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Loy krathong
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    This year: 8th November 2003

    The most picturesque of the Thai festivals is held on the full-moon of the 12th lunar month. Little candle-lit krathongs are launched onto the water as an offering to Mother Water. People apologise for polluting the water and promise to do better in the future.

    LINKS:

    Students taking part in Loy Krathong
    Loy Krathong in Paknam
    The First Loy Krathong

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    A student making his own krathong during handicraft lessons.



    You don't need to make your own "krathong". Just go down to the local river or canal and you will see literally dozens of vendors.



    A picture of some students about to float their krathong. They will probably make a wish at the same time.

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    LOI KRATHONG
    by Philip Cornwel-Smith


    There's something about the Thai festival of Loi Krathong that brings out the poet in travel writers. The full moon in November sees rivers overflow with the rainy season's surplus, and publications overflow with breathless prose. On the night, you may even catch yourself going goo-goo over what - by any world standard - is a very picturesque happening. So how come this festival of lights is worth so many adjectives?

    Any event needs a USP (Unique Selling Point) and Loi Krathong's garnered several eternally resonant components: candles, incense, monetary donation, flowing water, intricate floral design, enduring tradition, reflections, and the universal impulse of wishing thanks, luck and renewal. What's not to like?

    Krathong means a folded banana leaf vessel - an impressive, origami-esque craft even in its simplest variants like the little rimmed mould for a Thai dessert or the bowl for hor mok, the Thai seafood soufflé. The krathong that you loi (float) on this festive night is a buoyant confection of folded leaves roughly resembling an open lotus bloom. It's decorated with floral sculptures, three sticks of incense, the soft yellow candle offered at shrines, and multi-coloured cut-out paper flags fluttering from bamboo spears. Each one is infused with care, creativity and the ingenious reworking of indigenous forms.

    Any body of water will do - you can spot improvisations like household fish ponds and plastic paddling pools in Bangkok's Soi Thaniya - though it should really be flowing, to wash bad luck away, etc. Precious urbanites do, however, favour still ponds and sluggish canals having historic backdrops, preferably with costumed couples on hand to daintily dip their oblation amid reassuring heritage symbolism and the omnipresent strains of the 'Loi Krathong Song'. After all, there's something magical about pristine reflections of flames, plus your krathong stays flickeringly intact long enough to pose with it in a photo. And few relish risking some passing boat's wake capsizing their krathong, not least because you launch it with a wish and there's meaning behind all this prettiness.

    A krathong's exquisiteness is all the more alluring given the brevity of its existence. As every Buddhist knows, nothing's impermanent, and soggy krathongs get reclaimed by nature (and municipal cleaners) as soon as their moment's over. So if it sinks, smile.

    Thais have set offerings adrift on streams for centuries in thanks to the Hindu goddess of water, Mae Khongkha, for providing life-sustaining water throughout the year and in asking forgiveness for polluting the water. No wonder Loi Krathong has grown so big during the industrialisation of the country. That roads are jammed for hours in the direction of any waterway is a touching tribute to the urban Thais' residual rural conscience and a connection with tradition that's increasingly marginalised by materialism. And it's done en masse, so it's sanuk (fun) - particularly if you fall in.

    That's a quality appreciated by even the globalised generation. There's an edutainment aspect to this particular ritual since many feel the impulse to personalise their krathong with a lock of hair and a nail clipping to purge bad luck from their body. And you should part with a few baht to leave aboard - only for predatory young kids to dive after your raft and retrieve the change. Think of it as wealth redistribution.

    Why buy prêt-à-porter off the shelf when you can tailor a bespoke krathong according to your taste? Pier side stalls may also hide ecologically damaging Styrofoam under their skirt of zig-zagging coconut fronds instead of traditional banana tree trunk, which has air in its lightweight cells. So go to a daytime market, and buy a slab of yuak gluay (banana tree), sheafs of tang maprao (coconut leaves) and bai tong (banana leaf), plus some floral touches. Avoiding the few bad luck blooms like lan thom (homonym of the word for sorrow), you can choose almost any flower. Most auspicious are bua (lotus buds), dao reuang (yellow chrysanthemum), dok kulab (rose), and the usually purple baan mai rue roy (globe amarantus), the 'bloom that never wilts' of many an altar offering.

