Loy Krathong Yee Peng
Loy Krathong Yee Peng – how many of us have wondered what that
actually meant, and what the traditional and historical basis and meaning of
the festival really is?
According to Lanna (Northern Thailand) tradition, each month is counted
forward from the same month in the central plains. Thus, for example, the 12th month
in the central plains is equivalent to the second (yee) month (peng)
in the Lanna time frame. Northern Thai people look forward to Yee Peng every
year, as it is the month in which the traditional “Festival of Lanterns”
(Loy Krathong) falls.
In ancient times, the ceremony of lanterns was based on Brahman beliefs and
traditions, during which the people paid their respects to three gods, Pra
I-Suan, Pra Narai and Pra Prom. The candles used to light the lanterns were
made from rendered down cow’s fat which came from animals kept inside the
gates of the royal palace occupied by the reigning monarch. A special
ceremony was held during the making of the candles by a Brahmin priest.
Lanterns were seen hanging everywhere in the royal palaces, in great numbers
and great beauty. Their numbers signified the status of the royal family
members and their titles – Jow Fah, Pra Ong Jow, Mom Jow, Mom Rajawong and
Mom Luang. Three classifications of lanterns were used, all devoted to one
of the three gods.
During the reign of King Mongkut (Rama IV) in the Rattanakosin (Bangkok) era
of Thai history, traditional Buddhist ceremonies became integrated with
Brahman ceremonies. During Loy Krathong, the sacred ceremony, presided over
by 10 high-ranking monks, would begin in the evening with the chanting of
prayers and the lanterns would be lit.
The tradition of devoting time and effort to creating the most beautiful
lanterns continues to the present day, with lanterns being donated to
temples in the hope that wishes would be fulfilled. On donation, the giver
will say a prayer, requesting that he or she become a brighter, better, and
more clever person, based on the comparison between the darkness before a
lantern is lit, and the brightness which follows, which is able to lead
humans from present darkness into a brighter, more lustrous future.
The lanterns themselves are made with a basic bamboo structure, covered with
a coarse palm paper or cloth. A bamboo cylinder is placed inside, to protect
the cloth and to hold the 24 candles necessary to light up the lantern. Oil,
either sesame seed, castor or coconut, can also be used. During this year’s
Loy Krathong festival, visitors can see the lanterns being made at Chiang
The lanterns are hung for four reasons; for beauty, to pay respect to the
Buddha, to make one’s home brighter, and to bring good fortune. They may be
used year–round and hung anywhere where their light can be seen and
In the North, lanterns come in four styles – Khome Thuea (carrying lantern)
or Khome Gratai (rabbit’s ear lantern), Khome Kwaen (hanging lantern), Khome
Paad (revolving lantern) and Khome Loy (hot air floating lantern). The first
two contain a lighted candle and are carried by Buddhist believers during
the Yee Peng parade, after which they are given as decoration to local
temples. The hanging lantern is also used as an offering to pay respect to
the Buddha and can be seen hanging in temples, viharas, and homes.
The revolving lantern is made to turn on an axis by the correct placing of a
candle to allow the smoke to circulate and turn the lantern with the help of
small gadgets placed inside. It is circular, as is the earth, with pictures
often attached, representing the 12 characters of the horoscope. The effect,
when lit, is like that of a traditional shadow puppet. They are only seen
within the temple gates during the Loy Krathong festival, and are not
allowed to be moved.
Finally, the Khome Loy – the floating lantern loved by everyone as it rises
into the night sky, glowing like a star. It is the lightest of all, with no
bamboo reinforcement; only the container for the oil or candle whose heat
when lit will send it skywards. The belief that one’s sins and bad luck can
be sent high into the sky with the lantern still prevails. The traditional
purpose of the Khome Loy is to worship and pay respect to the Phra Ged Kaew
Ju La Manee. The beautiful, almost awesome, sight of a great many Khome Loys
ascending into the heavens at the same time, is, once seen, never forgotten.
So, this year, go out, enjoy, pay respects and make offerings, send your
regrets and problems off into the night sky, make your wishes for good
fortune in the coming year, and live your life amidst beauty and light.
The Whistle Blowers
Having lived in Thailand for over 25 years, I have recently and
unfortunately noticed a tremendous increase in the level of noise
pollution – blaring restaurant music day and night, noisy street
children and aggressive street dogs (especially in the middle of the
But the most irritating noise of all for me is still the long, shrieking
whistle-blowing of parking attendants at public venues such as
restaurants, hotels, shopping centers and condominium parking lots. Is
it really impossible for the security guards at these venues to perform
their tasks without this ear-shattering device?
I know there are specific regulations for the decibel level of music
blaring from restaurants, but, surely, something could be done legally
to stop security guards from blowing their whistles non-stop at every
maneuvering driver? Or, could they at least only use them in cases of
emergency – not every single time drivers are parking or exiting? Could
the real reason be that these security guards, who actually seem to
enjoy this, want to show blatantly to their employers or supervisors
that they are working?
With such ear-shattering devices, the security guards’ hearing is bound
to be affected, and, as people get used to the noise, whistles will
serve no useful purpose in cases of real emergency. I also wonder how
the guard’s heads feel when they get home at night after such a
“whistle-blowing” day at the office…
Could the shop and restaurant owners be persuaded to do something about
The same goes for police officers’ use of their whistles when directing
Do they really need to use them so blatantly? I have even noticed that
the parking attendants at the new Nim Rimping supermarket close to
Airport Plaza, continue to use their whistles diligently despite my
request not to do so with such enthusiasm!
