Loi Krathong is one of the things I was most looking forward to seeing in Bangkok. It is the festival of lights associated with the Yi Peng festival in the north. On the full moon of the twelfth lunar month, Thais launch intricately-decorated vessels called krathongs into lakes, canals and rivers. The belief is that the krathong will carry away the year’s disappointment, anger and bad feelings, and if a hair or some nail clippings are added to the krathong, it will carry the bad parts of yourself away too. It is also an offering to the water goddess, and a wish for good fortune and happiness with candles, incense and flowers down a river. Krathongs are traditionally made out of a section of banana leaves and a section of trunk and decorated with flowers, candles and incense sticks (these days styrofoam and, for the environmentally conscious, baked, coloured bread, seem to predominate). In a normal year, Bangkok on Loi Krathong is supposed to be beautiful sight, with the rivers and canals full of lights, and fireworks being let off everywhere in celebration.
This year, however, people do rather have other things on their mind; due to the flooding, most events in Bangkok were cancelled, and strict instructions circulated that citizens were not, however tempted they might be, to launch their krathongs straight into the flood waters, as the only thing worse than the suburbs of Bangkok under three feet of water is the suburbs of Bangkok under three feet of water and also on fire.The event we all went to in Lumphini Park (which has a lake that can safely accommodate plenty of krathongs without actually igniting anything else) was very low-key, especially compared to the Yi Peng festival a couple of weeks earlier – there were a lot of people milling around, but not heaving crowds, and only a few krathongs. Unlike the strictly-regulated Yi Peng, there wasn’t much in the way of oversight, so we found a free spot, fumbled with lighters and Evidentally our krathongs were overburdened with cares and worries from the previous year; either that or we did not have krathong technique, as they universally either sunk or wallowed sadly in the shallows, candles and incense guttering out and in no way showing any inclination to bear the worst parts of ourselves away (this is where a river would help, I suppose). Traditionally, if your krathong sinks or the candle quickly goes out, then your wishes will not come true; if I don’t get a job this year, at least I can’t say I wasn’t warned.