    Oh, and don't forget to ask someone how to fold the banana leaf cones and coconut leaf fringing around the rim. If you don't have a Thai friend on hand, the vendors will be so astonished you're doing this that they're sure to demonstrate some techniques. Or jocularly supervise your attempts. (Tip: keep pinning your weaving with bamboo pins so the repeatedly curled-out braids don't spring undone.) Where curlicued leaves form points you can insert the tiny white, necked droplet bud dok phud, to emphasise that authentic jeeb krathong (leaf twisting) look.

    So where to loy your krathong? Rivers are good, and bobbing in a boat opposite Wat Arun is even better. Bangkok's canals might be polluted, but Klong Lod's bridge rimmed confines are irresistibly fairy lit, while the ponds in Chulalongkorn University, Saranrom Park and Lumphini Park are particularly popular. The reflecting pools in the ruins of Sukhothai are the spiritual home of the ceremony and predictably crowded.

    If you choose Chiang Mai, you'll find your jeeb krathong skills are redundant. You should have taken paper-pasting classes instead, as khon meuang (people of the principalities as independent northerners dub themselves) conduct the ritual using paper lanterns as tall as a man. Fuelled by little furnaces slung from the open neck, khom yipeng sometimes trail a sparkling firework once launched by a group of people, which adds a nice communal dimension. A sky full of these illuminated balloons drifting into infinity conjures the same sense of wistful closure as the krathongs flowing downstream. Last year's karma is neatly accounted for and you've got a clean slate once more.

    About the Writer

    An arts, entertainment and travel journalist and editor for 14 years, he became the founding editor of Bangkok Metro in 1994, Thailand's first and still leading city listings magazine. After eight years of writing about culture and lifestyle from an unbiased consumer standpoint - and helping to found the independent Metro Awards - he went freelance after seeing through Metro's redesign.

    Alongside doing writing and location consultancy, Philip is now the editor of an all-new guidebook, the Time Out Guide to Bangkok, Chiang Mai & the Islands, to be launched in 2003. A decade earlier, Philip was deputy editor of the award-winning Time Out London and Amsterdam guides. In the meantime, he's contributed to various international publications and broadcasting projects, and written much of the bestselling Eyewitness Guide to Thailand. Later this year, Philip will appear on Discovery Channel in Europe hosting a segment of a travel magazine show for Noodle Box Productions.
    Suthee "Phong" Buayam
    Learn Thai through music at www.ethaimusic.com
    Buy Thai music online at www.ethaicd.com

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    LOY KRATHONG: Samak vows fireworks crackdown

    The Nation, 25th October 2002

    Bangkok Governor Samak Sundaravej said yesterday that police had been ordered to round up anyone found letting off firecrackers or other fireworks in the capital.

    Samak said offenders would be held until midnight and then charged with causing trouble and disturbing the public.

    He was speaking in the run-up to Loy Krathong Day on November 19, which revellers often mark with fireworks.

    Authorities have pledged to crack down on bangers and sparklers as they have caused many serious accidents in the past.

    Samak said the Metropolitan Police Bureau would deploy vans around the capital on Loy Krathong Day to hold offenders.

    The city governor stressed that in the wake of the terrorist attack in Bali, local revellers should take no risks by playing with explosive devices. - The Nation

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    Hi,
    There's a nice Java-enhanced photo of the annual Loi Gratong festival at Khlorng Lord คลองหลอด, Bangkok at http://geocities.com/siamsmile365/lo...oigratong1.htm .
    Worth a quick look.

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    Samak takes swipe at anti-foam lobby
    Plodprasop should know better, he says

    Bangkok Post, 15 November 2002
    Apiradee Treerutkuarkul

    Bangkok governor Samak Sundaravej has blasted Plodprasop Suraswadi, the permanent secretary for natural resources and the environment, for calling on people not to use styrofoam floats during the Loy Krathong festival.

    ``I can't believe he still lacks experience on styrofoam usage,'' said Mr Samak.

    ``It would be easier to clean up the river if people use krathongs with styrofoam stuffed inside. Krathongs made of banana leaves would sink faster and decompose, making the water dirty,'' he said.

