Thais mark major festival... on a moderate scale

By the light of a full moon on Friday to celebrate Loy Krathong, Thais gathered with friends and family to release flower-shaped floats into canals, rivers and lakes, in a symbolic liberation from past negativity and transgressions.
By the light of a full moon on Friday to celebrate Loy Krathong, Thais gathered with friends and family to release flower-shaped floats into canals, rivers and lakes, in a symbolic liberation from past negativity and transgressions.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Things will take time to return to normal following king's cremation, say officials

Against the backdrop of the Chao Phraya River, a grizzled man closes his eyes in quiet prayer with his fingers wrapped around a banana-leaf float before releasing the candle-lit offering into the water.
 

Behind him, performers hop to the joyful beat of folk music, accompanied by stage lights that pulse blue and red.

After a year-long mourning period for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand returns to a splash of colour and music to mark Loy Krathong.

By the light of a full moon on Friday, Thais gathered with friends and family to release flower-shaped floats into canals, rivers and lakes, in a symbolic liberation from past negativity and transgressions. In northern Thailand, the authorities cancelled flights for safety reasons as people released floating lanterns into the mountainous skyline.

"Last year, it was so early in the mourning period we didn't know what we could do or should do," taxi driver Samak Jitkasem, 52, told The Sunday Times. "This year, we have a party among relatives and friends."

There were no festivities last year as Loy Krathong was shortly after the death of King Bhumibol, which plunged the nation into grief. The revered monarch, who died at the age of 88 after illness, was considered a father figure to generations of Thais. As the government declared flags to be flown at half-mast for a year, the skies went silent without the fireworks. Beauty contests - another staple of Loy Krathong - were scrapped. Supermarkets put the king's jazz compositions on loop instead of festive ditties.

King Bhumibol's ashes and relics were enshrined in the Grand Palace and two temples last Sunday after a grand cremation ceremony. Within hours, workers began removing black and white drapes from company signboards. Advertising billboards that turned monotone during the cremation period returned to full colour. Over the course of the past week, the palette of newscasters' wear morphed from black to grey to pale pink and royal blue.

AMONG FAMILY AND FRIENDS

Last year, it was so early in the mourning period we didn't know what we could do or should do.This year, we have a party among relatives and friends.

TAXI DRIVER SAMAK JITKASEM, on how he is celebrating Loy Krathong.

But officials admit that things will take time go back to normal. In Chiang Mai province, Yi Peng - the local version of Loy Krathong - was celebrated with fireworks and pageants, but on a "moderate" scale.

"This year's festival is very different from last year's… but it's still not a full-scale event," Mayor Tussanai Buranupakorn of Chiang Mai city told The Sunday Times.

"As a government body, we need to moderate the celebration as this is only a few days after the end of mourning. There are more entertainments that we hope to present in a bigger way next year."

In Bangkok, officials began preparing to mint coins depicting Thailand's new King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the 65-year-old son of King Bhumibol.

In the historic quarter of the capital near the Grand Palace, the imposing pavilions erected on a public field to host the royal cremation were open to the public for one month. Thousands queued up for a coveted one-hour slot to pore over vintage photographs of the late monarch in his childhood, and to view the actual site where the cremation took place.

Officials tried to maintain a semblance of the decorum that marked the tightly choreographed five-day cremation ceremony earlier. Only "polite" attire was allowed, and selfies banned.

Photo-loving Thais got around that hurdle quite easily. They got friends to take pictures of themselves by the gleaming - albeit temporary - edifice that marked the end of a reign.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 05, 2017, with the headline 'Thais mark major festival... on a moderate scale'. Print Edition | Subscribe