Loi Kratong (ลอยกระทง) 2007

7:14pm 23rd November 2007

So, after 7 visits to Thailand, I've finally seen the famous Loi Kratong (ลอยกระทง) festival. Loi Kratong is an annual Thai traditional festival that has come to mean many things.

Rap and I went to a festival being held at what appeared to be a convention centre, where we ate traditional Thai food (although "European food" as available, apparently for the large number of foreigners present) and took photos of the fireworks and festivities. The fireworks show was particularly impressive, and I have some videos of a few minutes of it. Hundreds of khom lois, small paper hot air balloons, were also released, and the combined effect lit up the sky in a dazzlingly beautiful display of light and colour.

There was a show consisting of traditional Thai dancing as well as some spectacular theatrics including a dramatic rendition of a sword battle, where actors dressed in what I assume was traditional armour and battle gear enacted a battle scene. There was also much singing of the Loi Kratong song, a Thai song, which is translated as:

The full moon of the twelfth month As water fills the banks We, all men and women Have really good fun on Loy Krathong day Float, float the krathongs Float, float the krathongs And after we have floated our krathongs I invite you my dear To come out and dance Ramwong [traditional dance] on Loy Krathong Day Ramwong on Loy Krathong Day Good merit brings us happiness Good merit brings us happiness

The aspect of Loi Kratong that I find particularly beautiful is one of the symbols that the floating kratong itself represents; by setting a kratong afloat, Thais believe that they are releasing anger, bitterness, grudges, envy and other forms of spiritual vice. To symbolise this, they often leave a paring of hair or nails on the kratong, symbolically containing all those traits that they wish to rid themselves of.

One of the things I noted was the construction of the kratong. Being a bit of an environmental nut, the first thing I thought of when I saw the release of hundreds of these kratongs was about the huge amount of litter it must result in. When I finally got my hands on one of the mass produced kratongs I was pleasantly surprised to find it was constructed completely of highly biodegradable material. The raft basically consisted of a very low density waxed particle board which formed the "hull" of the float, on top of which floated a flower arrangement, a wax candle for burning, and some incense sticks. The whole thing would, in my estimation, break down completely in a matter of weeks. In the past, they were made of styrofoam, but I am pleased that more responsible methods of production have been adopted. Kratongs that are personally made are a different matter, and I haven't seen any of the huge ones that are floated by organisations or groups of people wishing to celebrate together. I've heard that such kratongs can be far more elaborate and I would hope that Buddhist traditions would make builders mindful of the impact that people can have on the world in which they live.

The dinner was being held one day before the official day of Loi Kratong, for reasons I was unable to determine. Despite this, many locals were in attendance. I am thrilled to have been able to be there and thank the Thai people for allowing me to attend one of their most intimate and beautiful cultural events.