Trip Start Nov 08, 2006
261Trip End Ongoing
During the full moon at the end of November, the Thais have a special holiday called Loy Krathong. Westerners call it the Festival of Lights. It's an old tradition where Thais pay their respects to the river goddess for the abundance that she provides. In Bangkok they now do it more as an apology for the pollution and abuse of her waters. But in rural areas, the rivers still play a vital role in their subsistence, providing the much-loved fish and irrigation for their fields.
The Thais make these beautiful round boat-like arrangements out of folded banana leaves and flowers, which float, and are called krathongs
I was really excited about this festival. I imagined the river full of krathongs and their lighted candles, resembling the night sky and its countless stars. However, the Chao Praya River is massive and swift. You have to stand on a pier and lower your krathong into the river using an instrument that looks something like a pasta straining bowl attached to a long pole. Before you can blink, your krathong is quickly swept away by the fast-flowing currents and soon out of sight. Only a few dots of light can be seen bobbing in the broad and dark river.
So that aspect of it was a little disappointing. But the good thing was that, upon the suggestion of several of my students, Dane and I had booked a river boat tour for the evening. And it did not disappoint. On the contrary, it was fantastic. The boat is an old converted teak rice barge, now decorated with white lights and lots of flowers. It's small and intimate with a lovely romantic atmosphere. Every table has a "window" view, but actually it's all open air. And the cool evening breeze felt wonderful. It provides a two-hour tour along the river, an amazing 10-course meal, drinks, and Thai music and dancing. And they gave us krathongs to float from the boat. The incredible food was the best part (several curries, beef, fish, prawn, soup, chicken skewers with our own little flame to cook over, etc.), but it was cool that we did the boat tour for Loy Krathong, making it a special occasion for us.