Loy Krathong, and a neighborhood in transition

On Monday, Thailand held a subdued celebration of Loy Krathong. From Wikipedia:

loi-krathong“Loi Krathong is a festival celebrated annually throughout southwestern Tai cultures, (Thailand, Laos, Shan, Tanintharyi, Kelantan, Kedah and Xishuangbanna). The name could be translated as “to float a basket”, and comes from the tradition of making krathong or buoyant, decorated baskets, which are then floated on a river.

“Loi Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar; hence, the exact date of the festival changes every year. In the Western calendar, this usually falls in the month of November.

Krathong is traditionally small leaf containers made to hold small portion of goods some kind of very traditional Thai dish, such as “Hor Mok”, and some Thai traditional dessert. The traditional krathong for floating at the festival are made from a slice of the trunk of a banana tree or a spider lily plant. Modern krathongs are more often made of bread or Styrofoam. A bread krathong will disintegrate after a few days and can be eaten by fish. Banana stalk krathong are also biodegradable, but Styrofoam krathongs are sometimes banned, as they pollute the rivers and may take years to decompose. A krathong is decorated with elaborately-folded banana leaves, incense sticks, and a candle. A small coin is sometimes included as an offering to the river spirits.

“On the night of the full moon, Thais launch their krathong on a river, canal or a pond, making a wish as they do so. The festival may originate from an ancient ritual paying respect to the water spirits.”

Krathong also are usually floated into the air, but that practice was banned this year, along with fireworks displays, due to the recent death of the Thai king. His passing seriously muted the Loy Krathong celebration.

But – there were many people still going to Hua Hin’s beaches Monday night to launch their krathong. I joined them, and as I was wading in the water trying to take better pictures, I stumbled over a submerged rock, throwing me head-first into the salt water, camera and all. It is still in a bag of rice with a hopeful outcome.

Here are the shots I did take:


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Now, about the neighborhood

When I moved to the street I now live on in August, it was mostly a ghost town. The street is about 4 blocks long and parallels the Soi 80 bar street, with 50-yard-long streets connecting the two every block.

When I moved in, it appeared that only about a quarter or third of the 2-story townhomes were occupied. Many had For Rent signs, others were just empty. Now I know why.

It turns out that I moved from a “Snowbird” haven in southwest Florida to another in Thailand. Only here, the snowbirds come from Europe, primarily Scandinavia, who, like their northern U.S. counterparts, flee the snow and cold of their homelands to live in the warmth of Hua Hin.

As a result, the vacant houses on the street are filling up with old Europeans who can afford a vacant townhome in Hua Hin and a second home in Europe. Interestly, there also seems to be a number of Thai women currently checking out the rentals. I suspect these are women who leave their villages during the high tourist season (now through May) to make some money off the influx of foreigners, usually in the bar and massage industries. The women typically check out the rentals in 2’s and 3’s, as they will share the homes and the rents.

Another interesting aspect of this street is how some tenants use their homes for small businesses. Each townhome is basically the same construction – 2 stories, 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, kitchen, living area, and an open front meant to serve as a carport. Heavy metal gates protect this space.

Some tenants, however, use the carport space for businesses. Restaurants have tables and chairs up front, and the cooking operation in the back. I have a young women who does my printed shirts who runs her laundry business from her carport. All around my place are tailor back-end sewing operations, shirts across the alley from me, suits further down the street. There is a constant stream of motorbikes well into the evening with Indians bearing clothes needing altering. Keeps a number of people employed and it’s always noisy.

At any rate, to my Florida friends, the snowbirds are here, too. Fortunately, I don’t have to get on the road with them here.


About 2bagsandapack

Lifetime journalist, author, magazine editor and publisher, now semi-retired and traveling the world. My plan, after living in Costa Rica for 14 months, was to visit a new country in southern Europe every three months to experience the culture and the challenge of adapting to a new environment, while on a fixed income. That plan was sidetracked when I was offered a job in Indonesia, providing an opportunity to explore Asia. Indonesia lasted for a 4 wonderful years but I have now moved on to Hua Hin, Thailand.
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