Last year, the Loy Krathong activities were a disaster for me. I had ventured to the beach to take pictures in the dark of people trying to send their small floating offerings into the surf, with the wind coming into their faces. This is when I found a submerged rock, fell in, ripped up my leg a bit, and shut down my camera and iPod Shuffle.
An expensive mistake – and the photos were awful.
This year, I had no idea what was going to happen, as I left it to my friend Non and her friends to let me tag along in their Loy Krathong activities. The night before, they all got together to make their own krathongs from banana leaves and flowers.
“Loi Krathong is a Siamese festival celebrated annually throughout southwestern Tai cultures (Thailand, Laos, Shan, Mon, 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 a small leaf container, which is made to hold a small portion of goods like a traditional Thai dish (such as “Hor Mok”) or dessert. The traditional krathong used for floating at the festival are made from a slice of a banana tree trunk 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.
“Loi Krathong is often claimed to have begun in the Sukhothai by a court lady named Nopphamat. However, it is now known that the Nopphamat tale comes from a poem written in the early Bangkok period. According to King Rama IV, writing in 1863, it was a Brahmanical festival that was adapted by Thai Buddhists in Thailand to honor the Buddha, Prince Siddhartha Gautama.”
My friends picked me up in a double-cab pickup, with 5 in the cab and another 8 people in the bed of the truck. I’m given the shotgun seat. I have no idea where we’re headed, except that I expect it will be a river or lake somewhere in the interior, and not the ocean.
After meandering around the roads to the west of Hua Hin, we finally arrived at the Hua Hin Sam Phan Nam Floating Market, which is just beyond the Hua Hin Floating Market. This market, however, is not floating, nor is the other one.
The Sam Phan Nam market is a string of shops built on the banks of a pond; the other floating market consists of shops built along a small canal. The Sam Phan Mam market, to me, is a total tourist trap, with high-priced, but cheaply made clothes and trinkets, some food and dessert stalls, and some entertainment. The entertainment playing when we were there was so loud I had to leave.
But for our purposes of floating a few krathong, the venue was fine, if very crowded.
Showing off their krathong:
Non and her son sail their krathong: