Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Loi Kratong 2004

So last Friday was Loi Kratong, and just like last year, a group of friends and I decided to celebrate. For those of you unfamiliar with Thai festivals, Loi Kratong is an ancient Thai water festival that's celebrated on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month, which usually tends to fall sometime in November. On this day, Thais all over the country convene at bodies of water and release beautifully decorated kratongs (floats made out of banana leaves, gorgeous flowers, candles and incense) into the water to pay respect to the water goddess, Mae Kong Kah, and ask her to "wash away" any bad luck and bless them with happiness and prosperity. While many modern-day Thais may not believe in the whole "water goddess" thing anymore, Loi Kratong is still a widely celebrated festival that gives the Thai people another chance to come together, celebrate and, hey, have fun.

So I met up with Gug at Siri's place at noon...
...and while Siri was away at work,
we went to Villa Supermarket to do some grocery shopping.
We returned later and cooked some lunch.

We grabbed our lunch...

Dragged some chairs out to the front balcony...

Kicked our feet up...

And looked out at the Bangkok cityscape.

Afterwards, Gug and I went back inside and started on dinner. We began cutting up the carrots as we yapped away in our usual manner. While talking, one carrot rolled off the counter and it just so happens that we both reached for it at the same time. The only problem was that Gug still had the knife in her hand. So yeah, you can probably imagine what happened next. It was all very surreal, like everything was happening in slow-motion or something. One minute the knife was embedded in my left hand and the next minute Gug had yanked it out, upon which chaos ensued.

Gug began scrambling around the house, running from room to room in search of alcohol and band-aids while shouting, "Is it still bleeding?! Oh my God, oh my God! Where's the alcohol?!" She was doing all this whilst cradling her cell phone on one shoulder, trying to get a hold of Siri to ask where the alcohol was.

GUG: Siri! Where's the alcohol?!
SIRI: Alcohol?
GUG: Yes, alcohol!
SIRI: Ummm, there's some Tequila in the cupboard above the stove...
GUG: No! First-aid alcohol!
SIRI: Oh! I don't think I have any. Why?
GUG: I stabbed Lynn! I STABBED LYNN!
GUG: In the hand! I stabbed Lynn in the hand and she's bleeding all over the place!
SIRI: Oh my God! We don't have alcohol but you can still use the Tequila!

OK, so poor panic-stricken Gug had exaggerated just a wee bit. While all this was going on, I was sitting calmly in the kitchen, running my hand under the kitchen faucet. The wound was a little deep, but it really wasn't all that bad. But anyways, Gug came running back into the kitchen a short while later and headed straight for the cupboard above the stove. Then she came charging at me with a bottle of Tequila and a cotton bud.

LYNN: What? You're cleaning my wound with Tequila?!
GUG: Why? What's wrong with Tequila? They used to use it in the old days, you know. Like in war.
LYNN: But we're not at war and this is 2004!

In the end Gug drove me to the pharmacist to buy some antiseptic; you know, non-Tequila alcohol. Poor girl was so panicky she was running around and driving like a worried mother. I kept telling her it wasn't as bad as she thought and that it didn't even hurt. Of course, I spoke too soon.

GUG: The antiseptic's gonna sting. You're not gonna scream, are you?
LYNN: Huh? No. I don't think so. Um, actually, maybe a little. Why?
GUG: Maybe we should do this in the car, because, you know, there are a lot of windows in the apartment.
LYNN: Oh yeah, they'll think you're murdering me. I promise I won't scream... that much.

And I kept my promise; I didn't scream. But I did squeal like Wilbur the Pig. Thanks for taking care of me, Mommy Guggy.

We thought it was only fitting we whacked the living daylights
outta the bloody carrot that started it all.
Die carrot, DIE!
We had quite the satisfaction munching on its remains later that evening.

Full Moon
Everyone began arriving at around 5 pm.

Aparna and Akira showed up first, followed later by Siri and P'Geng. Nick and his friend B'Zaro (nee Anthony) showed up shortly after. We learned later that B'Zaro is a hip-hop artist from LA (you can listen to clips of his music here, here and here) who's collaborated with the likes of MC Hammer (this provoked an impromptu Too Legit to Quit dance in the kitchen later when the girls and I went to get dessert), and though I've never heard of him before, apparently he's really big in Japan. We chatted a little and turns out he was a really all-around nice guy. B'Zaro was surprised to learn that we could all speak English and I think he also felt a little unsure of how to act, thinking he had to adhere to strict Thai customs and all that. I mean, he actually bent over and waied before going to the bathroom. We were like, Dude, saying "excuse me" works too, y'know. This isn't 16th century Siam. (But we didn't actually say that to his face, of course.)

Gug's famous Tunaritzi

Aparna's delish Indian fried rice

And Akira's super-spicy KFC

The night before Siri and Gug had slaved away in the kitchen, making Tiramisu.
We were all eager to see how it would turn out.

Apparently not that well.
So it didn't quite turn out as expected.
Tiramisu? More like Tira-almost-misu.
But it was nice and, um, mushy, like the Gerber's baby food I used to steal from my brother when he was an infant.
And apart from the creamy lumps that Akira pointed out about 497 times, it actually tasted really good.

