of pictures of canals and ponds completely covered with abandoned krathongs. These ones can at least be cleared away. However, what about the plastic, foam and paper krathongs that floated down the river and out into the Gulf of Thailand?
The krathong that I was most impressed with during the parade is the one pictured above. This is made from bread which means at least the fish would get a meal out of it. And it smelled good too! It isn’t that impractical to make and I did see some people floating smaller versions. As more and more people are floating their krathongs every year, maybe we should think more carefully about the side affects and pollution caused by this event.