Sunday, November 16, 2014

Loy Krathong

Last week was Loy Krathong, a Buddhist festival that takes place on the first full moon during the twelfth month of the traditional Thai calendar. It is celebrated in parts of Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, and Burma. During the festival, people release paper lanterns, light fireworks, and float little rafts (named krathongs) on the river. Some people release turtles or eels, which they could buy from little stands by the riverbank of the Chao Praya River. The festival in Nakhon Sawan is quite small. In the picture to the left, you can definitely see several lanterns, but this is nothing compared to the celebration that happens in Chiang Mai (a city a few hours to the north of where I live). Some people believe it celebrates the water goddess, Mae Kongkha.

During the festival, people release paper lanterns into the sky. The lanterns are made from super thin paper, usually rice paper, over a frame made from bamboo or wire. In order for these to gain height, people place kerosene-soaked toilet paper into a holder at the bottom. They light it, then wait while hot air fills the lantern. If a person lets it go too early, it usually crashes into a nearby spectator instead of soaring into the sky. I almost got lit on fire this way at one point, but luckily escaped unscathed.

Beautiful full moon in the background.

People making sure their baskets are filled with enough hot air.
I'm pretty sure one of these was the one that almost took me down!
This one is NOT my picture.
It's from the celebration in Chiang Mai.
Like I said, the one I saw in Nakhon Sawan was quite tame compared to this!

In the picture to the left, Matt and Nici are lighting incense on a variation of a small raft. Traditionally, these are made from banana trees that have been chopped into thick chunks. They are typically decorated with incense, candles, lotus flowers, and sometimes money. Ours are made from bread so that they can provide a safe meal for the fish and turtles.

As people release their floating decoration into the river, they make a wish. The release of lanterns and floating decorations are meant to symbolize getting rid of bad luck, having a fresh start to the next year, and sending love to the Buddha.

There were a bunch of young kids in the river (around 10) that helped the little wreaths out into the middle of the river so they did not get stuck by the river banks.

Some people had pretty elaborate decorations to float.
Take a look at these!

Probably my favorite picture from the night.
It looks like the lanterns are heading to the moon!

Welcome to Thailand

Hey everyone! For those that don't know, I recently moved to Thailand. I've been here since October 28th, and the last three weeks have absolutely flown by. Although I've left behind some absolutely amazing people and memories, I've met many lovely new people.

The climate here has been quite different from what I am used to. It snowed this past week in Wisconsin, yet here in Thailand it has been in the upper-80's. When I first arrived, the humidity was much higher, but I am getting used to the warmth and sunlight of beautiful Thailand.

When I first arrived, I stayed in a hotel for the first few nights. Luckily for me, there were lots of great views of the surrounding city from the hotel. It was a bit daunting at first to find places to eat or get coffee, but I discovered a few gems. There was an unfortunate misunderstanding which resulted in a disgusting apple/coffee shake. But hey, this isn't the first time I've been given something unexpected at a restaurant

Take a look at the views!

Hopefully you can see some of the Buddhist monuments that Nakhon Sawan is famous for in the picture. There is a temple on top of the hill, and a giant sitting Buddha about halfway up the hill. I love how this picture turned out!

Many of the surrounding buildings had tin roofs. This isn't a typical feature of homes in America, so I thought I'd post a view. The sound when it is raining is pretty great too!
One of the best things about Thailand is the food. There are tons of little vendors that sell fresh fruit. Their wares are typically on display, and when you choose one, they will cut it up and stick it in a bag with a stick so that you can eat it immediately. Delicious!

Chinese kale dish.

Vegetarian cashew/tofu dish.

Myself, Ruth, Matt, Jay, and Nici.

Here's a picture of myself and my AMAZING coworkers at one of the best restaurants in Nakhon Sawan. They've been super helpful with showing me around, helping me learn how to order food, and bringing me to good food places. I'm grateful I have already met such wonderful people here!

Street food abounds!

The custom here is for people to go out for food. In fact, most apartments and houses do not even have a kitchen. I looked at about half a dozen apartments before I settled on one, and none of them had a kitchen. Only two had a mini-fridge. It's too hot to cook at home, so there are tons of street food restaurants that are just plastic tables and chairs around a small cart.