LOI KRATHONG IS CELEBRATED ON A MASSIVE SCALE IN THAILAND AND NOWHERE MORE IMPRESSIVE, FUN AND BUSY THAN BY THE BANKS OF THE CHAO PHRAYA RIVER AND ALONG THE CANALS AND EVEN LARGE MONSOON DRAINS IN BANGKOK!
I wanted to go to Asiatique The Riverfront night market that was once a series of warehouses in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Now it has replaced Suan Lum night bazaar which has closed and is the night version of Chatuchak Weekend Market which opens only on Saturday and Sunday.
With Asiatique which is filled with shops and restaurants, tourists and locals can spend every night there as there are hundreds of boutiques and eateries to discover.
Since Asiatique is by Chao Phraya river, Loi Krathong is celebrated on a massive scale there, more so as this is the first year Asiatique opened! I was there in February this year when half the shops were opened and again in June when most shops were operating. Now all the stores and restaurants are up and running!
Everyone told me Asiatique was the place to go for Loi Krathong which was fine with me as I like Asiatique very much.
Alas, getting there was a monumental problem on an epic scale---no taxi wanted to take me there!
I waited for half an hour at the entrance of Grande Centre Point Ratchadamri conveniently located behind Peninsula Plaza Shopping Centre and Four Seasons hotel. The helpful bellhop and concierge tried their level best but to no avail. Every taxi sped off when told I wanted to go to Asiatique on the night of 28 November 2012, the actual day of Loi Krathong.
Finally we walked to the main Ratchadamri road to hail a taxi, only to find a taxi driver leaning leisurely on his cab smoking a ciggie.
He too refused point blank and spoke animatedly with Centre Point's bellboy. He turned to me and said in English before I could ask the bellhop what he said.
"Even if you give me 1,000 Baht, I will not take you to Asiatoque!" he exclaimed.
Impressed, I demanded to know why.
This opened the floodgates.
"I took a customer at 5pm who offered me 300 Baht (RM 30). I was not willing due to many people but he begged me. So I took him! The jam was so bad it took 3 hours from Central World to Asiatique! When we reached, he gave me tip 100 Baht. Then it took me 2 hours to come back! 5 hours total! Now I relax here and not go anywhere!"
I was determined to go Asiatique and was clever enough to check Skytrain (Bangkok's LRT) and made the happy discovery the station 3 minutes from my hotel Grande Centre Point Ratchadamri is directly connected to Saphan Taksin which is a short walk from Asiatique!
In fact, the station which is also called Ratchadamri, is only 5 stops away from Saphan Taksin! So I trotted off to pay 25 Baht and arrived within 10 minutes at Saphan Taksin! No jam, no sweat, no worries!
As I got out of Saphan Taksin, I realised the Loi Krathong festival was happening there and then! Saphan Taksin is a pier full of jetties where water ferries ply! This is a major hub for water transport where boats are boarded as this is a riverine station. So I decided I might as well enjoy Loi Krathong here instead of trying to find my way to Asiatique.
It was very crowded as expected and there were many piers so I walked to the first one and then proceeded to the next to watch the locals float their Krathongs.
As the water of Chao Phraya is 1 to 2 metres lower than the embankment and jetties, I wondered how the Thais managed to float their krathongs. Throwing the krathongs into the river seemed rather uncouth, inelegant and disrespectful and the krathongs might also end up floating upside down!
In all the photos I see from travel agencies' brochures, krathongs are shown being gently pushed away by Thai boys and girls in lovely traditional costumes on bended knees by the side of the stream or river, never from 6 feet high up on a jetty!
Of course there was a system!
There were dozens of sweating men holding long poles with a basket at the end to hold the krathongs!
It was as simple and effective as that!
A krathong (sometimes 2 or even 3) would be placed inside the basket and the man would simply lower the basket into the Menam Chao Phraya where it would be released and swept away by the currents. I even saw one man using a normal boat oar while another used a plank.
The service appeared to be free but of course almost all tipped the krathong floaters who were working nonstop. It was a miracle no one toppled into the Chao Phraya river but the crush was handled expertly by police who only allowed a certain number of people to enter each jetty. Only when someone left could another replace him so everything went swimmingly and order reigned despite the crowd.
I was smacked once on my neck by the pole when a floater turned to place the krathong on the river. But to be hit by the pole is said to be lucky though I noticed no one on the jetty tried to be lucky!
Prayers were murmured before the krathongs were released and all wishes were said to be granted before midnight. Mine included the 2 loves of my life, MM and Dedione.
I also saw a man, obviously poor, paddling on a raft amid the clusters of krathongs on the river searching for coins and notes. Many Thais placed coins and low (presumably!) denomination notes inside their krathongs. I think this is a great idea as the poor are able to retrieve the cash and merit is made and observed by the gods and goddesses.
Some couples, straights and flamming faggots, came in matching T-shirts, jeans or slippers which is so charming and cute. I went alone and I have never seen anyone whose clothes match mine anyway.
Walking back from the last pier, I passed an open air carpark where lanterns were being released into the night sky! I looked up and the whole sky was filled with brightly lit floating lanterns! It was such a magical, lovely and stunningly beautiful sight I almost dropped my highclass Leica camera from amazement.
Of course I stopped to watch as I had never seen this before in real life. It was quite easy and the principle is basic. A flame is lit from the base of the lantern whose top and sides are closed. As hot air is released, there is no escape valve so it simply pushes up the lantern into the night sky! Once airborne, it moves remarkably fast and within seconds are almost beyond photographic scope!
