Samui Wining & Dining
ALL AFLOAT
 Let your troubles simply drift away at November’s Loy Krathong festival.

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Once a year, every year, something a bit special happens all around Thailand. People gather around rivers, lakes, canals or the sea. There are big decorated rafts, fireworks and lots of liveliness and laughter. And there are thousands of people all carefully launching something small and candlelit into the water.

          

This is the festival of Loy Krathong, one of the most romantic of the Thai festivals. Its name comes from the word ‘loy’, meaning ‘to float’, and ‘krathong’, which is a kind of small raft made from banana leaves or bark. In the past, krathongs were sent off into water under the full moon as a way of thanking the water spirits for the gift of a good rice crop. Nowadays, however, it’s simply a way of giving thanks for the year just past, letting any bad parts of the year go and expressing a hope for the future. The festival is held on the full moon of the 12th lunar month of the year, once the temperatures have cooled and the rice crops are in. And this year, it falls on Monday 11th November.

          

The Buddhist-inspired festival is the closest Thai holiday to Christmas (similarly, in recent years, Christmas itself has also been embraced by Thai people, and especially by the children). And, as with Christmas, there’s always a lot of excitement in the build up to the occasion. Decorations are enthusiastically put up, parties are organized and much care and attention is put into the design and crafting of the individual krathong.16-2

Loy Krathong has been celebrated in Thailand for centuries. It’s said to have originated in the 13th century, in the former Thai capital of Sukhothai, when a woman named Nang Noppamas, who was a royal consort of King Lithai, wanted to make a sacrifice to the river gods. But she also wanted the King to see it. So she constructed an elaborate krathong made of banana leaves and launched it down the canal so it would go past the King’s palace and impress him. When he saw it, he was so charmed that he fell in love with her. It’s now said that any couple who launch a krathong together and see it float away successfully will be lovers in this life or the next. It’s also rumoured that couples who see their krathongs float away side by side will stay together. So choose your krathong partner carefully! She also decided a beauty contest (an ancient Thai tradition already embedded in the culture) should be held at the festival.

          

As a foreign visitor, it’s easy and fun to join in the festivities. And, in true Buddhist style, you’ll be made most welcome, too. Most hotels arrange dinners with traditional Thai entertainment, and often have krathong floating ceremonies held at their swimming pools. Or, if the conditions are calm, on the beach, with the moonlit sea being the perfect backdrop. Street parties are held everywhere with local-style entertainment. On the evening of Loy Krathong,16-4almost the whole of Thailand comes to a halt. The famous Bangkok parks and the Chao Phraya River are all packed with people celebrating. Live TV covers the royal servants floating enormous and elaborate krathongs from regal barges on the river near the Grand Palace.

          

Samui locals love to congregate at the Big Buddha temple (which works well as a Loy Krathong venue because it’s surrounded by water). The dramatic temple, with its large Buddha statue atop, is adjacent to the sea. With the full moon illuminating the whole of Big Buddha Bay, wonderful views can be enjoyed. Unfortunately, with the rapid growth of Samui’s population, this venue’s become a little too overcrowded these days, and excruciating traffic jams are common. So the local council promotes the much larger and far more easily accessed Chaweng Lake area (it’s just behind McDonald’s on the beach road). Stages are erected for live entertainment, which is both contemporary and traditional, and food stalls are set up selling every imaginable Thai snack.

          

Loy Krathong is a celebration that brings everyone together, and not just Thais, either. Whoever you are, you’ll be given a warm welcome and will be able to enjoy the magic of this amazing festival.

          

          

 


 


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