Later we parted with Nick and B'Zaro and headed for Benjasiri Park, which is located right next door to Emporium. Seeing as how it was Friday night and the day of a national festival to boot, we summised that traffic was going to be insane and cleverly decided to park our cars at the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit Hotel and take the Skytrain the rest of the way.

View from the Asoke Skytrain station.
Sukhumvit Soi 23 is to your right, which leads to the infamous Soi Cowboy.
Not so sure about cowboys, but there's definitely a variety of other forms of nightlife that can be found there.
Apparently Hugh Grant visited a place there called Tilac while filming the new Bridget Jones film last year.
Whilst dancing to Murray Head's One Night in Bangkok (how appropriate), some go-go bar girls recogized him and tried to grab for his crown jewels.
Don't ask me how I know this kinda stuff.

Walking down from the Skytrain station at Prom Prong.

Outside Emporium
The atmosphere was awesome.
People were buzzing around everywhere and the lights were gorgeous.

Beautiful, isn't it?
Thailand never ceases to amaze me with the
full-blown commercialism that goes on during Christmas-time.
I mean, 90% of the country's Buddhist, but still Christmas trees spring up at every shop window and street corner.

Windchimes and lights made up the Christmas tree.
Lovely tinkling and breathy chimes could be heard everywhere.

P'Geng, Gug, Aparna, me, Siri and Akira the windmill.

Walking to Benjasiri Park.

I guess this is the closest tropical Thailand will ever get to a snow angel.

"Konnichiwa! Light! 5 Baht! Konnichiwa!"
Damn light sellers mistook me for a Japanese tourist for the umpteenth time again.

Buyers flock a kratong vendor... she carries out a brand new batch of kratongs.

And after much pushing and shoving, we finally got ours!

But Siri wasn't happy with them.
"No, dammit! I want that kratong!"

Gug, Siri, Akira, Aparna and me with our kratongs.
We decided to share kratongs this year to be more environmentally friendly.

There were loads of people out and about that night.
People of all nationalities were there, decked up in Thai national costumes.
American, Korean, French, British, Swedish, name it, they were there.
The atmosphere that night was great and it was nice to watch a bunch of people from various countries and walks of life come together to celebrate an ancient Thai festival.

Lovely statues decorated the park's vast landscape.

Akira and Aparna

P'Geng lighting the candle and incense sticks on our kratong.
A nice American couple lent us their lighter,
but the wind kept blowing out the flame.

Shut up, you. Yes, I realize I look like a rabid dog.
But you see, the wind was really strong that night, so the candle's flame went and set our kratong on fire.
Panicking, Aparna had to kindly advise us by yelling, "Blow it out! STOP SCREAMING! Blow! BLOOOW!" while Akira went and sneakily snapped this pic without us even knowing.
Needless to say, he had a laughing fit and now uses this as his MSN profile pic.
Har har har.
Just you wait till December, Akira. I swear I'm gonna getchu back!

The poor carnations just couldn't stand the onslaught.

Before releasing your kratong into the river/lake, you're supposed to pray so the kratong carries your wish to the water gods.
"OK, if you want to redeem yourself, you worthless, burnt-down piece of crap, send Jude Law our way tomorrow morning and all shall be forgotten! Are you listening? Are you?! JUDE LAW!"

Gug and Siri make one last wish...
The three of us dedicated this kratong to Caro the Sanrio Frog;
that mad Mama Goose, Arwen; and Teresa the Moti Alloo.
They may be scattered at the four corners of the earth,
but they're still in our thoughts.
We miss ya guys.

...before releasing our kratong into the lake.
We borrowed the flame from a passing kratong to re-light our own.
According to Thai superstition, you're not supposed to do that (something to do with stealing someone else's luck).
But shhh, don't let the water gods know or else Jude Law won't be appearing on my doorstep tomorrow morning and it'll be all your fault.
Yes, yours.

And away it goes...
The kratong represents the year's sorrows and bad luck.
The symbolism is a nice thought;
wouldn't it be great if we could just cast our sorrows into the water like that?

Some people got creative and made chili salad kratongs.

Happy Loi Kratong 2004
Walked back to Emporium at around 11 pm for a late night chat,
where we watched the glowing kratongs light the lake afire from the 6th floor
as we chatted and reflected about times gone by.

Later, after saying goodbye to everyone else, Gug and I headed back to Siri's place to spend the night. Though Siri the Sleepy-Head Granny conked out at around 1:30 am (considered rather commendable, as her usual conking-out time is 10 pm, hehe), Gug and I sat around talking till 3. I apologize for any ensuing sappiness, but darnit, I feel so blessed to have such awesome friends. Where would I be without them? Best friends rock, yo.


(P.S. Thanks loads for the extra pics, Akira. Yes, even that one. Grrr.)

Currently Playing: Heroes by The Wallflowers. Though originally done by the Rock God himself, Mr. David Bowie.
Currently Watching: Shrek


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