Saturday, November 21, 2015

Loi Krathong Buzzkill in Pattaya

The Thai Festival of Loi Krathong is celebrated every year on the full moon of the 12th lunar month. Millions of Thais flock to rivers, canals, lakes, reservoirs, and the sea to launch a Krathong as a sign of respect to Ganga, the river goddess. Up north in Chiang Mai Khon loi or fire lanterns float into the sky to honor heavenly saints. Women spent thousands of baht to dress in ancient costumes and endure hours at beauty salons to construct elaborate hair-dos. Without a question Loi Krathong is the most beautiful festival in the pantheon of Thai holidays. Fireworks, beautiful girls in silk wraps, and candles floating on the water.

I tried to get my daughter to wear a costume.

The silk dress lasted all of ten minutes, but she enjoyed helping my wife fabricate a banana leaf Krathong with candles, incense, and small coins.

After sunset we headed for the beach. Strangely few candles appeared offshore and no fireworks were lighting the sky. At the Bali Hai pier the police informed us that the official Loi Krathong was being held at a distant reservoir, but we could make our offering at the beach as long as the Krathong contained no Styrofoam.

"Only banana."

My daughter was eager to get the krathong in the water. Normally you put a 10 baht coin in the float and pray it goes out to sea, a sign of good luck.

Normally young boys would push the krathongs farther from shore. Not this year. The police or tam-luat refused anyone beyond their knees and about 20 meters out a police launch was retrieving the krathongs.

"Kam-mois." My wife's opinion of police ranged from thieves to Mafia.

"Mai-penh-rai." I replied with the standard 'doesn't really matter'.

"Khun mai penh Thai." My wife was angry with this departure from tradition.

"Sure, I'm not Thai, but you have to think about what we are doing. Asking forgiveness from the water goddess. It doesn't matter what else happens."

She looked at me, as if I had insulted Buddha, and she was right, because your wife is always right and nothing makes you more wrong to a woman than trying to prove she's wrong.

Nothing at all.

I picked up my daughter. She was happy we had done what we had done. If she was happy, I was happy and hopefully so was Ganga. Forgive us, o great water goddess, maybe my wife will next year.

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