Loy Krathong Festival
So it looks like the Phuket scene is gearing up for Loy Krathong day this 28th November 2012. Loy Krathong is celebrated not only in Phuket but all over Thailand. So what is the meaning of the Loy Krathong festival. It is said that the festival had it's origins in Sukhothai, north of Bangkok, approximately 800 years ago. It falls on the twelve month of the Thai calender which, in a normal calender, is November.
The krathongs are made up of the cellulose trunk of banana trees. Making them is usually a family affair. These "boats", as they are nicknamed, are usually well decorated like a parade float and the person using it will have the intention of clearing away all bad luck and misfortune. The well decorated krathong is usually made of colorful flowers and banana leaves with room for candles and incense sticks. People usually place a few coins, nail clippings and some of their hair to represent them before launching it into the rivers, streams or oceans while making prayers as they watch it float away.
This act represents bad luck being taken away and new beginnings coming in. Coincidentally, the rice planting season begins after the fall festival and will later lead to the harvest being in mid April and that's when they have the water festival Songkran.
Many young couples tend to place special items in their krathong to have a successful marriage and better futures or even kids. As years have gone by the Thai people have become more creative in their efforts to gain better things in life. Tourist are more than happy to partake in the festival as it is such a unique sight to see all the rivers, canals and oceans of lit candle krathongs moving along. It's just a spectacle in itself and not to be missed if you are there on that November full moon in Thailand. It makes for a great reason to have a holiday.
So what is the Loy Krathong process like? Well, just before sunset people go to the beaches, rivers, etc and light their candles and incense after placing their items inside then as the sun almost sets and the full moon visible, they release their krathong. Tradition says, if it floats away from you then good luck is to follow for the new year ahead but if it floats back then things are not going to be as rosy or the year ahead is not as fortunate.
Usually in many places all over Thailand, the festival incorporates a beauty queen contest, after the release of the krathongs. This goes back to the legend of of Noppamas who is said to have created the first krathong. She is supposedly the consort of the Sukhothai king.
Coincidentally, and mostly in the northern area of Thailand, the festival of Yi Peng is also celebrated in the same full moon period. There is a massive display of lighted lanterns that fill the skies at night. These are massive balloon like laterns know as Khom lai or Khom fai and are made primarily of thin paper. The same belief of sending bad luck off and getting better luck for the future is in line with the method of the floating krathongs. Only these go up into the sky.
So with lighted floats in the ocean, rivers, lakes, etc, and massive balloons lighting the skies of Thailand; your luck could just change for the better. Only way to find out is to be there for Loy Krathong.
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
The Phuket scene can be fun, exciting and trilling for new arrivals but if you're lucky you might find yourself thrown in the middle of some festival and your Phuket holiday just got far better.
Of the many events that take place every year on Phuket, the vegetarian festival is arguably the most colourful, not the food event implied by its name but more an annual purification ceremony. The ‘chosen ones’, or Ma Song, entering a trance like state and puncturing their faces with anything from multiple skewers to beach umbrellas. Not for the faint of heart. Around the same time as the vegetarian festival is the setting adrift of the Chao Le, sea Gypsy, boats at Krabi. The ceremony takes place at midnight and makes for a beautiful, haunting spectacle.
The other festival of note is Songkran, Thai New Year, in mid April. The celebrations last for four days and have become a somewhat notorious, and embarrassing, spike on the road accident graph of Thailand. In earlier times Songkran, or ‘Water Festival’ as it is often translated, was an altogether different prospect. Thai people would leave their homes to greet friends and neighbours, anointing them with water or powder in a ‘good luck’ gesture. This gentle tradition has morphed over the years into the full-on chuck-fest that we see today.
Songkran is fun, people come out with buckets, water blasters of every size, and bags of dubious white powder to ‘anoint’ each other in a crazy, messy, high spirited romp that lasts for several days. If you don’t play well with others or are too kool for skool then maybe it’s not for you.
It’s often said that the arrival of foreign tourists, farang, was where the corruption of the festival of Songkran began. The statistics, shocking as they are, don’t back up this view though and the vast majority of road deaths occur among the native population. In 2008 the road death toll ran to some 350 over the seven days of Songkran from a total of just over 4000 accidents. Tellingly, Phitsanulok province, a place where most farang would struggle to find on a map, led the carnage with 15 fatalities. There is talk, serious talk from serious politicians, about making Songkran alcohol free. It may happen, and it would be wise to keep an eye on news coming from Thailand if you are planning a Songkran trip.
Loy Krathong, which is usually in November, is another festival on the cards. Less impact but non the less important to the Thai people as it is the beginning of the rice planting season. Through out Thailand the festivals can be found everywhere through out the year like the Thai king's birthday, the royal barge procession, the illuminated boat procession or ‘Lai Ruea Fai’ and many more found all over.
Even during seasonal peaks such as Christmas and Songkran there is accommodation to suit every pocket on Phuket, from 500 baht per night guesthouses to the 50000, yes fifty thousand, baht per night and enough to keep the most demanding of travellers busy. From the photo opportunities of Phang Ngha bay and the stunning sunsets of Laem Promthep, the balmy beaches all around the island, to the heat of the Patong nightlife, Phuket is a place that once visited, is never forgotten.
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