Category Archives: Loy Krathong

Loy Krathong In The Village Of Ban Phutsa

Ban Phutsa kids

Loy Krathong is probably the most visually evocative of all Festivals held in the Kingdom of Thailand. It would take a very mean spirited individual not to be moved by the sight of a November full moon with thousands of candles and incense sticks flickering and burning on floating Krathongs.

As November is the month that Mali and I normally visit Thailand, I have attended many Loy Krathong celebrations over the years. In the main these have been in rural areas in Isaan. Although these village celebrations don’t have the scope or grandeur of mainstream celebrations in say Krung Thep or Sukhothai they are still marvelous due to their relative simplicity and the community involvement of Village people.

Last November I attended once again another Loy Krathong celebration in the Isaan village of Ban Phutsa in Nakhonratchasima province. In the days leading up to Loy Krathong night there were many reminders of the significance of this celebration.

Ban Phutsa Sala

The Hindu origins of Loy Krathong date back centuries to the Sukhothai period of Thai history where it commemorated both the ending of the rainy season and the all important rice harvest. As such one of the two main Sala’s in the village were decorated with palm and coconut fronds and included mounds of freshly picked green coconuts.

Many villagers were in attendance at the Sala where the village monks chanted and were offered alms. Amongst this the Monks blessed small sacks of rice from the all important rice harvest that was occurring at that time. It also reminded of the important role that the village Wat plays in the life of rural Thailand. Village temples are places, which Thai people enter and use freely and take immense pride in.

Over at the other Sala in the village Wat a small cottage industry was creating the colourful Krathongs that the villagers would float on the night. In the main they were being built out of banana leaf and decorated with flowers, candles and incense sticks. The only sign of modernity were the Styrofoam bases. The Krathongs were then sold for a few baht to villagers with all profits donated to the village Wat.

Krathong Construction

completed krathongs

As the moon rose on the night of Loy Krathong the villagers slowly gathered in the grounds of the temple. From there holding their Krathongs people moved out to a large irrigation pond in the rice fields immediately behind the temple.

As the Candles and incense sticks were lit and the obligatory coins also placed on them, the Krathongs were launched by young and all. The pond soon came to life with the flicker of candlelight and the musky odour of burning incense. Amongst the throng of people village monks moved easily, talking and laughing with family, friends and neighbours. As an event it could only be described as Sanuk.

loy kratong lights

As mentioned above, it wasn’t as grand as the celebrations in Krung Thep and other places but just like home made chocolate cake, just so much sweeter.

And then it was over, another important cycle completed in that intriguing place called the Kingdom of Thailand.


Loy Krathong in Samut Prakan

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.

Loy Krathong in Wimbledon 2005

I thought I shall break the ‘Learning Thai’ chapters this once to blog about the recent Loy Krathong festivities in Wimbledon, England.

It’s a relatively small festival (to me anyways) and this usually takes place around here in mid-November. I was so hoping that it would NOT rain as it tends to do so every year which makes it less enjoyable because everything’s wet. Instead of looking upwards, one would be looking at their feet as they walk, so as to not get mud everywhere. I was hoping for that not to happen this time. Luckily, it didn’t rain but it was very cold and everyone was wrapped up in their winter gear.

It was just my mom and me traveling there. Usually, by the time you get closer to Putney, we’d take the next 93 double-decker bus. You know you’re on the right bus when you start seeing only Thai faces everywhere. We have kind of gotten used to that sign, if there weren’t that many, we’d be worried we got on the wrong one. Usually for these events, we’d be there quite early but this time, we had stopped off at the local Thai market store to get a few things so we arrived a little after noon.

The temple grounds are decorated nicely with Thai national flags and Buddha statues being placed outside to have holy water poured on them and prayers being made.

There is a little market at the end of the grounds where they sell imported magazines, noodles, vegetables and so on. Some, if not most of it, was brought from the Thai stores to be sold at the temple. Then there are jewelry and art stands around as well.

At this time, it was not as packed yet as most other people would arrive later in the afternoon. This isn’t such a good idea if you intend to buy lots of things because those who want something specifically must go early. Some of the food we wanted to buy had already been sold out! And strangely, there were perhaps three food stands missing this year as well as selling muffins and some non-Thai food. I don’t think I saw this last time.

There were stands in front of the temple that sold gift offerings and krathongs to be placed in the local pond further down near the monastery house. My mom decided she wanted to ‘tam boon’ now and bought a gift basket and neatly packed robes as offerings. I intended to wait outside because it was a bit hassling to take off my shoes and carry our bags inside but to my surprise, my mom insisted I come because she wanted me to do it with her. So I did.

It was a little packed inside, although it’s a shame I couldn’t take a picture of the inside, I’d have to say that the inside is really beautiful because of the large buddha and its decorations as well as the wall paintings, even for a small temple.

After that, it seemed kind of a relief to have ‘tam boon-ed’ and we went on to do make some wishes by placing money into the bowls with your day of birth in the week, evening or daytime. There was a large number of Farangs also, I could think they outnumber the Thais at these events.

We went to make some more blessings at the money tree and use the scented sticks. The lady there (to the left in the picture) she was really friendly with everybody and helping them around. She even came up to me, seeing as I was with my mom, and asked me if I พูดไทยได้ไหมค้า (can speak Thai?). อ่านิดหน่อยนะค่ะ (a little kaa) I answered and she laughed friendly-like probably happy because of my little effort, 55+. I know that the many times before, I probably had this ‘confused’ look on my face but nowadays at such events, people seem to be speaking Thai to me first or at least asking if I can. So I don’t know if my face says anything about that. But I think my speaking Thai seems to work a bit better each time.