    ``Why doesn't anyone care about daily foam use? It does no harm to use styrofoam floats for just one day,'' he said.

    Environmental activists would be better campaigning against styrofoam use in daily activities, such as styrofoam lunchboxes and air conditioning units.

    City staff were preparing 55 boats to clean up the rivers within a day of Loy Krathong next Tuesday.

    Styrofoam retrieved from the river would be sent to a recycling factory for making lifeboats to rescue people during flooding.

    The chief of the Environmental Quality Promotion Department said natural materials would be better than non-degradable foam.

    Environmental Quality Promotion Department head Sirithan Pairojboriboon said the department supported natural materials, as recycling styrofoam was hard.

    Only 2% of foam garbage created in the past two years was recycled, since the rest was too dirty and there was only one factory to accept it for recycling.

    ``Natural materials will not sink immediately but they can be picked up within 1-2 days,'' he said.

    Krathongs made of foam were lighter than those made of natural materials so they would be taken quickly to the sea and stay there for decades.

    Use of foam in making krathongs has increased almost 20% in the past two years.

    ``The city picked up 150,000 krathongs last year. The foam rubbish needed space equivalent to almost 2,000 tonnes of organic garbage,'' Mr Sirithan said.

    Maneerat Chanthanapalin, an associate professor of Rajabhat Institute Suan Dusit, agreed with the department chief, saying it would be good if styrofoam garbage could be used for filling up holes on roads or making bricks.

    She also urged people, especially youngsters, to refrain from singing the song Wan Loy Krathong wrongly by adding words to the traditional lyrics, like some singers did.

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    LOY KRATHONG: Night lights

    The Nation, Published on Nov 16, 2002

    The annual Loy Krathong rite brightens the Kingdom’s waterways.

    A different tak

    Full moon rising in November – it’s again the 12th lunar month, and time for the Loy Krathong Festival – a dazzling blend of compassion, candles, lanterns, fireworks, street movies, beauty pageants and, well, you name it!

    The festival is celebrated all nationwide from Sunday to next Wednesday, but Tak province is the place to go if you want to escape – if it’s possible to say this about such a beautiful, annual, national event – the more cliched celebrations.

    The festival, known to folks in Tak as Loy Krathong Sai, is celebrated in a rather unique manner. Celebrants here launch – all at the same time – thousands of krathong made from coconut shells, gently down on Ping River.

    “It’s magically beautiful,” says Thongyu Kawi, one of several hundred local people crafting krathong at Wat Chiang Thong in Tak. “You’ll see thousands of krathong floating side by side, creating a beautiful necklace of light. Some visitors who’ve never seen this before think we’ve done some little trick, threading them together to make the beautiful lines, but it’s not true.

    “The secret is you must find the perfect flow of the river so it can carry and stir the thousands of krathong gently down the current.”

    Tak’s version of the annual full-moon celebration might actually seem a bit basic compared to other observations around the Kingdom of the extraordinary event, but don’t knock the passion that goes into it: local people want to share in the ages-old joy of celebrating the end of the rainy season. There is the harvest, and then there is the God-given opportunity to plant a new crop.

    They believe there are spirits in the natural environment, in the mountains, forests and rivers. Loy Krathong specifically honours the spirit of the water, just at that time when all the paddy fields, canals and rivers overflow because of the spring-to-fall rains, and in and of itself it suggests a merry vision of the past season’s cultivation – and the opportunity of the next one.

    Thais annually craft small baskets of banana leaves to hold flowers, a few coins and candles and float them down the river to celebrate life’s graces and reassure the water spirit. But in Tak, banana leaves are replaced with coconut shells, which are so readily available, and whose food is so prominent in the local cuisine.

    “Tak is well known for Thai desserts like khanom maw kaeng [Thai custard] and khao tom mat [steamed sticky rice with coconut milk inside banana leaf],” says local teacher Manob Sri-uthai, helping to ready the krathong at the temple. “Coconut milk’s the prime ingredient in these desserts.

    “People here fill their split coconut-shell leftovers from their own kitchens with wax to make their krathong,” she says, and it gives the appearance of a true, old-fashioned lantern than the banana-leaf krathong seen elsewhere.