Could this have something to do with the famous mai pen rai attitude of
Thai citizens? Who knows…
The fact remains that I have not and will not patronise any shops or
restaurants that “welcome” me with such ear-shattering noise. Maybe the
business owners will become a bit more sensitive to their visitors’
wishes now that Thailand’s economy is slowing down… Let’s wait and see!
How many dogs does it take to change a light bulb?
It’s amazing what you find in your computer when you have time for a
clean-out! And it’s amazing how long some of the files have been
there…the doggy one below has just been found lurking in the nether
regions of my hard drive after 3 years, and was originally sent to me by
a friend before I left the UK! Hope you like it!
Border Collie: Just one. And then I’ll replace any wiring
that’s not up to code.
Golden Retriever: The sun is shining, the day is young, we’ve got
our whole lives ahead of us, and you’re inside worrying about a stupid
burned-out light bulb?
Dachshund: You know I can’t reach that stupid lamp!
Toy Poodle: I’ll just blow in the Border Collie’s ear and he’ll do
it. By the time he finishes rewiring the house, my nails will be dry.
Rottweiler: Make me.
Shi-tzu: Puh-leeze, dah-ling. Let the servants…
Labrador: Oh, me, me!!! Pleeeeeeze let me change the light bulb! Can
I? Can I? Huh? Huh? Can I?
Malamute: Let the Border Collie do it. You can feed me while he’s
Jack Russell Terrier: I’ll just pop it in while I’m bouncing off the
walls and furniture.
Cocker Spaniel: Why change it? I can still pee on the carpet in the
Doberman Pinscher: While it’s dark, I’m going to sleep on the couch.
Boxer: Who cares? I can still play with my squeaky toys in the dark.
Mastiff: Mastiffs are not afraid of the dark.
Chihuahua: Yo quiero Taco Bulb.
Pointer: I see it, there it is, there it is, right there…
Greyhound: It isn’t moving. Who cares?
Australian Shepherd: First I’ll put all the light bulbs in a little
Old English Sheep Dog: Light bulb? That thing I just ate was a light
Westie: Dogs do not change light bulbs. People change light bulbs, I
am not one of them, so the question is, how long will it be
before I can expect my light?
OPINION: Censorship – Should it be regulated, or should we be regulated?
An interesting development internet-wise came to light this week with an
announcement by the Thai government that they were planning to spend a
large amount of baht on a firewall which would prevent certain websites
from being accessed from inside the kingdom. Before I read the actual
news items, my mind was turning towards the essential blocking of porn
sites, sites suspected of carrying viruses, the ramblings of
fundamentalist terrorism, gambling sites, phishing sites, bomb-making
sites, etc, etc. As I read on, it became apparent that none of these
threats to our computers, our morals, our personal safety or our online
security were actually going to be mentioned or monitored. The sites the
government was, according to one news feed, planning to block, with
specially designed software, were those which decry, in any manner, the
Thai Royal Family, and, in particular, His Majesty King Bhumibol the
Great. The other news feed article did mention “other inappropriate
sites,” though, but without being specific.
I have no problem whatsoever with disallowing any attempt at disrespect
towards a monarch so beloved by his people – I am old enough to remember
the loyalty, respect and love felt by the British people towards their
own Royal Family for some years after the ending of the Second World
War. Unfortunately, those feelings seem to have mostly evaporated,
possibly due to the attention of the paparazzi to the more extravagant
behaviour of some of Queen Elizabeth’s close relatives! I suspect that a
good few older Brits who have decided to live their lives in Chiang Mai
feel comforted by the Thai people’s genuine love for their King and
But, going back to censorship, is it possible that it could be made to
focus on issues which might cause society real harm? We read about
people and drug trafficking in Thailand, about paedophile tourism
targeting under-aged children both male and female, about the threat to
society and the family of addiction to gambling, and the horrors of both
child and violent porn – all of which are easily researched online. The
age of the computer has brought tremendous benefits to 21st century
society, and will continue to do so, but its potential for harm is
equally impressive. So, let the government build its firewall, but
please, let them make sure it blocks access to the above, in order to
protect those who truly need protection.
Finally, if we aren’t prepared to protect ourselves from harm, is it
right to expect our elected representatives to do it for us? And, is it
too easy for “protection” and censorship to turn into “nanny state,” or
even, “police state?” We don’t have far to look for an answer –
somewhere at the back of the minds of those of us who arrived in
Thailand from the UK is the memory of the present UK government’s
attempts to persuade us that ID cards would protect us from terrorism –
home-grown these days, and seemingly committed by those who, having been
born in the UK, would be carrying such cards. The same law-makers
persuaded us that the highest number of CCTV cameras of any country
anywhere would protect us from criminals. With the recent introduction
of over 1,400 new laws, those same cameras are making criminals out of
kids who chalk hopscotch games on the pavement!
“Moderation in all things,” would seem to apply here. But whoever heard
of a politician practising that particular virtue, either here or
anywhere else in this increasingly crazy world! Perhaps the best thing
to do is to step back, consider our lifestyles and our priorities, and
be our own censors, our own protectors. Not, of course, that this course
of action will influence in any way those who purport to lead us, but at
least we will be firmly ensconced in that old-fashioned but very
comfortable place, the “moral high ground!”