11: Pre-festive festival cheer! Loy Krathong
Until now I had supposed LopBuri to be a quiet, unassuming, provincial town bereft of bright lights and real party atmosphere. That thought was comprehensively quashed on Friday the 26th of November, the day of the Loy Krathong festival. The otherwise subdued and lazy town centre burst into music, dancing, and a thousand colours as parade after parade marched around the central monument of Sa Gaew, eagerly followed by a troop of laughing children and partying (sober) adults.
In the lead up to the Loy Krathong I had tried to incorporate a cultural exchange of festivals and traditions into my eldest classes. Although the children were both interested and enthusiastic, my lack of Thai combined with only a fifty minute time slot resulted in a lesson which meant well, but which quite honestly (like me on arrival in SCB Bangkok) fell flat on its back in terms of English learning or usage. Too much TTT (teacher talk time) especially in trying to explain my way out of complete tangents such as why English people put a stuffed man on top of a huge burning furnace in November. Penny for the Guy!
The Loy Krathong festival is steeped in history and religion, it began more than 700 years ago. Small modal floats or krathongs are set adrift on any body of water, they contain a candle, incense, flowers and a coin. With them, the Thais pay homage to the water and hope it will carry away all of their sins and bad luck. The krathong is made from banana tree, banana leaves and a few skilfully placed pins. I did try to make my own, but one kind member of the Thai staff took one look at it and decided she would make me one as a present. The trouble with trusting your sins and bad luck to a krathong is that you really are gambling on it floating and not sinking!
The festival was fantastic and the partying continued long into the night. The amazing thing about it was the happiness and joy clearly evident on everyones faces. I doubt the same feeling of solidarity and unblemished enjoyment is reproduced often around the world, and I admit I feel privileged to have witnessed it. I am also pleased to have seen it in LopBuri rather than in somewhere purposefully catering for the tourist.
As backpacker or tourist you are an uninvolved observer of such occasions; a strange face in the crowd. I went to the Loy Krathong festival by invitation and I was able to enjoy it with friends both Thai and Western, this undoubtedly added to my appreciation and enjoyment of the spectacular event. Witnessing cultural events such as the Loy Krathong is really why I chose to teach in Thailand and it made me realise how much I am enjoying my time here; perhaps that CELTA course wasnt such a waste of money after all...