|Dragon graffiti outside a Chinese temple by the river.|
For the 2015 festival, I decided to travel to Sukhothai (about 3 hours away by bus). I've visited before, but this time I stayed in the New City close to the bus station, which has quite a different feel than the Old City. The place I stayed was next to the Yom River, and I greatly enjoyed the bike rides next to the water. The wall next to the river featured graffiti paintings --some were beautiful, some were just plain weird. Look at how beautiful it was!
This was the entranceway arch: "Sukhothai Loy Krathong and Candle Festival." I have already been to Sukhothai and walked around the entire park several times, so I knew exactly which ruins I wanted to visit right away.
The Loy Krathong festival happens every year on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month according to the traditional Thai calendar. This year it fell on Wednesday, November 25th, but Sukhothai celebrated for 5 days (it started on Saturday the 20th and finished the following Wednesday). A krathong is basically a floating decoration, typically made from the trunk of a banana tree and decorated with flowers, candles, and incense. A growing trend includes krathongs made from bread because they can be eaten by the aquatic animals as they float away from shore.
As people launch their krathongs, they make a wish as they leave shore. I've heard that the candle is venerates Buddha with light, and the floating away is meant to symbolize people letting go of all their resentment, anger, and hatred. People also give offerings and "make merit," or accumulate good acts and charity to carry on to their next life by donating money or food. It's a ceremony meant to cleanse the sins of the past year so that you can start new and fresh.
|Market with ALL THE FOOD.|
|Prawns and grilled fish in banana leaf bowls.|
|More grilled fish.|
|This was probably my favorite photo of the night.|
|I absolutely loved how this Buddha looked lit up.|
|Side view of all the little tents and markets set up.|
One of my favorite parts of festivals in Thailand are the big lanterns that people light up and release into the sky. Granted, they are quite dangerous -- you light a rag that is soaked in something that burns, then wait several minutes as the hot air fills it (like a hot air balloon), then release it and hope it goes straight up instead of at some weird angle right into the big crowd of people you are lighting it in. Lots of people are impatient, and many lanterns are released too early and crash (then burn) on the ground. They are quite lovely to look at though.
|Lanterns in the sky!|
The elephants were my FAVORITE thing I saw in Sukhothai. There was a big show they put on in a sectioned off area (I didn't pay for a ticket), and elephants were part of it. To my surprise, when wandering toward one of the gates so that I could leave, I found the elephants again! They were just hanging out in the middle of a crowd, taking money from the hands of people that held it out. The mahouts (elephant trainers) just sat up there, looking bored, and I couldn't help but be jealous of how close they got to be to such amazing animals every day. I would never ride an elephant because it hurts them and I think it's a bit undignified for them, but I love the chance to get up close to an elephant!