Loy Krathong remains my favorite of Thai celebrations. A festival of lights making the city of Bangkok light up across the city with fiery lanterns. The lanterns lighting up the waterways of city is truly a sight to be seen. Unfortunately, I will not be able to make the activities this year (November 25th) but I wanted to share Loy Krathong photos from the last several years.
Loi Krathong occurs on the evening of the 12th full moon in the traditional Thai lunar calendar and in the Western calendar this usually falls in November. On this day Thais launch their krathong in a river, canal, lake or a pond, making a wish as they do so. The traditional krathong is a floating decoration made from a slice of the trunk of a banana tree or a spider lily plant where as the modern krathongs are more often made of bread or Styrofoam. The Thais are moving away from Styrofoam because of the obvious impacts to the environment. Thais are often seen launching the floating lanterns on this day and there is the occasional fireworks making this holiday magical to observe. The festival likely stems from an ancient ritual paying respect to the water spirits, so important to the survival to the Thais of long ago.
There are a number of Royal Palaces open to the public throughout Thailand. Most of these palaces act as Museums, offering the exposure of Thai History to the general public. This post compiles a list of palaces that I have visited and that are worth a visit from you!
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej combined his keen interest in mechanisms, motors, and vehicles and his strong desire to help the Thai people by cleaning the increasingly polluted waters of his country by developing water aeration devices. In 1993, His Majesty became the world's first sitting monarch to be granted a patent for an aerator used in waterway treatment. The device, referred to as "Chaipattana Low Speed Aerator", which is a paddle-wheel machine attached to a floating buoy that adds oxygen to water though the moving of the water with the paddle scoops. The Chaipattana Low Speed Aerator can be seen in many of the waterways in Thailand. The photos in this blog are from Lumpini Park in Downtown Bangkok. The monument shown in the photo to the right is a tribute to the Thai King and his efforts in developing this important device.
When I am in Bangkok for Halloween I like to go to Khao San Road to see some interesting costumes. Halloween in Khao San Road is definitely more for adults, but Halloween is not really celebrated in Thailand in the normal sense. Thousands of people crowded the Khao San Road Area to enjoy the festivities.
The photo set attached to this blog shows you some of these creative people in Thailand. Let me know what you think…
Any man can become a monk in Thailand. To become a monk, a man should be at least 20 years old, he must be able to read and write, and he must study and understand the precepts for being a monk. He is given an examination, and if he passes, he is given a certificate of entry to the monkhood by the district head in his province. On the day of ordination, his head and eyebrows are shaved, he is given a white robe, and this is celebrated at the temple with his family and friends. Any ordained monk may leave the order at any time he chooses simply by informing the abbot at his temple. A monk in Thailand is treated with great respect, and the institution itself is highly revered and sanctioned by the government. The government encourages businesses to give time off to their employees who may want to be a monk for a short time and provide pay leave, which is a tax deduction for the business. Others may make it a lifelong vocation.
I was invited to a Monk Ordination Ceremony by a good friend who was becoming a monk for 3 weeks. I was able to take both video and photos of the entire event which is in two main parts, the head shaving ceremony and the main ordination event.
The Shaving ceremony takes place the day prior to the ordination date and begins by family and friends each taking a piece of hair using special scissors. Then the monk leading the ceremony shaves the heads of the supplicants. When the heads are completely shaved (including their eyebrows) then an orange herb is applied the supplicants bodies.
The day of the ceremony begins with the supplicant dressing in an ornate robe and having a special breakfast with the closest of family members. Then the supplicants don white robes and walk three times around the temple, leading the ordination participants. Following the third time around the Temple the supplicant toss good luck coins the attendees. The ceremony begins with the supplicants in the white robes and mid way through the ceremony the robes are changed to the traditional orange robes of the Monk and they are given their alms bowls. The Alms Bowls are special for once the supplicant becomes a monk they will use the bowls every morning to gather gifts of food for the temple.
Last night was the Navarathiri Festival celebrated by Hindus in Bangkok and there was thousands of people. Bangkok shuts down a big part of Bangkok (see map below) for the festival and there are many things to see. The festival is a Hindu Ganesha procession with Hindu rites that precede the dramatic Uma procession, passing dozens of petal-carpeted shrines around Silom and Sathorn, with fevered rites, blessings, mediums and self-mortification.