    Tak is celebrating this year for eight days – from today until November 23. Visitors can expect plenty of parades and other fanfare, a “best krathong” competition, concerts and other sorts of entertainment.

    “Unlike elsewhere in the country, we celebrate Loy Krathong longer,” says Manob. “We actually make it competitive by assigning district communities to create their own individual krathong. Every night, one of the villages will launch its own thousands of krathong at the waterfront”, and the community that comes up with the best krathong sai, showing a perfect necklace of light, wins a trophy from His Majesty the King.

    GETTING THERE

    Tak is 425 kilometres north of Bangkok, about a six and a half hour trip by car or bus. Buses from the capital’s Mor Chit terminal cost Bt221. For more information, call Tak’s tourist information office at 055-514-341/3, or log on to www.sabuy.com.

    Phoowadon Duangmee

    The Nation

    ----------------

    BANGKOK

    Bangkok’s old city moat (Khlong Ku Muang) in front of Bhuranasiri Mattayaram Temple is the venue where the Loy Krathong Festival begins early – from today until Tuesday.

    Although the water in the canal is not immaculately clean, and the surrounding scenery is not as alluring as in Sukhothai or Chiang Mai, what this celebration of Loy Krathong offers is a chance to see the royal ritual of Jong Priang and Loy Tratheep, the floating of jumbo-sized krathongs decorated with beautiful lanterns. People wearing traditional Thai outfits will be all over the place, and there’s the chance to play traditional games and eat some Thai food.

    A lot of activities such as the Miss Noppamas pageant and a krathong contest are held around the old city areas and canals and rivers.

    Public parks all over Bangkok will be open until midnight on Tuesday (except Rama 9 Park and Queen Sirikit Park).

    Santi Chaiprakan Park on Phra Arthit Road is among the favourite venues for the festival, and the newly opened Rama 8 Park underneath the new Rama 8 Bridge should prove to be popular as well.

    Alternatively, anywhere by Chao Phya River can be your station to view spectacular displays of fireworks lit by many riverside hotels and restaurants.

    SUKHOTHAI

    This is probably one of the most anticipated events in Sukhothai, the province Loy Krathong tradition originated. Activities are centred on Sukhothai Historical Park, and feature a spectacular light and sound presentation, a Miss Noppamas contest, a kratong contest and fireworks.

    AYUTTHAYA

    Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre holds the festival in the former royal capital. Events are planned from today until Tuesday, where cultural performances, a krathong contest, fireworks, arts and crafts demonstrations and a carnival are among the activities.

    LOP BURI

    A retro Loy Krathong is being planned by the Lop Buri Municipality Office, which has set the theme of the festival to the era of Chompol Por (Field Marshall Pleak Pibulsongkram), during 1940s and 50s. The festival will be held at the Sri Suriyothai Roundabout (Srakaew) in the heart of Lop Buri town on Monday and Tuesday. For details, call 036-412-591.

    ----------------

    Northern Lights running wild

    The annual rite of Loy Krathong takes on a boisterous feel in Chiang Mai, where firecrackers, hot-air balloons, beauty pageants and loud music accompany the simple act of floating a kratong on the river.

    The main celebration will be held on Tuesday (November 19) at the Chiang Mai Municipal Office on the Ping River.

    Large crowds will make it tough to find a place to launch your krathong. As the night of the full moon wears on, the crowds will amble downstream, together with the krathong vendors.

    Smaller celebrations will be held citywide, so if a rural feel is what you’re after, seek out these smaller celebrations.

    “Loy Krathong in the Northern provinces is always lively since people here are very keen to celebrate the festival. Whether you go to Lampang or Lamphun, it will be crowded all over,” says a Tourism Authority of Thailand official in the Chiang Mai office. “It’s hard to avoid seeing a beauty contest on stage with very loud speakers, even in the most remote place you go.”

    She suggested a more peaceful alternative to the Chiang Mai celebration could be found few kilometres south of the city on the riverbank near Kavila Military Camp.

    Loy Krathong is at the heart of the Northern Lanna culture. The celebration is also called Yee Peng, which is from the old Lanna calendar. Yee means two, or second month. Peng means moon. Along with the floating krathongs, small hot-air balloons are released into the sky, carrying away the troubles accumulated over the past year.

