The Thai have both a solar and a lunar calendar. Plus with so much Chinese influence and ethnicity mixed into parts of the country here, the Chinese lunar dates are also kept track of on wall calendars. This year is 2553, well past the Mayan End of the Current World Date of 2012, so I guess the Thai at least are home free.
This weekend marks the full moon of the 12th lunar month and so the Thai will celebrate Loi Krathong (or Loy Krathong). It’s a rather picturesque holiday — especially in places such as Chiang Mai (also known as Yi Peng festival) where they release Khom Loy, paper-like lanterns that rise into the cool night air with the heat of their flames — but also here in Bangkok.
The Thai make little round rafts of cork, bamboo leaves and flowers called a krathong. They may insert candles, incense sticks and sometimes small coins in the krathong before releasing it into a river, canal or lagoon. The Thai believe that by releasing a krathong into the water, it is ferrying away bad luck. It is also an apology to the River Goddess Khongka.
Festivals will also host beauty contests in which a “Noppamas Queen” is chosen. This event honors the first woman to have made a krathong which she did for a Sukhothai king in the 14th century. When these krathongs begin to accumulate along the waters, it is quite beautiful.
What to do? Where to go?
Go to the where the waters are, my friend. The Chao Phraya River is always a good bet. The first ceremonies were royal events held on the river near the Grand Palace, but now the celebration is for all. On November 21, visit the Rama IIX Bridge Public Park or the banks of the Chao Phraya River between Krungthep and Krungthon Bridges. A grand-opening ceremony is planned with a krathong-making contest, Noppamas Queen Contest and a sound and light show. Plus you can release your krathong here.
Smaller but easier to get to and still packed with people and places to buy food and krathongs, Benjisiri Park (the Imperial Queen’s Park) has a gathering around its central lagoon. The water will be covered with flickering lights and colorful flowers. Monks will chant prayers with the crowd and there will be a bit of a cultural show with traditional Thai dancing and costumes. Get off the Skytrain at Phrom Phong station.
(all photos by Kevin Revolinski)