One of the famous festivals in Thailand marking the end of the Rains Retreat is the “Rub Bua Festival” in Bang Phli in Samut Prakan. This means “to receive lotus flower” but it is also called “yon bua” which is a better description. This literally means to throw lotus flowers which is exactly what happens. The people of Bang Phli, and from far around, come to the temple at Wat Bang Phli Yai Nai to pay respect to the revered Buddha image called Luang Poh To. A replica of this sacred image is put on a boat which then goes up and down the canal in order for people to pay respect. They do this by throwing lotus flowers onto the boat. There are always thousands of people attending and it is complete chaos. Certainly worth attending if you are in this area at the end of the Buddhist Lent next year.
This was my second time at this festival. I went there this morning in order to write a report for Thai-blogs.com. I had to actually skip school in order to go. One of the parents spotted me at the festival and asked if I was going back to school! I smiled. I had other plans. I left home just after 7 a.m. as I knew there would be traffic delays and also a big problem in parking. By the time I reached Bang Phli it was already 8 a.m. There was nowhere to park so I had to go back out onto the main road and park there. I then quickly made my way down a small soi to the canal. The place was packed on both sides of the canal. Even the pedestrian bridge was jammed packed and no-one could go up or down any more. Strictly speaking, you are not supposed to be on the bridge when the Buddha image passes underneath. The last time I came they were very strict. But, I think this time there were so many people that there wasn’t much they could do about it.
I only had to wait about five minutes before I spotted the boat with the Buddha image coming my way. My vantage point wasn’t too bad and as I am taller than the average Thai it didn’t matter too much that I arrived a bit late. As the boat approached, people started throwing the lotus flowers towards Luang Poh To. As you can see from the picture above, many of the flowers missed the boat! On either side of the boat, there were smaller boats with people that picked the lotus flowers out of the water and then threw them onto the Buddha image. It is quite an amazing scene and something worth witnessing if you can. There is a great atmosphere there. It felt like it lasted for a long time. But checking the timestamp on my photos, I could see that it lasted only 5 minutes! If you want to come next year, make sure you are not late!
There is a temple fair that is going on at the same time with other activities. I was going to take a look around the temple before leaving, but I was curious to see how far the boat would go up the klong (canal). I also wanted to find a better place that wasn’t so crowded for next time. I had heard that there was going to be a ceremony at City Hall. So, I rushed back to my car and drove towards Wat Bang Phli Yai Klang. You may remember me writing about this temple which houses the longest Reclining Buddha in Thailand. A bit further on from here is City Hall. However, the road here is so narrow and there were so many people, I just couldn’t find any where to park. So I drove on until I came back to the Reclining Buddha temple and I parked there. It was then about a ten minute walk down to the canal. It was easy to find the way as I just followed the people carrying lotus flowers. As they weren’t in a rush I knew that I was ahead of the boat.
At the canal I found about a hundred or so people lined along a short stretch of the bank. There was also a bridge that was completely empty! Although the atmosphere probably wasn’t as good as at the other temple, there was certainly a lot less pressure to find a good place to watch the events unfold. I went over the bridge and waited on the other side. I could see the boat in the distance but then it turned off the main canal just near another bridge. I asked a Thai person and he said that there was going to be a ceremony first at city hall and then it would continue down the canal to a point just beyond us. It would then turn around and go back to where it started. I considered walking up to city hall but he told me that it was very crowded and that I was better off waiting where I was. I agreed.
About half an hour later, at about 9.20 a.m., Luang Poh To left city hall and came towards us in the boat. This was so much better. I made a note that if I brought visitors to this festival next time then I would bring them to this stretch of the canal. However, it wouldn’t hurt to visit both sections like I had done today. As Luang Poh To came nearer, the crowd grew excited and started throwing the lotus flowers. The woman in front of me somehow managed to hit me on the head even though she was trying to throw the other direction. As the boat approached the bridge, they made an announcement for people to get off the bridge. (They actually do this for when H.M. The King and other members of the royal family drive under a pedestrian bridge.)
From where I was standing the boat couldn’t go too much further. I could see a big water gate blocking their way. In the old days, you could follow this canal all the way to Samrong and out onto the Chao Phraya River. The boat seemed to stop for a while and I couldn’t see why. But, it didn’t matter as we were now being entertained by the floats which were all beautifully decorated. I say “entertained” as it was amusing as many of them hit the sides of my bridge and broke up. One of the big images lost its head! After a while, the boat carrying Luang Poh To turned around and came back towards us for a second round.
By the time I left it was already close to 10.30 a.m. I didn’t go back to the fair in the end for two reasons. Next week we will have the big temple fair in Samut Prakan for nine days and nine nights. Also, I was in a rush to drive down to Chonburi for my second festival of the day. I wanted to pay a visit to the famous Buffalo Racing which is always held on the same day. Tomorrow I will share my report and pictures with you.