Saturday, November 8, 2014

Loy Krathong: The First Experience

I had long been intrigued by Thailand's famous Loy Krathong Festival. I first heard of it some years back during my first visit to Thailand.  I didn't witness it because we had to leave weeks before  the festival was to be held then.

Having moved to Hua hin as a temporary resident,  I couldn't  help the excitement of finally being able to witness this cultural event for the first time.

Loy Krathong,, which happens in November with no specific date depending on the appearance of the full moon, is touted to be one of the two most important festivities in the whole of Thailand, the other being the Songkhran which happens in April.  

Googling for more understanding, I discover some important details about this much-talked-about happening.  Loy Krathong is translated in English as "the festival of lights".  There had been various folktales about who started it and how, but the most important thing is that the Thais do it annually as a spiritual thing: to thank the Water Goddess for the gift of the water.  Indeed there's a bounty of bodies of water in all of Thailand from the vast sea to the mountain springs, not to mention ponds, lakes and rivers, and then there are the natural  canals that run parallel to paved roads.

"Loy" means " to float", and "krathong" refers to any round objects decorated specifically for the ritual.  A krathong is decorated with banana foldings all around, and filled with flowers inside, along with a candle and some incense sticks.  At some point, the Thais used round styrofoam base because it is light and floats easily.   However, these days, krathongs have taken on various innovations leaning toward more eco-friendly concepts.  Coconut husks, banana trunks, bread and other organic materials are being used.

Traditional krathong made of coconut husk, banana leaves and colorful flowers.

Eco-friendly Krathong made from flour.

Traditional krathong of banana trunk, leaves and flowers,
 and an innovative one made of ice cream cones!
Photo courtesy of Jocyl Surdao

The ritual is very simple, actually.  One  lights the candle and the incense sticks, cups the krathong in his palms as he quietly says his prayers, and releases the krathong cafefully into the water. Supposedly, he must follow it with his eyes as it glides downstream or away from him. Probably in contemplation of the past and the future.  

Bye-bye, bad luck; hello good luck!

The sight of flickering lights and their reflections in the water lends magic to the evening, and one can't help but be reflective, indeed, as he gazes into the romantic picture laid out before him.
Photo by Jocyl Surdao

The pond looks dreamy as the krathongs sail away and their lights flicker,
 dancing with the soft evening breeze.

Aside from a prayer of thanks for the abundance of water, the Thais also pray for  better fortune in the coming days. And as they release the krathong, it is said that they are also releasing all the misfortunes or bad vibes that have  happened in the recent past.  The ritual is also meant to bring the family closer together as it is considered as a family event.  

On our way to Korsor Resort for dinner, we pass by  the Loy Krathong parade at Phetkasem Road.  It causes a little traffic,  but gladly, it is on the opposite direction. And being that, we are able to catch a glimpse  of each beautiful float and the beautiful ladies on top of each.  People, locals and tourists alike,  line up the middle of the road to watch and snap pictures.

At the  resort, which seems like a wonderful place for casual dining or coffee, we share a sumptuous dinner with a couple of friends. After dinner, we are asked to join in the traditional dance, which is fun!   I mean, you don't know the dance and you just mimic those who knew, and you don't really mind if you looked silly or not. Just wave your hands every which way. :-)

Dancing to the tune of Loy Krathong chant

After the dance comes the floating of krathongs.  Every diner gets one for free.  It is indeed an experience  to cherish.  

As mentioned earlier, Loy  Krathong is a family affair.  The other guests of the resort are families. And they would light and float krathongs together.   On our way home  later that evening, we fleet by sporadic groups of people, obviously families, hunched together as they light  and release beautiful krathongs  into the canals that run alongside the road.

A single lighted lantern slowly rises up into the dark sky.  It is a delight to see one, and more if there have been a hundrred. The Thais used to be generous with lanterns as these were part of the past Loy Krathong festivals, but the government recently issued a ban on lanterns for safety reasons. 

Hopefully, I would be able to experience this festival again, next time in a  beach, just to see another side of it.  Till next year! :-)

There's Jocyl, a former student of mine enjoying the festival in a faraway part of Thailand.
Three years, she says, and still enjoying it. So I'm looking forward to my second. :-)

1 comment:

SP Corpuz said...

From Facebook :

Mary Jocyl Surdao Looks like someone had a blast.. hehe.. Thanks Maam! Doing the traditional dance sounds fun.. Might try it soon!

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