Loi Kratong Festival

Trip Start Jun 09, 2005
Trip End Jun 08, 2006

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

We are fortunate to arrive in Chaing Mai at Loi Kratong festival when the Thai's honour the water spirits for, amongst other things, the drinking water and irrigation received the previous year. The name Loi Kratong literally means 'floating lotus shapes'. This festival is celebrated the night before, night of and night after the full moon of the 12th lunar month.

We see stalls lining the bustling river banks selling kratongs, which are made out of a thin cross section of banana-tree trunk. These are decorated with banana leaves folded skillfully to form a flower-shape and colourful orchids; to this floating base candles and incense sticks are added. We see people bringing these to the river and praying as the little burning vessel floats downstream. The kratong moving away in the river symbolises bad luck floating away.

At nightfall Rachel is puzzled to see bright red stars in the sky, but it only takes a moment before we realise that these are lantern hot air balloons floating up into the night sky. The balloon volume seems to be about 25 to 50 litres and they are made from paper and a wicker structure, with a wire cross at the bottom which supports a burner. Once the burner is lit, the air inside warms up, becomes less dense, and it floats upward, the paper lantern glowing warmly from the live flame. People setting off the balloons make a wish and watch their worries float away as the lantern ascends into the sky.

We look around us and see the sky is full of wishes borne on hot air, filling the sky with bright new glowing constellations.

In town, the streets by the river are packed with people selling lanterns, kratongs, and all kinds of street food. We see a carnival moving through one streets with lots of beautiful Thai people dressed up in flamboyant costumes. A group in the procession are playing drums, gongs, and cymbals noisily. Amidst the people there are floats with pretty thai girls sitting like candles in the midst of giant floodlit kratongs.

As evening goes on people start to let of fireworks everywhere. We walk across one of the bridges looking at the kratongs on the river below and trying to dodge firecrackers being set of everywhere.

Its a noisy but spectacular night in Chain Mai.
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