I’ve benefited very much from joining the various Facebook groups set up for backpackers travelling through south east Asia and feel I have a lot more to gain. However stumbling across the Loy Krathong event has been one of the most unique experiences for me so far.
On Wednesday I attended one of Thailand’s most famous events, the Loy Krathong festival. The meaning is translated to ‘floating basket’ and the festival is celebrated yearly on the full moon of the 12th month in the Thai calendar. I just so happened to find myself in Bangkok right on the day of the festivities, and it may have just been an average day for me until I came across an event inviting travellers to share in the festivities at Jekky’s homestay, in Phaya Thai, Bangkok.
As a solo traveller and a curious one at that, I read on through the kind Facebook invite:
“If you have no plan and want to experience traditional Loi Krathong festival with the local and at the local area, please feel free to join us.
Kob Khun Khaaaaaaaaaaa. :)”
So I decided to attend.
Arriving at Jekky’s I instantaneously felt welcome. Aside from the rather noticeable sign out the front that reads ‘You’ve come all this way, welcome home’ there were also many friendly faces from all over the world gathered here for this special event. Some that had known Jekky for some time, and others that had only arrived here like myself, curious travellers wanting to immerse themselves in Thai culture and find a unique, memorable experience.
After the many introductions and chats about our individual journeys we began to experience what it was like to make our own Krathong. Jekky had kindly set out a table for us decorated with a collection of banana trunks, banana leaves, scissors and sticks.
We all began working on our masterpieces, wrapping the leaves around the edges of the banana trunks, firming them with small sticks, watching each other and mirroring the more experienced.
As time went buy our banana trunks were banana trunks no more. We learned how to shape the leaves so they looked like flower petals and created our own unique designs, concentrating like children in an arts class, putting all our creative skills to use. It was an experience that you can’t get when you join a tour, or visit a tourist centre. We were in a Thai home, experiencing real Thai culture and learning so much from the new people we had met.
After our Krathongs had turned into masterpieces we all sat around and enjoyed a lovely meal cooked by Jekky herself. Red Thai Curry with blue rice, turned blue with the addition of the Butterfly Pea flower (note to self). I am always thankful for these experiences whereby you sit around a table with a group of people from all walks of life, all corners of the earth and share a meal. It’s a kind of experience that makes you realise humanity is everywhere.
Jekky has been running the homestay for quite some time and actively participates in promoting local culture to tourists. She is passionate about creating memorable experiences for travellers from all over the world and encouraging connection by seeing what life is like through a different lens. If you are in Thailand be sure to check out one of her dinners through Plate Culture, a site set up to connect travellers with local cuisines.
After dinner we headed out for the main reason we spent those hours perfecting our Krathongs with marigolds, candles and incense, to participate in the festivities of Loy Krathong. We walked down to the riverbank to let our Krathong into the water and make our one wish, which we are granted as the tradition goes.
Watching the many people by the river launching their hand made masterpieces and wishing for something so dear and so important to them was a beautiful sight. Lights lit up the river as hundreds of wishes were made and Krathongs floated down the river, hopes and dreams along with them.
I was grateful for this night and the opportunity to experience something so unique. It’s an example of how seeking out cultural experiences in a place you are travelling to can reap great rewards and make for lasting memories. This is my third time to Bangkok and will be my most memorable one thanks to people like Jekky who want to share their culture with the world.