2010

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Loy Krathong at Thammasat U, Thailand – Full Moon Candle Party

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

© Frank P. Schneidewind

 

 

Thammasat University is the not so secret party ground in the North of Bangkok. Just a few miles after the Don Muang Elevated Expressway ends, it is on the western side of Phaholyothin Road. Buses and loads of Thai typical songtheauws (Jeepney-style transport opportunities on pickup-trucks) carried thousands of spectators there tonight. Loy Krathong is celebrated on a full moon night, and the nights are warm in November. Locals earn a little money and craft those colorful floats with candles and joss sticks. Orchids in all colors are used too, but the typical purple variety is dominant. 40 Baht are the fancier varieties, they also offer Loy Krathongs for half that price or even less. Spend one or two dollars for a bunch of orchids and participate, everyone is welcome and it is very peaceful nationwide. This festival is actually being held at every other body of water, whether it is a pond, river or even a swimming pool or coastline. And it is celebrated nationwide. The controlled events at campuses, parks or official event sites draw a rather regular crowd. No rowdies are allowed and kid’s parents love the safe atmosphere. Uncontrolled events, such as mass-gatherings on beaches or some rivers, do hold a bit of a risk, due to drunkards in the crowd.

Some feature stuffed animals or other items, hearts are popular too. Some old legends play a role here. People in Thailand and also Laos and northern Malaysia have their celebrations of this particular full moon in the 12th lunar month. The ancestry and heritage of this type of rite is most probably Brahmanical. The Theravada Buddhism in Thailand adopted it a long time ago.

Couples and lovers are to be found in large numbers, as well-wishing for one’s relation is a part of modern Loy Krathong. They sacrifice a few coins and sometimes a fingernail clipping or strand of hair to flow with the raft. This letting go of something personal, is meant to take all bad spirits away. Anger, old grudges and frustrations of the past are being sent on a journey, whilst the candles and joss sticks may honor the gods. It is a ceremony of sorts to dating teenagers and young couples, but singles and older people participate as well. Many single girls with hopes to find a suitable partner come in groups and float whole flotillas of candle rafts. Men can also be spotted.

Before the floating ceremony for each person, there are plenty of chats and the socializing often gets romantic touches here. Open exchange of kisses is not considered proper in public and such actions are subdued somewhat. It doesn’t take away from the festival and prevents probably too brave guys from overstepping their limits. Holding hands is fine and common practice.

The ladies with company will have their floats lit by the partner. And be sure, hardly a lady in wait for a light needs to wait long.:)

 

 

Thammasat is a traditional University with a lot of faculties and massive amounts of students, it is also in high regards with potential employers and their AIT (Asian Institute of Technology) is said to be one of the finest technical colleges in Asia. They provided not only the grounds here, but also ample parking, security guards and organized a true Thai festival ambience with hundreds of food stalls, rides for the kids and games.

The kids proudly show you their floats and pose for a snapshot, they really enjoy this Loy Krathong festival.

Other kids helped their families to sell some sweets or snacks. It would be objectionable in Europe or America, but it is so common in Asia, that I decided to leave the lamenting to others.

The seconds before the raft is set to float are used for prayers, meditation or as a moment of concentration on the task ahead.

Whilst most floats are based on banana tree slices, some were made from actual bread. These are not only environment-friendly, they will be on tonight’s menu for the fish population in this lake later.

The sheer amounts of floating candles light up this bay, it was fairly easy to access the water safely here.

The rafts formed clusters and followed the slow current, only the candles on the bread floats flickered a lot, the bottom was already being chewed on, I guess.

It was almost impossible to setup a tripod for the camera, so the full moon and other lights in below picture aren’t as nicely pictured as they could have been with one.

There was no admission being charged here and all guests were allowed on campus. This Rangsit area is actually already a part of Pathum Thani, the province bordering Bangkok in the north. There are no known transport rip-offs for foreigners here, everybody pays the same prices. The songtheauw back to near our home was 8 baht per adult, the equivalent of a quarter $ or 0,20 € cent. We made sure to float a nice SIAMPEDIA raft to include all of you in the well wishing spirit of this fantastic festival.