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Float your worries away
Publication Date : 28-11-2012
Tonight, as the full moon rises in the night sky, millions of Thais will throng to the banks of the nearest waterway to launch the floats of leaves and flowers known here as krathong. As they kneel by the water, they will be asking the forgiveness of Ganga, the goddess of the river, for their transgressions of the past year and also that she sweeps away all their bad luck and worries with the current as she scoops up their humble krathong offerings.
From early evening to midnight, the same pleas and petitions will be repeated across the country, and in the larger centres, they'll be punctuated with the dazzle and roar of fireworks and lasers. Here's an overview of some of the bigger celebrations.
If there is a spiritual guardian in the river, its godmother must surely live in the Chao Phraya. Tonight, Bangkokians will bring light to the river spirit with spectacular showcases. Feast your eyes on illuminated barges with different themes all along the Chao Phraya River from the Memorial Bridge to Krungthon Bridge. Asiatique, the Riverfront - the city's most talked-about hang-out - is throwing what promises to be the year's best party to date, with a series of cultural shows, performances and fireworks. The lakesides in city parks will also be crowded with families, lighting their candles and launching their beacons of hope and forgiveness out onto the waters.
Unique as it is subtle, Chiang Mai will fly thousands of lanterns to the moon. The people of the North turn Loy Krathong upside-down, releasing their offerings into the heavens. The sky in Chiang Mai will be brightly lit as local Lanna folk launch lanterns - home-made hot-air balloons known as khom loi - to glorify the mythical Chulamanee Pagoda in heaven.
The venues are Tha Phae Gate and along the banks of Ping River, where cultural shows and processions will also take place. However, your best bet might be the temples, where you can see monks and the residents of Chiang Mai revive the traditional Yi Peng ceremony. People will also be hanging elaborate lanterns outside their homes. If you want to be in the thick of things, head to the bustling Ngua Lai Street near the Tha Phae Gate.
The royalty of Ayutthaya in the 18th century were too busy fighting off the Burmese to celebrate Loy Krathong, but citizens kept the festival alive on the local waterways. Tonight the loveliest scenes promise to be at the old city's four corners, including the Golden Mountain of Ayutthaya. There will be a lantern competition, a Miss Noppamas pageant and cultural performances. In addition, the Royal Arts and Crafts Centre in Bang Sai will organise "The Candlelight of Loy Kratong Festival 2012" to honour the auspicious occasion of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit's 80th birthday. Check it out for traditional Loy Krathong festivities as well as musical shows featuring songs from yesteryear.
The place where it all began is perhaps the best place to celebrate. The Thai kingdom's first capital is credited as the birthplace of Loy Krathong, so you can expect full honours paid to the legacy tonight in the Sukhothai Historical Park, a Unesco World Heritage site.
Against a backdrop of the ancient ruins, the highlights include a light-and-sound cultural show, fireworks and onstage performances. Look out for the Miss Noppamas beauty pageant. Legend has it that Noppamas was a consort of the 14th-century king of Sukhothai Loethai. She supposedly sowed the seeds for the Loy Krathong tradition by being the first person to float a decorated raft.
The northern province of Tak has a unique take on Loy Krathong with its tradition of krathong sai, or krathong "strings". The locals tie together entire fleets of coconut-shell lanterns fuelled by paraffin, light the wicks and float them down the river. The best place to be is the Sompot Krung Rattanakosin 200 Years Bridge, where you can admire the fireworks, ooh and aah over a curtain-of-water display and cheer for your favourite krathong sai.
Simple, humble and packed with unspoilt character, Samut Songkhram province goes green and traditional as it shows respect to Goddess of River. A few years ago, the locals reinvented their krathong using banana leaves and candles and that's all. The simple krathong has since won many environment-friendly fans and become an archetype of the offering.
The festival will take place next Sunday at King Rama II Park and feature a khon performance, puppet show and showcase of banana art to add colour to the full moon night.