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Thai Girl Tattle: Loy Kratong

Andrew Hicks tells of the delightful Thai festival of Loy Kratong.

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One of the most delightful of Thai festivals is Loy Kratong when families launch floats or “kratongs” made of banana leaves and flowers and lit with candles onto the waters of the local river of lake. This is the moment to pray for better things to come and when the dark moments from the last year are carried away by the gentle winds and current. The children love it and of course it’s a great excuse for another party.

In Bangkok the festival has become a big problem as hundreds of tons of waste block the waterways, especially where people have no access to natural materials for their kratongs and buy the modern plastic ones instead. The custom of putting a handful of coins in them which then go to the bottom must also cause a terrible annual waste of national coinage.

This year we didn’t miss out and Cat organised Nan and a friend in making two beautiful kratongs out of banana leaves in the traditional way. As always the whole exercise was ‘sanuk’, a laugh a minute.

We then headed off in the pickup that night to the lake at Sinarong a few kilometers away where our local festival is held. Though the administrative centre for our local district or ‘ampur’, Sinarong is nothing more than a village, a huge party had been staged. As well as the ceremony of launching the kratongs onto the lake, there was an elaborate beauty contest, each village in the district represented by a ‘Thai girl’ aged at least thirty five.

A stage had been set up with a massive backdrop of art work and lettering, together with towers of loudspeakers for the music and commentary. The proceedings were long and well-choreographed in which each contestant, elegant in her shiny costume, was paraded in turn. At last there came a pause for the judging and a musical intermission when I could get up and stretch my legs.

Several singers took to the stage, the last of whom came as quite a surprise. It was Gop, the local electrician who put up our television aerial a year or so ago. A sparky little man who worked for some years in Taiwan, he certainly is a jack of all trades.

This must have been an expensive evening to stage but as always it was done with flair and an eye for the outrageous and kitch. They always do beauty contests on TV like this, so why not here in the village. These handsome women were out in the heat and dust of the rice fields today cutting rice but why can’t they now be princesses for the night and have their moment of glory.

At least the coins that floated away in the kratongs on the lake weren’t wasted. At the edge the water is shallow and two little boys had plunged in and were helping themselves to the money in the floats. Just as dogs sometimes eat the food that’s left for the spirits, nobody sees anything wrong with this as the offering has been made and cannot now be taken away by the little boys.

It was pleasantly cool that evening so I only hope they did well out of it and didn’t freeze.


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