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Pattaya Daily News

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08 November 2010 :: 09:11:08 am 45529

Happy Loi Krathong Day

Common sense tells us that any jobbing journalist will thoroughly research his topic before putting finger to keyboard. Accordingly I entered the title into Wikipedia and discovered that this famous festival is, in fact a conflation of two celebrations: Yi Peng (ยี่เป็ง) and a festival to celebrate , Phra Mae Khongkha (Thai: พระแม่คงคา). So far, so baffling. The first involves flying incendiary devices over crowded urban developments like Pattaya; the second suggests floating bread rafts across water. Both are designed to humiliate the farang.
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Taking the first one second, if you will forgive the Irishism, let me relate my experiences with floating a bread raft. Even for someone as ham-fisted as me, surely nothing could go wrong? Rules for Farang Beginners: 1 Buy raft. 2 Light candle. 3 Place raft on water. 4 Take photo. Simples.

1.        You have a choice of materials for your krathong: banana leaves which take a long time to bio-degrade; bread which degrades quickly providing food for the fish and any peckish farang who missed dinner; Styrofoam which hardly ever degrades and can choke the exhausts of jet-ski drivers which is the only good thing to be said for this material.

2.        If you are a non-smoker this will require buying a lighter which can disintegrate into a hundred pieces if made in Cambodia. If it is a home-produced lighter it will get very hot, very quickly and cause you to howl with pain in front of your tirac causing huge loss of face and a considerable quantity of skin.

3.        On the night of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar Sod’s Law decrees that there will be an on-shore breeze which will blow out even a German made lighter and drive your raft back into the shallows. After several attempts at re-launch, you will have wet shoes and salt corroded trousers.

4.        If by some miracle the float takes to the high seas, do not attempt to take a photo as your hands are slippery with sweat and sea water. Your camera, as you will see, does not float.

The act of floating away the candle raft is symbolic of letting go all one’s grudges, anger and defilements, so that one can start life afresh on a better foot. (Dropping your camera in salt water may negate this.) People will also cut their fingernails and hair and add them to the raft as a symbol of letting go of the bad parts of oneself. (This is difficult to do holding a lighter in calf deep water.) Many Thais believe that floating a raft will bring good luck (but only if you own a Styrofoam camera.)

From Wikipedia: ‘ A multitude of Lanna-style sky lanterns (khom loi (Thai: โคมลอย), literally: “floating lanterns”) are launched into the air where they resemble large flocks of giant fluorescent jellyfish gracefully floating by through the sky.’ Quite apart from the horrible image of being dive-bombed by jellyfish, I would argue that jellyfish do NOT travel in sheep-like flocks but fish-like shoals. (Isn’t jelly formed in moulds?)

These jelly fish like lanterns (khom loi) are made from a thin fabric, such as rice paper, to which a candle or fuel cell is attached. When the fuel cell is lit, the resulting hot air which is trapped inside the lantern creates enough lift for the khom loi to float up in to the sky and thence on to the many wooden roofed buildings hereabouts.

In theory this true but the farang practice leaves much to be desired. For lighting the fuel cell see above. No where does it say that the thin fabric is flammable! Without a word of a lie, mine burst into flame as if filled with hydrogen like the ill-fated Hindenburgh. There is something mildly humiliating about losing both eyebrows and a good portion of my hairline, being rolled in the sand and dowsed with seawater whilst all about you, eight year old Thais launch their sky lanterns without any of the afore mentioned fuss or drama.

The bottom line is Farangs should not play with fire in Thailand.

Written by: Mike Bell

Photo : Internet   Category : Society

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