Tonight (2 Nov) was the Loy Kathong Festival, marking the end of the wet season. It is the full moon of the twelfth lunar month, usually coinciding with the end of the rainy season. Traditionally, the waters along lakes, rivers would be flowing high from the long rainy season. Thais put out floats made from banana leaves usually holding a candle and an offering such as some money. They would make a wish, or a prayer and the float drifting away symbolizes a cleansing of the soul.
Sweet syrupy telling aside, the modern day spin. All of the above still stands. Some of the more devout truly make their offerings to the Goddess of Water, while others have turned it into a wish machine like blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. Boys jump into the water to collect money off the floats. The floats are now made of all sorts of things including bread and can be richly and colourfully decorated.
I checked out three venues tonight. The Queen Sirkit Centre via binoculars from my balcony, the Benjasiri Park by the Emporium Mall, and Bangkok’s primary river, the Chao Praya.
The last one was a mad house. I was glad I was alone. With many local friends’ advice, I had the bare minimum of an ID card, my Skytrain Pass, a small wad of bills and my housekeys in my pockets and a small camera tied to my wrist. No bag. No matter how small a purse you carry, it would be a burden while elbowing one’s way through the throngs of people. Never had I been so glad to be solo.. it would be impossible to stay together as a group and I was able to wedge my way to a few good vantage points.
With all the focus on the floats, the real highlight was watching all the boat traffic on the river. Many had been strung up with lights, enough to put serious contest against the most overdone Christmas house-lighting in your neighborhood. Which of you has a neighbor that decks his or her house with hundreds of sparklers? Some river ferries were dedicated specifically to go upstream a little, then float down with the current as its passengers put their floats out. For safety, they no longer allow passengers to actually reach over the boat deck. Instead, they had crewmen holding long staff with a fan cover attached the end, looking like an enormous home-rigged ladle, on which the customer would lay the float for the crew to push out and release onto the water.
Along the pier, young men waded by the water to put people’s floats down, collecting both a tip as well as the money offering placed in the float. The darkness hid the fact that the water is disgusting. In the low light, it is quite pretty, watching the candle-lit floats floundering about, flicking and reflecting off the water surface.
Which it marks the end of the rainy season, I know my luck. I’ll be carrying the umbrella on me for another two weeks, just to be on the safe side.