The festival is an interesting event to experience and if you catch yourself in Bangkok in the fall time of the year I recommend you take a look in the area of the Indian Hindu Temple (Wat Khaek Silom) on Silom Road in the Heart of Bangkok. Quite an experience!
Today Thais celebrated Khao Phansa, the beginning of Buddhist Lent. Today marked the three-month period when Buddhist monks and novices stay in the temple to study and practice Dhamma. The custom is for monks to spend the rainy season in a fixed place has been observed since the time of the Buddha. The Rainy season was purposely selected for this period to prevent crop damage, as unnecessary travel by them during this period could damage young rice seedlings planted by villagers. During Khao Phansa it was traditional to give the Monks in the Temple candles to aid in their nighttime studies. Today, the candles have become quite large and ornate.
Every morning without fail, the Buddhist Monks from the local temples throughout Thailand take off on foot (barefoot) to collect alms of food for all the Temple Monks. Even today, in Thailand, monks still rely on receiving alms for most of their food. The monks leave the monasteries early in the morning and they walk single file, oldest first, carrying their alms bowls in front of them. Thai People who live in the area wait for the Monks and place food in the bowls. Women of the community must be careful not to touch the monks. The monks do not speak, but do offer a prayer for the person or people giving the alms as if in thanks for the food. The giving of alms is not thought of as charity but the alms giving creates a spiritual connection between the Monks and the people.
While the alms giving takes place all over Thailand, there are places that are enchanting to see. One example is the Monks in temples along the waterways of the country. The keep in tradition of rowing individually in boats, stopping at each pier along route along the river. The video below has a video clip of the Monks on the water. I have also seen Monks on their daily alms collection at the beach - also magical to see...
There are many floating markets throughout Thailand, many within a couple of hours drive of Bangkok. There are colorfully clad merchants at these lively markets paddling their goods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, along congested canals in sturdy canoes to sell to shoppers on the banks. These markets are busy with lots of chatter and activity.
The floating markets in Thailand have developed over a long history in the region, likely developing before history is well documented. Much of central Thailand, including Bangkok, is located in wet lowlands of broad river valleys, all in a tropical climate. This meant that this area was heavy jungle prior to human development. The areas adjacent to the rivers were likely the first to be populated and the people living there would be using boats as their main mode of travel rather than trying to push their way through the dense jungle that once dominated the region.
Boats would have been used for both local and regional trade, bringing goods from those that produced to those that could buy or trade. Within the communities along the waterways, smaller boats were likely used to bring goods to those along the rivers, which included the majority of the people.
As the region grew in population and Bangkok began to develop into the areas capital city, the area had to be drained and this was done by excavating an extensive system of canals. While roads would have been built in this same time period, the already establish market system using the small boats would have remained the favorite method of distributing goods. So, the "Floating Market" would have remained ingrained in the Thai historical culture.
With many of the Thai Buddhist Temples were also constructed along the rivers within in these communities, and the custom of giving alms to the Monks has extended to people living along the waterways. The Monks set out early in the morning in small boats to collect alms for their Temple.
There are several types of floating markets today. Some are focused on attracting the local Thais, and remain similar to the floating markets of long ago. Most are "constructed" floating markets, with concrete piers constructed adjacent to the rivers edge with markets stalls for various vendors. There are still vendors who provide more personalized service by bring food and drink to houses and resorts in the vicinity of cities along rivers. A good example of this is Amphawa, along the Maekong, where I was able to buy a tasty hot soy milk beverage at a small resort along the river.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is the second type of floating market and was developed primarily for tourists to get a taste of the floating market culture in a short period of time. However, in this market the roles have reversed where the tourists are giving a boat tour and most of the vendors are along the edge of the canals of the city.
Gain a basic understanding of some of the historical culture leading to what is Thailand today. Click here to view a list of Articles about Thai Culture.
Bangkok's 9 Royal Temples
Bangkok Must Sees
Exploring Thailand's Nature
Islands of the Thai Gulf
Thailand's Royal Palaces
Thailand and World War 2
Explore Chiang Rai
Explore Chiang Mai