I could tell a veteran lantern-releaser from an amateur. The first lit their lanterns and released them without a hitch. The amateurs and first timers took ages and one moronic tourist from mainland China lit the flames upside down!
Others tried to throw their lanterns into the sky only to see them obey the law of gravity. One couple foolishly tried to release their lantern on the pier only to watch it fall sadly into the river.
It was one of the most magical sights of my life as I watched the krathongs floated downstream while the lanterns floated skyhigh!
Next year I will surely be in Thailand again for Loi Krathong provided the world does not end this month!
A group of friends posing for my camera
Security guards allowed only a limited number on the jetty each time so there was no crush
This was the maximum number of people allowed on each jetty so we were all safe from being pushed into the Chao Phraya river
Candles were lit on eack krathong
This man used a makeshift plank to deposit the krathong into the river!
There it goes!
A plank doubles as a pole to deposit the krathong into the water---how ingenious!
The Peninsula hotel boat
A tip for lowering her krathong into the water
A man using a giant ladle to put the krathongs into the Menam Chao Phraya
As he turned to put the krathong into the water, the end pole whacked me on my head
Prayers are said before the krathong is lowered as all prayers will be granted that night only before midnight
This man was equipped with a lighter
Looks like he is using a giant sieve like those used in cooking noodles
While taking this photo I almost toppled into the Chao Phraya river but luckily Buddha and Phra Mea Khongka the River Goddess stopped me
I was taking photo of this boy saying a prayer and kept walking backwards, forgetting I was facing the pier and the river was behind me!
Gently does it
An Indian tourist saying his prayer
This is the way to put the krathong into the river which is a metre down
A little push goes a long way
If you kneel, your wish is granted faster
This guy even wore glove to prevent chapped, cut and bruised fingers from lowering hundreds of krathongs!
A tip for the floater to buy hand cream
I am sure he is a food hawker and uses this ladle the nrext day for cooking!
There it goes
His large shoulder bag is full of cash!
This couple wore identical Superman t-shirts
This is how the krathong is lowered into the Chao Phraya river
A flotsam-jetsam of krathong
A 'krathong kluster'!
These are not stars heralding the birth of the Messiah but floating lanterns released by locals! Known as Khom Loi, it means 'floating lanterns' as 'khom' means 'lanterns' and 'loi' is to float as in Loi Krathong, the floating of vessels
Lighting the flames of a magic floating lantern or Khom Loi
This 'deformed' lantern won't rise
This full bodied lantern is now ready to take-off!
All ready to fly
Within seconds, the lantern had flown several metres! I never realised it could fly so fast!
While waiting for my flash to recharge, the lantern had floated far away!
Lanterns being released in car park
The lantern being lit from below to generate hot air that forces it to rise since the hot air could not escape
Slowly the lantern takes shape and is ready to fly
It is not as easy as it looks but this one is ready now for take-off!
Up, up and away!
There she goes
This tourist from China is lighting his Khom Loi or sky lantern the wrong way! He is supposed to light the fuel cell composed of waxy, flammable substance while holding the yee peng in upright position!
No wonder the Chinese never conquered the air and the French Montgolfier brothers were the ones who did with their hot air balloon!
He is determined but to no avail since he is doing it the wrong way!
Omigod, did this foolish tourist from China expect his Khom Loi or sky lantern to fly upside down?
I always though the Chinks were the smartest race on earth...now it appears another Mainlander Chinese wanted to put his krathong inside the lantern...
How this Chinky tourist expect his lantern to fly upside down with the hot air dissipating into the atmosphere is beyond me
In desperation I yelled to him to hold the lantern the right way up!
That's more like it!
Now his Khom Loi is ready to take off
A last check to see if the Khom Loi is in working order
No holes here
I kept telling him to let go!
He seemed reluctant and appeared to want to fly up with his lantern
At long last he let go!
Finally it was airborne! And he looked pleased as Punch!
It was the longest time ever for anyone to light the Khom Loi! In northern Thailand in Chiangmai, the festival is called Yee Peng
This Prada lanternier did it in double quick time
But it is not airborne yet
Up goes the Khom Loi, carrying prayers and wishes into heaven
First the candle or flammable substance is lighted from below
A minimum of 2 persons is required to light and float a Khom Loi or sky lantern though 'Khom Loi' means 'Floating Lanterns'
The lantern is fleshed out to its maximum size to facilitate its propulsion into the sky
So many lighting the night sky
All ready for take-off, Houston
It rises quickly to follow the rest into high heaven
By good luck, the entire car park was empty except for this one guy holding his lantern, what a great shot!
This guy appeared to be a one-man show which is rare as most lanterns needed 2 persons
There it goes
This Chinese tourist is determined to get it right this time
So far so good
Easy does it and up it goes! Perfect! Practise makes perfect!
Look at the full moon on the last month of the Thai calendar
Pier view without peer
More krathong washed together
They will be removed the next morning for landfill
These girls tried lighting their Khom Loi on the pier
Three pairs of hands at work
This Khom Loi or sky lantern appeared stubborn
In the end, it wobbled and fell into the Chao Phraya river! Next year try floating it in car park dear
Transient works of art
Not all krathongs made it into the Gulf of Siam!
This poor man on a makeshift raft was looking for coins and notes which are often stuffed inside the krathongs. I salute him as he was honourable enough stoop to do this rather than steal, rob or snatch tourists' handbags! My heart goes out to him and I prayed he would be reborn into a better life in his next incarnation!
Praise be to Buddha
I hope he found some cash and I prayed to Buddha to grant him a better life in his next rebirth
I have never seen these new versions before
Shaped like lotuses, these are new versions of the loi krathong
They are so pretty and costs only RM 4!