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24 พฤศจิกายน 2550
 
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I hate Loi Kratong !!!

It's Loi Kratong Day in Thailand today, a day when foreigners usually oooh and aaah about how beautiful the river, and the kratongs that are floating in it look. Foreigners who've been in the country around this time, normally say that its the most beautiful out of all the Thai festivals that they've seen. I've been here for 3 Loi Kratong days now. The first was great but, since then... I've hated it!!!

There's 2 main reasons why. Firstly, it reminds me of my friend, and former room mate Ricky. It makes me wish that she was still here, makes me think about how and where she died. It makes me hate the fact that, when I found her lying on the floor, there was little I could do to help her.

Loi Kratong was the day that I first went to her (and what would later become my) room. We were both studying a TEFL course together. I'd been to BKK before, for work, but like most of the other students on the course didn't really know my way around the city that much. She'd been here for almost 5 years, teaching English and, having told us how beautiful the festival was, suggested that we go to her riverside apartment block and watch the parade of boats, and people putting their kratongs in the river from there.

We studied in Siam, and after class took the skytrain to Satorn. The Klong San Saeb canal boat would have been quicker, but some of the other trainee teachers had hoped to see the sunset over the Chao Phraya river and take a look at Wat Arun too. A couple of our students had talked about the festival earlier in the day, and Ricky invited them to come along with us.

It was dark when we got to Satorn. The boat pier was already packed and when the little orange express boat pulled up, already full, we knew that there was no way any of us were going to be on it. Someone suggested we ask about chartering a long tail. 700 baht to take the lot of us to Banglampoo, expensive now, but, to a foreigner at the time, less than a pound each.... extremely cheap...

Once the price had been agreed, around 14 of us piled into the boat. Nan and X, the 2 students that had come with us, had, to our amazement never been in a longtail boat before. The were as awestruck as we were by the speed and deafening noise. I meant to take some pictures, but we were going too fast, and I was worried the spray would damage my camera. When we arrived at Banglampoo boat pier, it was already jam packed. We offered the driver 100 baht to take us to the next one along, by Ricky's riverside apartment block.

Once there, we dumped our bags, found oursleves a couple of beers then walked down to Th. Phra Ahtit to buy our kratongs. The street had turned into a mini-flea market. Almost every empty piece of pavement had a mat or table on it, filled with bright green kratongs. Each kratong contained a couple of joss sticks and a candle and also had a few flowers placed inside. They looked like they had taken hours to make. The banana leaves carefully folded, and pinned into place. They all looked beautiful. So delicate.

At each stall, there were groups of people, sat on the floor, making new ones to replace the ones that had already been sold. The street was awash with colour. The kratongs, plus hundreds of people, usually couples choosing which one they wanted to buy.

We brought our Kratongs, and, since the riverside around Th Phra Ahtit was crammed full of people, decided to head back to Ricky's apartment block instead. One of the security guards had a strange metal pole, with a big wire disc attached to the bottom. It looked like a longer version of something that you would find in a chip shop back home, like it should be used for frying greasy fish cakes, not for putting kratongs in. Apparently we were meant to take it in turns and use it to float or 'loi' our little kratongs. It's actually a lot harder than it looks. It's quite heavy to hold, and even when you dip the fish frying looking thing under the water, so your kratong supposedly floats away, the kratong itself refuses to budge.

Mine overturned and soon disappeared under the boat pier. Someone told me that it was very unlucky... but it was lucky for the little guy swimming in the water, waiting to take the coins out of it. He got them right away.

Once we'd floated our kratongs, we went pack to Th Phra Ahtit to take another look at the street. It was gone 10.30 and the street was as crowded as it had been before. Kratongs were still being made and sold. I remember taking loads of photos (though I have no idea what happened to the film... After Ricky died, I tried to find it... as I remember her looking sooooo happy on the photos that we all took that night, but never did. I guess it got lost somewhere amongst the stuff in my old room or a photo developing shop around Khao San somewhere.)

The restraunts, bars and coffee shops were also jam packed. We ended up heading to what was to become a familiar haunt, the 'joke pochana' on Samsen Soi 2, and had a great dinner together. Afterwards, a couple of people took taxi's back to their guesthouses in Siam. Others carried on drinking and crashed on Ricky's floor.

Listening to our lecturers the next morning wasn't easy. Teaching practise, that afternoon was worse still. That night was probably the first time we trainee teachers really bonded as a group. Before then, we'd been out drinking and ate together but it was pretty much small talk. 'What we thought of our lecturers, where we'd travelled to, what we'd done before deciding to do the TEFL... etc etc..' Afterwards, it was like we all had something in common with each other. I knew who my friends were. Mo, Ricky, Misty, an american girl who lived in my guesthouse, Panyone, 1/2 scottish, 1/2 Phillipino and a south african women, living in a rented room on the same soi as my guesthouse, who I've since lost touch with and who's name I've long since forgotten.

