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Of Hopes and Lights

My Travel Writing Scholarship 2011 entry - Journey in an Unknown Culture

WORLDWIDE | Sunday, 27 March 2011 | Views [177] | Scholarship Entry

The narrow street where I alighted from my tuk-tuk transformed into a kaleidoscope of floats stacked on rickety stalls that lined the riverside. It was lively with a medley of vendors’ voices sounding as if they were on a roller coaster ride.

These floats, which Thais locally call “kratong”, ingeniously crafted to look like lotus flowers on crudely cut circular Styrofoam bases, were made out of bread overdosed with swirls of artificial food coloring rendering them too pretty to eat. Frail candles enveloped by poppy pink Japanese paper blossoms, were strategically stuck between some of the “petals”. The whole display was so prismatic that it created a 6:30 P.M. rainbow even a color blind person can claim to see.

I briskly walk towards the end of the street, hoping to chance upon the perfect float that could seamlessly carry resentments that have piled up through the years. It was a sacred celebration for Thai folk on this November full moon, to be cleansed of all their negative vibes. This was Loy Kratong. I am not Thai, but I knew I was at the right place and time to let it all go.

The second to the last stall near the canal where a number people had already gathered was where I found my kratong. The old lady behind it was selling (almost) biodegradable floats! The one I bought looked like a cross between an Asian wrapped delicacy and a makeshift crown for a tribal princess.

The work of art was of folded banana leaf triangles with spokes of icing pastel beads on the ends, peppered by purple tainted orchids and sparse baby’s breathe on fastened twigs. A tiny yellow cellophane cutout pasted on a barbeque stick intended as its sail made sure it would get to its unknown destination. It cost me 40 baht. I didn’t scrimp nor haggle, afraid that any discount I might ask would result to partial forgiveness.

It was time. We were all near the outlets and canals that lead to the river. It was very humid and was getting hotter since the candles on the floats were being lit one after the other. Plus, the marriage of the phosphorus whiff from the matchsticks and the faint pungent scent from the river can make you a bit woozy.

The locals took turns to kneel on the wooden deck to reach the surface of the water, liberating their kratong. Those waiting in line just bowed their sweaty heads, murmuring what could be a prayer of some sort, or a simple wish that the river might grant them little miracles.

By now, the dark stretch of the water had been illuminated by crimson hues of mini ships that drifted away while others flowed toward our canal, converging in a spiritual ballet of forgotten pains and unrealized dreams. A bit teary eyed and overwhelmed by this humble ritual, I released my offering, mouthing a thankful sigh that life, like this trip, had all been worth it.

Tags: #2011Writing, Travel Writing Scholarship 2011

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