Lights! Cameras! Weirdness! The Joys of Loy Krathong

Last Wednesday, Thailand celebrated the festival of Loy Krathong. Basically, this is a time where people make small decorated boats (krathong) and float (loy) them on bodies of water – preferably rivers, but lakes, ponds, or the local canal cesspool work equally well in a pinch. This is supposed to bring good luck and blessings. T-bone and I had seen photos of the festival before arriving in Thailand, and we were excited to check it out. In theory, we wanted to visit one of the major celebration sites down town, but in practice, the time it would take to fight our way through the crowds would seriously interfere with our family eating tour.

Unacceptable.

Instead, we decided to check out a celebration that was closer to home. We got a hot tip from Todd’s favourite hot tip source – the cashiers at the local convenience store – that there was going to be a rager of a celebration at a wat (temple) 15 minutes from our apartment. Say no more. We packed the parentals into a taxi and and booked it over to krathong paradise.

Where we were greeted by this friendly fellow.

We were a bit early for the real party to start, so we wandered around, taking photos of the lights and the few krathongs that were already floating in the wat’s pond.

And chilled out with this slightly demented dog.

It quickly became obvious that we were the only farangs in the joint, and we attracted a bit of attention. This – in my highly anecdotal experience – is typical of life in the ‘burbs. There are a lot of farangs downtown, and they sort of blend in/get ignored/are a nuisance, but in the suburbs, a farang is an exciting freakshow. Adults and children joyfully shout “Farang! Farang!” (although it usually sounds more like “Falang! Falang!”), and you get plenty of attention. This was certainly the case at the wat.

This dancer’s father was anxious for her to benefit from a chat with Mama “Farang” Jan.

As we wandered around, we noticed a small congregation of people sitting next to a massive fire. We simply wanted to see what was going on, but before we knew it, we were being ushered into chairs, and asked to sit down. A long piece of white thread was passed around, and everyone in the congregation held on to it. And that’s how we found ourselves part of an unknown religion ritual. Oops.

It was difficult to see the entire ceremony clearly, but we did catch one of its more interesting aspects. White robed men heated molten metal in the fire, and when it was sufficiently hot, they poured it into a mold. They did this multiple times, amidst much chanting. We were about to excuse ourselves, when suddenly it was over.

I don’t even know what to say about this. So strange.

Checking out the steaming, cooling molds.

We spent a little more time wandering around the wat, gaping and taking photos (because being farangs didn’t get us enough attention).

A minute women checking out elaborate krathongs that probably weighed more than she does.

School children release their krathongs.

It was already a strange evening, but then Todd decided to make it stranger by taking us to a local bacteria fest (aka: an all-you-can-eat grill). The concept had merit, but the piles of mystery meat were a little off-putting.

Am I right, little buddy?

We finished the evening by trying to fall asleep to the sultry accompaniment of blasting music, drinking, and fireworks. Just a wee party next to our local cesspool canal. Gotta love that Loy Krathong.

Prototypes ‘n’ Progeny

Our little shack on the khlong has been filled to the gills this week with two of our favourite family members – Papa Dawg Dave (PDD) and Mama Jan (MJ). These two well-traveled Canucks produced my math-loving better half, and we were stoked for their visit.

 

And the stoked factor doubled when they gave me this little slice of Canadian paradise.

They’ve already spent heaps of time living in SE Asia, and they warned us that they weren’t interested in doing the tourist thing. This was fine with us, particularly when we discovered what they wanted to do instead. Let’s break it down.

Eat:

It has been a wild food fest of pretzels/curry/pizza/local bacteria around here. PDD and MJ had some old favourites from their years in the region, and we had a few “must eats” in mind. The combination of these two lists has meant some dedicated eating for this crew. It is hard work, but we were ready for the challenge.

Chopstick warriors ready for battle

Prepared to do our bit for the good of humanity

Shop:

I really hate it when people buy me Christmas presents, but for my in-laws, I was willing to make a sacrifice. While they admired my amazing hot-plate-stacked-on-a-microwave-stacked-on-a-fridge, they thought our kitchen was a little lacking, and bought me a rice cooker. It even has a setting to cook brown rice. The hippie region of my heart just warmed up by ten degrees. My simultaneously practical but strange husband asked for dirt and a pot. The man is all about back-to-basics. We’ll see what he finds under our non-existent tree.

Dang it, T-bone! Get excited about the hippie cooker!

 

Less practical but more fun than dirt and a pot.

Clean:

Sadly, my kitchen has never been as clean as it was this week. I make it a rule to always put my guests to work as often as possible, and I told PDD that I expected him to sweep our kitchen floors at all times. He took this task seriously, and even threw in some bonus dish-washing to mix it up a little. They are seriously upping the ante for any future visitors.

Get back to work!

 

Observe Excellent Home Maintenance Methods:

PDD and MJ’s favourite part of their visit has been witnessing the joy of our strangely constructed apartment, and the even stranger attempts to repair it. They noticed that the back of the toilet was leaking, and we reported the problem to the downstairs office. The manager sent someone promptly to fix it. When I peeked into the bathroom to check on the progress, though, the maintenance man was applying caulking to my shower. Nothing like a little welcome caulking to get the visit off to a good start.

They call this maintenance?!

 

PDD and MJ leave tomorrow, and we are anticipating a return to a life characterized by fewer calories, more brown rice, a dirty kitchen, and a pile of caulking. Sniff.

Toast!

This post is short and (extremely) sweet. We recently found ourselves swept up in the phenomenon known as Asian toast, and I feel that all of you deserve to witness its magic.

Feast yer eyes.

I don’t know exactly how this delight is made, but I will do my best to describe it. Start off with a large hunk of white bread. It should be the equivalent of 5 or 6 regular slices. Somehow fill its innards with sweetened condensed milk and butter, baste the whole blob with butter, then bake/toast it. When it comes out of the oven, douse it in syrup; add a few scoops of ice cream, a few puffs of whipping cream, and (in this case) a few slices of banana; and top it all off with a little more syrup.

Todd wears his special athletic shirt because his stomach is about to get a Work. Out.

T-bone and I first tasted this phenomenon in a bubble tea shop in Calgary’s Chinatown, and have been craving it ever since. The Calgary version, however, was only 3 or 4 slices tall, and it lacked all the fun dairy accoutrements. Thailand knows how to do it right. Given the popularity of toast, I am amazed that the entire nation isn’t obese.

This plate alone could feed the nation.

Todd’s parents were with us when we ordered this monstrosity, and while I would like to claim that the four of us shared it, in all honesty, Todd and I hoovered that sucker down with very little assistance.

Todd’s prototype, AKA Papa Dawg Dave, is prepared to provide backup if needed.

For any curious Bangkokians, we ordered this particular toast mountain at Cookies Crust at Mega Bangna. It was good, but if you really want the ultimate slab, check out After You Dessert in Thong Lo.