AT SAPHAN TAKSIN PIER IN BANGKOK ON SILOM LINE, I ENJOYED WATCHING THE LOI KRATHONG FESTIVAL IMMENSELY.
The Menora walks and poses with closed eyes
The Menora leads the procession towards a pier to float a giant krathong
The only time I managed to take her photo with her eyes opened
The Thais lovingly carried their krathongs and waited to be allowed to enter the jetties to release their krathongs and watch them float merrily away.
All used the services of men wielding long poles with attached basket at one end to put the krathongs into the Chao Phraya river.
This being the 21st century, all the women and men came in 21st century attire of blouses, T-shirts and jeans! Not one came in traditional Thai costumes of the Sukothai and Ayutthaya periods or even the Bangkok era of the 18th century.
I guess I really do not expect to see Thais in traditional costumes the same way I never see Chinese women wearing cheongsam or Malay women in sarong kebaya or songket unless it is Chinese New Year or Hari Raya. Thais, like all Malaysians, tend to wear traditional costumes during formal occasions. What with the humidity and heat generated by heaving bodies, few would consider wearing full scale Thai traditional costumes.
So the photos of beautiful Thai women garbed in exotic costumes replete with headgear and accessories in brochures produced by TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) showing them floating the krathongs seemed like a pipe dream.
I believe in the power of prayer so I prayed Phra Mea Khongka the Goddess of Water to let me see someone dressed in traditional Thai costume. I scanned Saphan Taksin up and down and traversed the entire pier. No luck. Everyone was in modern gear as in T-shirts and jeans or shorts.
Well, I guess I was asking too much. Around 1 am I gave up and decided to return to Grande Centre Point Ratchadamri to rest my aching bones.
By then the Skytrain had long closed at midnight and I was wondering where was the main road to hail a cab which by now should be willing to drive me home as the jam had cleared.
I took the wrong turn leading to Shangri-La hotel and bumped into a pick-up truck in the process of releasing gorgeously garbed women in exotic Thai traditional costumes!
My prayers answered by Phra Mea Khongka the River Goddess!
I thought I could just take their photos and go back to Grande Centre Point hotel. Then I realised the leading lady was not dressed for fun but for a purpose.
Judging by her elaborate costume with its signature tail, arched shouders and small, furry, colourful balls, I guess she was a Menora dancer. In my home state of Kelantan, we too have similar Menorah dancers who are now sadly banned by the foolish state government.
The Thai Menora dance is sometimes called Nora or Lakon Chatri from which the Malay words 'lakun' (act) or pelakon (actor) originate.
I also assume she would be performing the krathong as I saw several men removing from the truck a mother-of-all krathong the size of a dining table!
My prayers twice answered!
She was accompanied by her handmaiden also dressed in Thai costume and an entire retinue of men and women trailing behind her as she walked mincingly on padded chinese kungfu shoes. She walked silently and with eyes half-closed as if in a trance! Bet many Thais treated her as a living goddess same way I am a living divinity.
Anyway all eyes were turned on her and tourists gasped as the procession strolled past towards the pier.
The Menora performer seemed oblivious to her surroundings as she continued walking with half closed eyes and sprinkling flower petals. Some Thais even proffered clasped hands as if in prayer as she walked past. I was so fascinated!
This was not the first time as they knew which jetty to go to float the krathong. Most piers are several feet and up to 2 metres higher than the water and krathongs had to be lowered manually using long poles with attached basket at one end.
No way was this gigantic krathong the size of a table going to fit onto the end of a bamboo pole! But this particular pier was merely 2 feet or less than a metre above the Chao Phraya river!
A long white cloth was placed leading to the edge of the jetty. The Menora goddess sat serenely, playing with her fingers fitted with elongated nails and sprinkling scented petals around her.
After some incantations, everyone sat behind and beside her with hands touching each other's shoulders so the good luck could traverse and reach everyone like a bolt of electricity! Like a power point extension from the main plug!
First a smaller krathong was placed into the water using a pole. Then the huge krathong was slowly pushed by 3 men into the Menam Chao Phraya as more incantations were made as it slid with a soft splash.
Everyone took photos with the Menora dancer who again posed with half shuttered eyes as if in a trance.
Well, so I got to see what I wanted!
Thanks to Buddha, Mea Khongka and TAT!
This exotic Menora dancer just got out of the pick-up truck as I was returning to my Grande Centre Point hotel! Perfect timing due to blessings from Buddha and Mea Khongka the River Goddess as I had prayed to them to let me see Thais in fabulous traditional costumes and my wish was granted!
The world's biggest and heaviest krathong needed 2 men to carry from vehicle
I followed this unexpected procession towards the pier
This giant krathong followed behind the Menora performer
I wondered how she could see as she walked with closed eyes like a goddess but perhaps she had the Third Eye
I love this surreal photo of moving colours
A long white cloth was placed on the pier
She points to where the krathong should be placed
The mother of all krathongs
Her handmaiden places a small krathong in front
Prayers are said
Scentedc petals are sprinkled
Prayers are said
Unlike the other piers, this one was only a short drop to the Chao Phraya river so it was easy to float the huge krathong as it could not be rudely thrown into the river!
I had to be careful not to fall into the river as I had to stand right at the edge of Menam Chao Phraya to take this photo---anything for my devoted legion of followers!
Note the others using poles with small baskets to place their krathong into the King of Rivers
The Menora goddess sprinkles more petals as blessings
I really like the golden urn and must buy one on my next trip to Kingdom of Smiles
The Menora continues to do her thing
Her sidekicks are busy discussing some steps
Her retinue bow low in prayer
Everyone touches everyone so the good luck could be transmitted like electricity
A crescendo is reached
Dramatic shot of a woman reverentially touching the Menora
The Menora blesses the smaller krathong
The Menora moves to the large krathong
What a stunning sight! I have never seen this before, all due to my answered prayers to Buddha and River Goddess Mea Khongka
Prayers are said
Flower petals are sprinkled
The Menora offers the River Goddess a small krathong while the big one is offered to Buddha
The Menora raises the krathong to offer to Mea Khongka the Goddess of Water
The floater offers his service for free to gain merit
There it goes
The highlight is the floating of this huge krathong, the biggest I have ever seen, not that I have seen many!
This man has to hold the guy's belt to ensure he does not topple into the Chao Phraya river
Slowly the giant krathong is pushed towards the water's edge
An anxious moment
The Menora is about to sprinkle the last petals
Due to my perfect timing and blessings from Buddha and Mea Khongka, I managed to take this great photo showing the yellow petals coming out of her hand! Fabulous or what?
The world's biggest krathong on its way to the Gulf of Siam!
A last photo with devotees---this Menora really acted the part of a Goddess to perfection!
What a fantabulous Loi Krathong! Thanks to Buddha, Mea Khongka and TAT!