I have great memories of that night. So, why do I hate Loi Kratong so much? It makes me miss her, makes me hate the fact that she was stolen from us before her time... Makes me wonder what life would be like for both of us, had she come back here (and moved on to Korea like she had planned) and had I stuck to my original plan (leave my job, which at the time was going disaterously... backpack around for a bit and see what happens...) It makes me realise how much her company was one of the reasons why I enjoyed living here so much, in my first couple of months.

The other reason why I hate Loi Kratong is that it makes me feel really lonely. Loi Kratong is a very romantic thing. The candles floating in the river look beautiful and, when Thai people go to float their kratongs, most take their boyfriend or girlfriend to the river with them. Couples... Sickly sweet, smiling, loved up, hand holding ones are everywhere. It's one of the few times when I'm made to feel very aware of the fact that I'm single, and that, lets face it, my chances of meeting a 1/2 decent bloke here are pretty slim.

For the past 2 years, I've spent Loi Kratong with my friend T, and a couple of her friends. She doesn't really see them that much throughout the year but, since she lives in a riverside apartment block, they always seem to appear around Loi Kratong time, to say hi and to catch up with each other. The 1st time, it was OK. I didn't really know them, and couldn't understand what they were saying. They spoke to me in basic English, and asked the usual questions 'do I like Thailand?' 'Where have I been?' 'What have I done.' It wasn't the most exciting night out I'd ever had but it was pleasant enough.

Last year though, it was awful. I could understand much more of what they were saying when they gabbled on to each other in Thai. And... all they talked about were shoes, shopping and money, 3 topics that I have absolutely NO INTEREST in whatsoever. It was incredibly dull. I could see why they were all still single. T and her friends, being Thai are all, for their age, stunning beautiful but, (assuming they were interested in dating farang guys...) most western men would probably be turned off by having to sit and listen to more than a couple of minutes of their inane chatter. I had to put up with over 3 hours of it. Serial boredom...

I'm supposed to be doing the same thing this year. Plans to go upcountry have pretty much fallen apart and, for some stupid reason, when T asked, I agreed to it almost instantly. I'm still not sure whether I'll go or not. A nice night in with a DVD seems a better option.

There are other reasons why its not the greatest time of year. I live in Pinklao, a couple of minutes walk away from the ChaoPhraya river. Normally Loi Kratong means traffic chaos. Phra Pinklao becomes one big traffic jam, and to make things worse, the boats are usually pretty full too.

The actual tradition itself is, to a westerner pretty strange. I can understand why people want to pay respects to, and apologise to the river. After all, in the past, rivers and canals formed the main transport links between towns and villages. Bangkok was once seen as the Venice of the north. Where I live there are still loads of tiny klongs dotted amonst the smaller sois, that were, for whatever reason not filled in. Most aren't really worth looking at (and some of them really stink...)

But, I'm not sure how, filling the river with polystrene (yeah - I know that in the past people used banana stalks) really shows how much you respect it. Last year, after Loi Kratong, the riverside in Pinklao was filthy. There were big piles of polystryene foam on the steps leading to the river... Some had floated down the river and somehow or other got stuck there. But others.. as soon as someone floats a kratong here, a kid dives in the river, and tries to take the coins out of it. Once the kids have pulled it apart and got the money, they dump the 'empty' kratong by the riverside. It was days before someone thought to clean them up.

So all in all, my guess is its not going to be that great a day today.

It's gorgeously sunny outside. I'll probably take a walk and find some breakfast in a bit. Also one of the girls who works in the building where I live has offered to show me how to make a kratong. That should be fun... more fun than watching everyone release them into the river later... for sure...


Create Date : 24 พฤศจิกายน 2550
Last Update : 24 พฤศจิกายน 2550 13:25:40 น. 6 comments
Counter : 238 Pageviews.

 
You can just make a wish...look at the water, soak in the atmosphere...without having to add more rubbish to it I suppose. I always think...that I can't make others do what I think is right but I myself can do my bit.

I am sorry about Ricky.

A night in with DVD sounded good too...may be after an early night stroll with nice dinner so not to miss the occasion....

Do you miss FULL ENGLISH BREAKFAST? Have you ever smelled cooking bacon in the air in Thailand...
hee hee...just teasing you.

My best friend Ran always tells me to be happy everyday and live in the NOW.

Enjoy your day...don't wish it away.
Wait wait...don't tell me you're vegetarian.....


โดย: Ta (ta/'o-o/' ) วันที่: 24 พฤศจิกายน 2550 เวลา:16:41:08 น.  

 
5555!!! No, I don't really miss bacon when I smell it cooking here (you can, if you're really desperate to get a whiff of it go to Khao San / Bamglampoo... loads of places around there do western style brekkies...) as I know its usually the crappy, thin, streaky american stuff... not the nice thick cut, smokey middle bacon what you get back home...

