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Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Night at Loy Krathong- Part 2

We attempted to cross the road from the temple, in order to make our way to the Chalong Pier. It was a very interesting exercise in dodging traffic. By now some very brave police officers had stationed themselves on the center line. You need to understand that the roadway is 4 lanes wide. On this night, the west side was jammed with tables of the Krathong sellers, and people had also double parked in front of them with sidecars, trucks and motorbikes. The northbound traffic was thick and some of them were trying to create a third lane northbound. Others had simply double parked in the slow lane and there was traffic making it's way (mostly motorbikes) southbound, weaving between the parked vehicles and the northbound traffic. The south-side was not better. We had parked on the east side and our bikes were somewhere in the maze of parked bikes, as well as those who had created an additional parking space , with southbound traffic was whizzing past, again there were three and sometimes four lanes in the space of 2 marked lanes, and looking both ways was paramount, as some people were driving northbound in the southbound lanes.
But cross we did. The simple rule is to see your traffic break and begin to walk. You must not stop or hesitate, as this seems to confuse the drives and is bound to end in an accident. Your continuous movement seems to let them plot the maneuver they will take to weave past you and between the conflicting traffic flow and those parked vehicles and the assorted soi dogs.

We headed to the bank parking lot, as we thought it better to walk the last few hundred meters, rather than drive down. Mostly because our previous night experience told us there would be lots of traffic and pedestrians. A smart move as it turns out. Tonight Chalong pier area was simply packed, there is no other way to describe it. We have a bar we like to go to once in a while to have a beer. The owners wife was busy moving chairs and tables to the edge of her patio, as some enterprising fellow had turned the vacant lot into a parking lot and for 20 baht a vehicle he was packing them in and beginning to encroach into the bar. I noticed that there was a small car that was in the middle of a sea of parked motorbikes. I had commented to Clive that I thought the car owner would be in for a bit of a shock when they returned to try and get out. As it happens we were back at the area a few hours later and the owner did in fact return. And the parking attendant and a few of his buddies simply began to wheel the parked bikes around to create a space just wide enough to accommodate the back and turn of the car, and then rearrange for the forward drive out. There was not more space to pack in another 20 or so bikes, which happened in quick order. I recall my days of going into downtown Vancouver and getting behind a car in a parkade (which in hindsight seems to have lots of unused space) and the driver sitting and waiting for that person walking through the parkade in case they were going to back out and they could park there, instead of moving to the next level where there were probably 100 vacant stalls. I think the parking attendants should come here for a few weeks and they could sure learn a thing or two on maximizing parking spaces. I should also point out that pulling the Vancouver parking move would have someone at your window with a whistle blowing to tell you to keep moving.

Tonight Chalong pier was bustling and the food vendors were in full swing. I had a wonderful banana and chocolate crepe, shaped into a cone, while Clive found a sort of deep fried omelet type meal full of seafood. We had seen at many places these used coke bottles that had a lime green coloured liquid in them. This was sugar cane drink, and tonight we decided to try it. Contrary to eh expectation it would be super sweet, it was instead mildly sweet with an agreeable flavour and quite thirst quenching.

We made our way through the various stalls selling Krathongs and Clive managed to find one that was made of biodegradable materials. Although we had set our Krathongs loose in the temple grounds, we decided to dedicate one to our friends and family and decided that we would set this one off from the Chalong pier. We walked the full pier, deciding that we wanted the best advantage for it to float out to sea. As we walked we saw from many shorelines, the traditional lighted lanterns floating in the sky, and this was offset with the various fireworks that were also going off. I could only imagine that the dogs were well hidden at home, as the noise from the fireworks and firecrackers tends to frighten them. Along the way, we came upon a family of mom, dad and three children. They were getting their lantern ready and had the candle lighted and filling the lantern with the hot air that would make it rise to the heavens. I got to take a photo that I was most happy with, of the children silhouetted against the lantern.

We continued along the pier and got the end only to find that there was about a 2 meter drop from the pier to the water, which would most inevitable lead to the capsizing of the Krathong, so we wandered back to the area mid-pier and joined the throngs of people lined up on the waterline on the stairs, and in the jostling crowds, played "pass the lighter" as people tried to get their candle and incense lighted. We feel that the good fortune and release of negativity must have worked well, as our Krathong seemed to find some fast running current ad immediately began to scoot out to the open  sea, which is a very good sign.  The stairways were by this time fully lined on both sides, and much like the streets, people began to make their own pathways through any possible openings, so you had people standing left right and center, and others going up or down through them, crisscrossing the stairways. As I stood and watched, I could not help but wonder what the beachfront would look like in the morning, as many of the Krathongs seemed to just sit there, and many more with the lighted incense sticks (the breeze on the water seemed to be extinguishing the candles very quickly) were now bouncing on the waterline alongside the many boats moored there. There was some small craft activity, which was also not helping some people's Krathongs, as the wakes from the high speed zodiacs were washing the Krathongs to the shoreline, which is not such a good sign.

We made our way back to the beach and the stage was in full swing, with traditional Thai music and dancers performing, in very festive costumes. And then the highlight of the evening, or so it seemed, was the beauty contest. These were young girls, I am guessing about 10 years old or less, dressed in traditional costume and doing the as seen on TV model walk and pose, to thunderous applause. Clive had decided that they were all winners, and as we are not familiar with these events, I would have to agree, as they all looked incredible.

We had decided that perhaps we should not leave just yet, as the traffic was so chock-a-block that walking down the street would be a bit perilous, I had hoped that the ambulance station that is down there had moved base operations for the night, as I was sure that they could never get out to get to the main roadways. Although there were quite a few of the local police out in force and they seemed to keep the flow moving somewhat, until the fireworks for the main stage began. By this time we had decided to go to the bar and sit it out and visit with some friends we had met at our Grumpy Old Men Society meeting the week before. Suddenly it seemed the judging was over, a beauty had been selected and crowned and then the stage became a platform of the launching of fireworks. This was followed by a huge fireworks show from an area set up on the pier. Earlier, I had said to Clive that I found it strange that along the pier they had blocked off 1/2 of the pier for about 100 meters, with bright pink lawn chairs, connected with that plastic crime scene tape, done also in a tasteful pink tone to match the chairs. It was from behind the barrier that the fireworks were being launched. I notice that the police presence had diminished and saw one capturing the fireworks on his cell phone camera. The fireworks stopped and back to work they suddenly all reappeared. Just as quickly the crowd seemed to very orderly disperse and the street began to take shape for a normal thoroughfare. We decided it was time to head home, and made out way back to our parking spot at the bank.

As we came across the temple where we had been earlier in the evening, the traffic was incredible and we had to weave our way through the maze of parked vehicles, crossing pedestrians, motorbike and bicycles. The temple grounds were teeming with what had to be thousands of people. But we made our way home. Happy pups waiting to see us and bark their news to us about their evening listening to the fireworks and smelling the residue of the festival food on our clothing and looking for their doggy bags.

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