Tag Archive | "Lumpini Park"

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Loy Krathong 101

Posted on 29 October 2010 by Joel Quenby

Considered the most charming of all Thai festivals, Loy Krathong offers beauty, romance and renewal. But what exactly is the event, how did it start—and where should travelers experience the celebrations?

Keeping charming traditions afloat: Loy Krathong

Keeping charming traditions afloat: Loy Krathong

“It takes an endless amount of history to make even a little tradition.”—Henry James

Thailand loves festivals. Its relish for pageantry made it the world’s fifth-largest festival hotspot in 2008, according to Euromonitor International. And tied to national identity—therefore deserving its “sa-ngob (serenity) description”—Loy Krathong is probably the kingdom’s most charming celebration.

While the West generally associates full moons with sinister werewolf transformations and the like, the East sees its brightest nights as auspicious. The full moon of the twelfth lunar month signifies the end of Thailand’s main rice harvest. It is time to thank the Water Goddess Mae Nam Kongka (Mother Ganges) for her year’s supply—while symbolically setting misfortune adrift. This period of renewal sees couples wholeheartedly embrace romance.

FESTIVE FORM

Loy means “float,” while krathong refers to the trademark lotus-shaped receptacles that are floated in riverways and even at beaches across the country. These days, individuals, villages or provinces enter floats of myriad shapes and sizes—even motorized models—for competition. They all end up stocked with offerings of betel nuts, flowers, joss sticks, candles and coins then ritually launched onto canals, rivers and lakes nationwide. For couples, it can be an anxious time wondering if their respective floats will snuggle together or drift apart.

The magic, mystique and romance of Loy Krathong

The magic, mystique and romance of Loy Krathong

Supplementary activities depend on the location. Any combination of processions, musicians, and marching bands, dancers, costumed theatrics and fireworks may accompany proceedings. Most Thai festivals feature beauty-pageant face-offs in honor of Nang Noppamas, allegedly a 14th-century lovely who pioneered the event.

DISPUTED ORIGINS

Some claim the festival derives from a Hindu tribute to the Vishnu. Others, including Thai King Rama IV (writing in 1863), base it on the Brahman Deepavalee ritual. Thailand’s official version teaches that royal consort Noppamas pioneered the krathong for the King of Sukhothai 700 years ago.

However, in The Great ‘Loy Krathong’ Myth! (2007) Stephen Cleary argues that the “legend” was invented by the Department of Fine Arts for an 1850’s novel. The available evidence suggests Loy Krathong descended from Cambodia’s Loy Khom (Float the Lantern)” festival in the mid-eighteenth-century Ayutthaya era.

WHERE: SUKHOTHAI… Hailing heritage

Celebrations in the original Thai kingdom hark back to its glory days

Celebrations in the original Thai kingdom hark back to its glory days

The first Thai kingdom is where Loy Krathong supposedly originated. Thais accordingly consider the World Heritage-listed Sukhothai Historical Park the most significant location for Loy Krathong. They really go to town with a spectacular light and sound show following a procession of oversized krathong from 17 Northern provinces. Locals also reprise bygone folk dancing and costumed theatrics to evoke Sukhothai’s renowned cultural traditions.

WHERE: BANGKOK… Avoid the melee

The metropolis only affords a single day to Loy Krathong, compared with five days elsewhere. Human traffic overcrowding the capital’s canals and riversides can spoil the fun. Santi Chai Prakarn public park and the Chao Phraya River from Krungthep Bridge to Krungthon Bridge resemble rush hour on New Year’s Eve. Lumpini Park offers more sedate going (disregarding kids swimming out to retrieve coins from the floats). To guarantee avoiding the crush, however, any of the five-star riverside resorts conduct civilized festivities—though you will have to pay for the honor.

WHERE: CHIANG MAI… Raising lanterns

Yi Peng festival "khom loi" lanterns create magic in Chiang Mai

Yi Peng festival "khom loi" lanterns create magic in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai offers double the festival fun. Loy Krathong blends into the local Yi Peng revelry. The latter sends negativity skyward in Lanna-style khom loi lanterns. The sight of hundreds of fluorescent, jellyfish-like lamps gracefully floating overhead creates a magical atmosphere. Added to illuminated waterways, buildings, trees and gardens citywide, this makes the historic city a real crowd-puller during the festivals.

WHERE: MALAYSIA: Cross-border appeal…

Loy Krathong celebrations cross Thailand’s southern border to Kelantan in Malaysia, where celebrations focus in the Tumpat area. The festival reportedly draws lots of tourists, so is generously promoted by the ministry of tourism.

Eco-grumble:
Foam krathong harm the environment, so natural materials are preferable. Eco-responsible revelers increasingly head for small canals, even swimming pools, to avoid polluting rivers.

In Bangkok: November 21, 2010; nationwide: November 17–21, 2010

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Not-so-touristy Bangkok. Does it even exist?

Posted on 12 January 2010 by Monsicha Hoonsuwan

Have you ever been in a situation where your friend asks you something you definitely should know, but you don’t? And you find yourself speechless, trying to find excuses for your lack of answer. Aw. What a shame, right?

But this is the first time I don’t feel the need to beat myself up for it—the inability to answer the question, I mean. When my friend who’s planning to visit Bangkok in late January asks me—a Bangkokian—what to do in Bangkok that’s not so touristy, I gaped. I thought the answer was right at the tip of my tongue, but it wasn’t. I couldn’t think of anything at all in Bangkok that isn’t touristy. It’s as if Bangkok—every inch of it—has been unearthed an explored by tourists. So my lack of answer was justified, wasn’t it? There’s no need to beat myself up for that.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there’s a place in Bangkok that’s worth going because it has a unique value, and it hasn’t been discovered by the countless amount of tourists swarming Bangkok these days. I would hate to think that Bangkok has no secrets of its own anymore. That would kill all its charms, wouldn’t it?

Lumpini Park Credit Eugene Tang @ Tourismthailand.org

Lumpini Park Credit Eugene Tang @ Tourismthailand.org

How about visiting Lumpini Park in the morning and join a Tai Chi group? Then, walk around the park, breathing in the fresh air—a rarity in Bangkok—and greet the little creatures called Water Monitor who have made Lumpini Park their home. Perhaps it isn’t so funny for foreigners. But for Thai people, a Thai word for Water Monitor is a derogatory word and is used often to slag someone off. My other advice would be walking through the backstreets. Yes, those dark, dirty, smelly, unheard of alleys. Who knows, you might find something worthy.

So, can anyone think of what to do in Bangkok that’s off the beaten path? That may sound like a challenge, and it is—for me, at least.

Just thought I would end to post with the cutest creature in the world: the Water Monitor

Just thought I would end to post with the cutest creature in the world: the Water Monitor Credit: www.เป็นข่าว.com

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