Another examples was just after we stepped out of the temple, there were two Thai guys standing near where we left our shoes. I thought they were going to move but then they stood right in the way of them. So waiting 60 seconds to see what happens, I had to say ขอโทษนะค่ะ (accent pretty good here) and point to my shoes, because I didn’t know how to say ‘I need my shoes’ (yet). Thankfully they got the idea after my little charade of ‘point and guess what’. I think the one guy that stood in front me and answered ครับ (khrap – yes) said it in a way as if he thought I was going to talk to him… but sadly, no, ha ha *sweatdrop*.

The contestants age were between 14-24. There was some rather loud karaoke singing and look-thoong music playing in between. No rain meant the show could go on unlike the last two years that it had to be cancelled, unfortunately, due to wet weather.

Just after standing in a long queue and finishing off buying whatever else we thought we liked, we watched the mini-beauty pageant show announcements. After that, we decided it was time to go home. We did what we came to do and it went well. For me, there’s the Loy Krathong that came and went in 2005.

Loy Kratong, DC Style!

Sawasdee Krab True Thai Believers!

Ah, Fall.

A special time of year, the days get shorter and the leaves bloom into fiery bursts of red, orange and gold. The weather feels crisp and starts getting cooler or as our Thai friends would say หนาวมาก (cold very!)

In the country folks start shopping to buy big, ripe pumpkins. If your a city kid like myself you go shopping for a pumpkin spiced latte` at Starbucks. Back home in Alabama as a kid we took pumpkins to carve into Jack O’Lanterns for Halloween. Today in my DC neighborhood you need a pretty scary Jack O’Lantern to keep it from being mugged!

Right about this time of year folks start thinking about the coming holidays as thoughts turn to turkey, the dreaded Christmas shopping, Kratongs …Say what?

Well maybe not everybody except for Thai people here in DC and card-carrying Thai fanatics like me. For our fellow farang readers that don’t know what it’s all about let me enlighten you. Although not an official holiday in Thailand Loy Kratong, next to Songkran is one of the
most popular, and romantic, festival gatherings Thai people celebrate
each year. The festival is held on the night of the 12th full moon, which usually lands some time in November although this year in DC it’s in October.

Loy Kratong is a festival held to pay homage to the goddess of rivers and waterways, Mae Nam or mother water. Kratong supplies to make them can be purchased in the any market in Thailand. Usually they are supplied by the temple but you can make and bring your own if you like. At the festival there is dancing and music, best Kratong contests for adults and the kids, a beauty pageant and always lots of Thai food.

‘Loy’ literally translates to mean ‘float’, while Kratong is the Thai word for a sort of tray made out of banana leaves. Loy Kratong is celebrated by floating elaborate Kratongs decorated with flowers, candles and incense on just about any waterway in the kingdom. After dark when the full moon has risen then you lit the candle and incense sticks in your Kratong, make a wish and then set it in the water to float away carrying your wish to Mae Nam. The romance behind all this originated in the 13th century Sukhothai period Thailand and became an addition to the festivities especially as an event for couples to enjoy.

It all began with a fairy tale legend.

According to the story, Nang Nopamas, a royal consort in the court of King Ramkhamhaeng (the founder of Sukhothai), made the first Kratong as an offering to Mae Nam. She set it afloat on one of the canals of the
palace so that it would drift past her lover the King. The King was so
delighted with the creation, thus the origin of a saying that if two lovers set a Kratong adrift and it stays afloat until out
of sight, their love will last forever.

Definitely sounds romantic right?

Saturday night we celebrated our own Loy Kratong at Wat Thai here in DC. In the past it was celebrated on the National Mall with floating the Kratongs in the Malls huge reflecting pool. To me that was a cool touch to highlight a Thai festival here in America but maybe these days Homeland Security is too worried about terrorists in the mix. I hate to think of Secret Service agents’ body searching monks or taking away some little kids float as a threat to national security!

Continue reading

Upon a full moon night

I apologize for my absence and inconsistant posting. I have the story about me being related to King Mongkut in stock but I can’t quite finish it yet. Not with my eyes weirding out on me most nights. (And yes please do excuse my spelling. I can’t say that I’m seeing things clearly at the moment.)

Lots and lots are going on over here, folks.

Namely, AIDS Walk Los Angeles this Sunday where I lead a team for the first time! Namely, chronic dry eyes that limit my computer use. Namely, a busy work season–meetings after meetings, big event next Monday, and an absent coworker I have to fill in for. Namely, 2 online courses with one group project. Namely, a VERY busy college (American) football season. My alma mater, the 2-time National Champion USC Trojans, are chasing after a three-peat (and playing our nemesis Notre Dame this Saturday).

But I just want to drop a line real quick about next month.

Full moon in November falls on the 16th this year. That’s when Songkran is taking place. So far, the festival of lights and floating luminarias is the Borens’ favorite. Brandon and I were in Thailand for this last year and we had a grand time at the Oriental. A little upscale-y but it was quite fun.

The year before that, Brandon and I had our own little Loy Kratong. A handmade, 3-inch diameter paper kratong with a birthday candle was floated off into the Pacific ocean in the Belmont Shores marina. We hoped it didn’t light anyone’s yaught/house on fire…

This year, it’s going to be an interesting Loy Kratong.

It is this day of November full moon night that Oakley has to release the company’s newsletters at Board of Investors meeting. That is also when Oakley’s online class is due.

And that’s when Oakley turns 29. 🙂

So, let me leave you with that for the time being. I just want to let you know I haven’t abandoned you completely…as you may have noticed my lurking about in the comments. But life is taking me for a spin and I can’t fight the flow.

See you back in a week or so…hopefully.