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Monday, November 06, 2006

Chiang Mai: Loi Kratong

Festival! Loi Kratong! I get to put all my troubles in a banana leaf boat and float them down the river. When I was here for the festival in 1989 I was still working at Fannie Mae. I needed two boats for my troubles. Apparently it works, since I quit in July of 1990 and went traveling in December. I'll float a few boats this time. My poor feet deserve a boat of their own.

A kratong is a banana leaf boat containing a flower, a candle or incense stick, and a coin. You put your troubles in the boat, light it up, and launch it on the river. The farther it floats, the farther away your troubles will go. A nice idea. The coin is for young boys who swim out and push your boat farther into the current so you will have better luck. I saw that happen in Pi Mai in 1991, but I don't think they do it here. I wouldn't go into the Mai Ping on a dare.

Another tradition is launching large paper lanterns. They are powered by hot air generated from lighting a burner inside the lantern. After opening up the lantern and lighting it up, you hold on to the bottom rim of the lantern until it fills with enough hot air to send it straight up. They sail high into the black sky, which is dotted with dozens of glowing yellow lights. I saw people writing things on the lanterns first, so I'll have to find out what that means. Good luck, I assume.

A woman staying at the guest house told me that the Hash House Harriers closing ceremony included launching a thousand lanterns at one time. HHH had to get permission from air traffic control, and wait until 10:30 p.m. so they wouldn't cause a plane crash. Or maybe air traffic control didn't want to deal with foreign pilots reporting UFO sightings.

I hope I can stay awake and moving long enough the next two days to launch my kratongs and see the night parades. The spirit is willing but the feet are weak.

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