After nine days and nights of eating a vegan diet and keeping the 10 precepts, the Vegetarian Festival in Thailand is finally over. The festival ended with a large parade through the town of Paknam early on the morning of 27th October. At about 7 a.m., at the city hall, a gigantic “krathong” was hoisted over the river wall and down onto a makeshift raft. People then threw onto this paper lanterns and lotus flowers. While a dragon danced up and down amid the sound of firecrackers, the floating krathong was towed out into the middle of the river where it was set on fire. This ceremony, called “Loy Krathong Jae” was performed as a way to make merit for ancestors and the dead souls in the water. In the ceremony, the nine Gods are also sent back to heaven. A few minutes later everything was being packed up and people started to prepare for the main parade through town.
It was still early in the morning and so there wasn’t that many people lining the sides of the road as the parade set off. There were several marching bands in the parade including several hundred people walking behind carrying flags and banners. The noise of the bands and the firecrackers soon brought everyone out of their homes. There were also three large Chinese dragons in the parade. As you can see from this picture, the guys holding up the dragon must be very athletic as they have to dance back and forth along the two kilometre long route.
Outside the Chinese Shrine at City Pillar, two tall poles were set up for a kind of performance. I presume this was as much for the Gods and spirits residing in the shrine as it was for the hundreds of people watching. It was quite amazing to see how this very large dragon managed to go up the poll. Not only that, it was twisting and turning and reacting to someone on the second pole who was teasing the dragon with a stick. Back on the ground, the dancing dragon dashed into the shrine to pay respects. At the same time, very large firecrackers were going off.
While this performance was going on, the rest of the parade was waiting patiently to proceed. Then, as they passed the shrine they all paid respects. This went on for seemingly a long time. The last group passed the shrine at 9 a.m. I then walked back to the city hall where I had parked my car. By this time, the front of the parade was already arriving to complete their circuit of the town. It was all over by about 9.30 a.m. I have been to a number of different parades but this one was certainly the liveliest.