But yeah, real English bacon tastes soooooooo goood..... When I was a kid my Nan used to make bacon sarnies and dip the bread in the bacon fat (you can't do it now 'cos of all the crappy chemicals and additives they put in the bacon...) They were the best...

Funny you should talk about English breakfasts. When I was in London the other Sunday, I cooked bacon, scrambled eggs, mushrooms and toast for my old housemate. He was a bit down as Saturday's hot date hadn't been quite as hot as he'd imagined, and I thought I'd try and cook somthing to cheer him up.

We sat in front of the telly (and the crappy electric fire) munching away and talking about his Saturday night out. It was fab... like being in a timewarp.. as if nothing had changed in the 3 years I've been away... Sunday mornings back home, chilling out with a coffee and a big fat greasy English brekkie, and spending most of the day working out whether you really want to do anything with the rest of it or not, are just something else...

But, other than bacon, baileys, yorkshire pud (but only my nan's) and decent crisps, there aren't really any English foods that I miss. Most english dishes are pretty stodgy, or bland and tasteless.

I bet there are loads of Thai dishes that you miss!

Yeah I agree, I normally try and enjoy everyday for what it is, but,sometimes, when you have really strong memories about something or someone, it's really hard to do that...


โดย: Kerrie IP: 58.9.137.98 วันที่: 25 พฤศจิกายน 2550 เวลา:0:17:52 น.  

 
Ha...even funnier you should talk about Yorkshire puddings...We just had it this morning for breakfast..Yep! for breakfast. I found out that freashly baked, crispy YPs are the best substitute for the Chinese pancakes...pa-tong-go...we had them with condensed milk....Can you imagine it? with black coffee made with a coffee percolator...

Do I miss Thai food...well...not terribly...I just like simple food..rice, Thai ommlette...easy to make wherever you are in the world. Our most favorite Thai dish is Panang...and after some years we perfected it. Tony made the best panang that I've ever had...and I've had a lot! So...in the food department I'm alright. When I miss Thailand I miss my mum and dad. They are my whole world.

I gathered you're a language teacher. In July I took a TESOL course at Sussex. Got the cert but I keep up my day job for the moment...easier. One day when I have a chance to stay in Thailand for a long period of time I'll do some private tuitions, that's the plan. one of my class mates is now teaching in Shanghai having a whirl of a time.

Later...


โดย: Ta (ta/'o-o/' ) วันที่: 25 พฤศจิกายน 2550 เวลา:2:54:18 น.  

 
Wow!! Thats something I've never thought of... Though when I was at uni, I used to like eating them cold, for brekkie with jam (good hangover cure too...)

Funny... I never miss my parents that much (but them I spent 11 years living in London before I ended up over here, so didn't really see them that often anyway...) Whenever I feel homesick, its my close friends that I miss, people that can understand how I think and feel. But, I know that in Thailand, almost everyone put their parents first.

Cool that you passed the TESOL... though I wouldn't give up the day job yet... One thing that might shock you if you ever try to teach full time over here is that private schools (and even some of the richer government schools too) are very, very predujiced when it comes to employing English Teachers - some only want farangs... white faced foreigners. Others will refuse to pay you a decent salary. It doesn't matter how fantastic your English is (and reading your writing, I can tell its pretty good) when it comes to payscales etc. they'll probably look at your face and tell you to accept a crappy Thai teacher's salary. It's really sad that it works this way, and it's probably one of the things that puts Thai people with excellent english off the teaching profession.

Yeah, I really enjoyed teaching in BKK. Thai kids can be great.. Shanghai sounds cool, though, after spending 3 years trying to pick up bits of Thai (and still being pretty crap at it...) I wouldn't fancy trying to learn Chinese.


โดย: kerrie วันที่: 26 พฤศจิกายน 2550 เวลา:3:02:23 น.  

 
Thai is easy....even kids can use it...hee hee
It's a bastard for any 'farang'<<< of any color face...to learn because of he 5 tones. You have the advantage of being there to hear...you'll get a hang of it soon...you might even got a hang of it already.

Re teaching...that's why I said private tutions...never dream of teaching in schools...I don't like working in Thailand anyway that's part of why I decided to live here and work here.

Chinese could be fun....i haven't a clue meself hee hee...Oh I know one...wing the wong number....

Just spoken to my mum...skype is good! It's her birthday!

Have a nice day.


โดย: Ta (ta/'o-o/' ) วันที่: 26 พฤศจิกายน 2550 เวลา:13:54:39 น.  

 
Yeah... I've spent 3 years trying to tell my friends that its a bastard to learn... and trying I guess to justify why I'm still so crap at it...

Hope your mum had a good birthday... and that you had a nice day too.


โดย: Kerrie IP: 61.90.19.232 วันที่: 26 พฤศจิกายน 2550 เวลา:22:37:28 น.  

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