So, November is one of the biggest festivals of the year: the combination of Yee Pang and Loy Krathong. Yee Pang is when you send paper lanterns up into the sky. I’m not really sure what it commemorates, but every year at Mae Jo University thousands of people gather to send up lanterns at the same time. It’s just like in Tangled!! I was SO excited for this festival because we missed it by mere days last year when we were here on the mission trip. A bunch of people wanted to go, so we all met at Troy and Grace’s house (other missionaries) and rented a couple of song thaews to take us up and back. It was so crazy! It’s about 10 miles away and it took us over an hour to get there with the traffic. Finally, we got to the entrance. Only one problem: it was on the other side of a canal. Not the kind that you can just jump across, like a real canal. They had built a small bamboo bridge over the water for people to cross on because it was about a half mile one way to the next road across and about a mile and a half the other way to the main road across the canal. So, when I say bamboo bridge, I use the “bridge” loosely. Envision something out of Romancing the Stone or if you have never seen that movie, then picture two long pieces of bamboo tied together with twine for the walking part, one long piece of bamboo to act as a hand rail and two pieces of bamboo sticking up out of the water to stabilize the foot path and hand rail. Sound stable? Hahaha. Well, we were all up for an adventure and Ahna was desperate to get across because she was trying to meet her students from the school she used to teach at whom she hadn’t seen since she got back to town because the kids had been so busy. We finally all made it across (19 of us!) and headed into the campus.
There were already thousands of people there and more coming as we arrived. There was a really long Buddhist prayer, followed by a few hundred monks walking with candles and then they announced that the special monks were going to send up lanterns first, then everyone would send their lanterns up together. Man, that sight is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Standing in the midst of thousands of lanterns floating up into the night sky toward heaven was just an amazing experience.
After most had gone up, we found Ahna’s students and then reconvened and sat down to eat our picnic dinner that we had brought but didn’t have time to eat earlier. It was a nice time to hang out and catch up with the other farangs who I haven’t seen in ages. As we were finishing up, all these Mae Jo students started walking past and wanted to get a picture with this huge group of farangs. So, about 20 of them sat down with us and took a bunch of pictures. It was so funny! Normally, it’s foreigners who want pics with the locals, but in this case it was the reverse. It was kind of awesome. J
The past weekend (Nov 10-12) was Loy Krathong. The Krathongs are little floating flower bouquets put on banana leaves that you then Loy, or set on the water, to float away down the river. You can buy them everywhere along the river and they are so beautiful. Apparently, this festival celebrates the river goddesses from ancient Hinduism I think.
It started on Thursday with tons of fireworks going off everywhere! The streets were closed already because they were doing a small parade so it was difficult to get around, but so cool to see the fireworks everywhere. I bought a few to do with Sophie at the hospital. After work on Thursday, Ahna, Franziska, Inna, and I took Willow and Bastian from my class with us to see the fireworks from the bridge. On the way, we saw a little amusement park and decided to take the kids on the Octopus ride that I LOVED as a kid. BIG mistake (for me). I hadn’t gone on it for years, and was excited, but I get bad motion sickness, so I was fine for the first normal run, but they kept going, and going, and going, for maybe 10 ro 15 minutes!! Finally I signaled to Ahna, who had gotten off, that we had to get off NOW. They finally stopped it, but I was so dizzy I could hardly stand up, and Bastian was no better, he fell over when he tried to walk. It was not as much fun as we thought it would be. I was so woozy, I almost couldn’t get home. But, I am a trooper, and I had promised Sophie we would do Krathong, so I stumbled to find some and bought two with beautiful orchids and then made my way back to my motorbike as the others continued to the bridge where they stayed for two hours lighting fireworks and had a grad old time. I made it back to the hospital ok, and we got permission from the nurses to go to the moat to do krathongs and fireworks. It was fun and we got some cute pictures!
Friday was a big day for LK. First, Ahna and I took Ning to lunch for her birthday and we got her some running shoes which she has been wanting for months and months. It was nice to be able to get her something that she really needed and wanted and deserves and can’t afford herself. Plus, it was nice to just spend time with her outside work.
Then, Friday night, there was a huge parade where all the different schools make ginormous floats and then parade them down the street from Thapae gate to the big open air market and then up to the river where they put the floats on the water and they float downstream. It’s pretty amazing. We were there for 3 hours and the parade still hadn’t gotten to the point of the river where they actually put the floats in. I guess it goes all night long and there are literally about tens of thousands of people who watch it. It was great because we started at Thapae Gate and walked along Thapae Road to the river. Along the way, we saw the families of a lot of our kids from Taw Saeng and we ran into a bunch of our friends scattered along the road. I went with Ahna and her students from last year. Their float got first place, and it deserved it, it was a-MAZ-ing! We got a bunch of food, including cotton candy(!) and bought some Krathongs to send down the river. Ahna was conflicted about taking part in a Hindu festival, but I told her to rewrite it to be like reenacting the sending of baby Moses down the river and then she felt better about it.
For photos, see my Facebook page under the album: Yee Pang and Loy Krathong.