    Local authorities will launch a giant hot air balloon to celebrate the festival too, but people are warned not to release so many balloons as to cause trouble for aeroplanes landing at the local international airport.

    The Nation

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    A Thai family pray as they offer a 'krathong' during the Loy Krathong festival along the Chao Phreya river at Bang Sai, 60 km (96 miles) north of Bangkok November 19, 2002. 'Loy' means 'to float' and 'Krathong' means a lotus-shaped vessel made of banana leaves, which is believed that it can carry away sins and bring good luck. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang




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    Gor Gai

    BMA looks to cut cost of krathong clean-up

    The Nation, Published on Nov 21, 2002


    After yesterday morning's mass mobilisation to retrieve millions of floats from Bangkok waterways and parks, the city wants future Loy Krathong festivities to be less of a burden on the budget.

    And despite international warnings of terrorist violence under the full moon, this year's festival was relatively peaceful, with fewer complaints to police and busier motels.

    The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) deployed workers from its Public Cleansing, Drainage and Sewerage, and Social Welfare departments as well as 50 district offices to pluck out krathong set adrift on waterways and lakes throughout the capital, said Theerachai Thiansanchai, deputy director of the Public Cleansing Department.

    By early morning, about 90 per cent - more than one million - of the miniature floats had been picked up, with 69 per cent made from styrofoam and the rest from natural materials, Theerachai said.

    About 166,350 krathong were fetched out of the Chao Phya River, he added.

    Styrofoam krathong gained in popularity this year compared to last year, when synthetic floats accounted for just 18.6 per cent of the total of 689,480 salvaged from Bangkok waterways.

    After the used floats are collected, they need to be disassembled.

    The styrofoam bases go to Team Plas Co for recycling, while biodegradable materials are trucked to BMA landfill disposal sites in On Nut, Nong Khaem and Tha Raeng.

    Theerachai said he planned to reduce transportation costs by having Team Plas run its equipment at BMA garbage-disposal sites.

    The BMA will in future promote environmental awareness by encouraging revellers to buy or make floats with dissolvable materials like bread, wafers or even popcorn - which fish can eat - thus eliminating the need to gather and get rid of the floats.

    Meanwhile, strict enforcement of the ban on firecracker and firework displays cut 191 Emergency Unit calls by half during the festival, said National Police spokesman Maj-General Pongsapat Pongcharoen.

    Last year, the unit received 1,372 complaints about noisy firecrackers or fireworks, while this year there were only 781.

    Countrywide, 84 people were arrested on Tuesday night for setting off illegal firecrackers and fireworks, Pongsapat added.

    In Bangkok and nearby provinces, a survey of 102 pharmacies on Tuesday by Suan Dusit Poll found that condom sales were up 3.79 per cent, while contraceptive-pill sales fell by 6.14 per cent.

    Room bookings at 85 hotels were 40 per cent higher than usual, and 37.74 per cent higher than last year's Loy Krathong.

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    Gulf cluttered with 30,000 foam floats

    Bangkok Post, 22nd November 2002
    Ranjana Wangvipula

    Loy Krathong revellers polluted the Gulf of Thailand with at least 30,000 styrofoam floats, the Natural Resources and Environment permanent secretary said.

    Floats could become trapped in ship engines or stuck in coral reefs, or be washed ashore to spoil the coastline, said Plodprasop Suraswadi.

    Mr Plodprasop, who was at odds with Bangkok governor Samak Sundaravej's promotion of styrofoam floats, asked staff to observe the Loy Krathong festival.

    Staff counted the floats and videotaped parts of the Chao Phraya river near the Rama VII and IX bridges as well as Bang Krachao, a riverside area not far from the river mouth.

    The tape shows styrofoam floats moving along the river, while many others were stuck in water weeds.

    Mr Plodprasop said the number of floats filmed by his staff was just a small portion of the real number.

    ``I suspect as many as 200,000 or 300,000 styrofoam floats washed away,'' he said.

    People had used more styrofoam floats this year compared to a year ago _ and only 11% of the collected styrofoam could be recycled. The rest would be buried and take hundreds of years to decompose. Natural products such as banana trees were better, he said.

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