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Loy Krathong

Loy Krathong, or "Festival of Lights," is one of Thailand's most charming and beautiful celebrations. This magical festival takes place on the full moon night of the twelfth month in the Thai lunar calendar, typically in November. It's a time to pay respect to the water spirits, give thanks, and let go of the past year's troubles.

The name "Loy Krathong" can be translated as "to float a basket," which perfectly describes the heart of this festival. People create small, ornate floats, known as "Krathong's," and set them afloat on rivers, canals, and lakes. These Krathong's are decorated with candles, incense, flowers, and even small coins. It's believed that by doing this, you are letting go of negativity and bad luck and making room for new and positive energy.

Krathong Making: One of the most enjoyable parts of Loy Krathong is creating your own Krathong. People use banana leaves and other natural materials to craft these lovely little floats. You can find krathong-making stations at many public places, where you can join in the fun.

Candle Lighting: As the sun sets and the moon rises, people gather near bodies of water to set their Krathong's afloat. It's a mesmerizing sight to see the flickering candles on the water, and the belief is that this act will help wash away bad luck and create good fortune for the future.

Fireworks and Lanterns: In addition to the Krathong's, you'll often see fireworks and paper lanterns launched into the night sky. The lanterns, called "khom loi," symbolize the release of one's problems and worries into the heavens.

Traditional Thai Music and Dance: Many places also feature traditional music and dance performances, adding to the festive atmosphere. It's a great opportunity to experience the rich culture of Thailand.

Delicious Food! No celebration in Thailand is complete without delicious food. You can taste a wide variety of Thai dishes from street vendors and restaurants. Don't forget to try the sweet and crispy "roti" dessert!

Loy Krathong is a celebration of unity and gratitude. It's a time when people come together, no matter their background, to honor their natural surroundings and offer their thanks. This festival is not only beautiful but also a wonderful reminder of the importance of harmony with nature and one another.

If you ever have the opportunity to be in Thailand during Loy Krathong, don't miss the chance to take part in this magical festival. You'll create lasting memories and be part of a tradition that has been celebrated for centuries. It's a beautiful way to experience the warmth and culture of the Land of Smiles.

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Boat Ceremony

The Urak Lawoi floating boat tradition, known as the Pra Jak boat ceremony, is a rare and ancient custom of the Urak Lawoi community. This unique event takes place on the full moon days of the 6th and 11th lunar months, bringing together the Urak Lawoi people for the Pra Jak Boat ceremony at the beach.

This ceremony serves as a mean to dispel misfortune and involves singing and dancing to the rhythmic melodies of the Rong Ngeng songs.

This cherished tradition has been handed down through generations, originating from the Urak Lawoi people's earliest ancestors. When the time for this event arrives, they return to their hometowns to celebrate alongside their families and fellow community members.

The day Before the boat parade:

In the morning, the men will begin to build a boat for the ceremony, they use the White Cheesewood tree and the Ra Gam tree because the wood is quite soft and easy to work with. Every year, a new boat is constructed, and it changes hands to different builders, creating an annual rotation. When constructing the boat, they begin with the keel, which is made from White Cheesewood tree, and work from the bow (front) to the stern (back) before moving on to the other components.

The women create sweetmeat in seven different colors and prepare a betel nut as offerings for the spirits at their ancestral shrine. In the afternoon, they visit this sacred location and inform the spirits about the upcoming celebration. Tor Mor communicates with the spirits in the ancient Urak Lawoi language, inviting them to participate in the ceremony with the Urak Lawoi descendants.

Day One: Boat parade

The Urak Lawoi people parade the boat which is beautifully decorated with flowers, flags, and various sculptures. This parade is a joyous occasion, with everyone dressed in vibrant colors and dancing alongside the boat. Beer and liquor are essential parts of the festivities.

Upon reaching the ceremony site, they circle the shrine three times with their boat before placing it on the beach. They play three different Rong Ngeng songs, during which they place nail clippings, hair, and coins in the boat. This symbolizes the removal of negative energy from their bodies and its transferred to the boat. Following three Rong Ngeng songs, modern music takes over, and the new generation dances the night away.

At high tide, in the evening, they engage in a spirited water-splashing activity. They split into two groups, one in the sea with containers to collect water, and the other on land. When the waves roll in, they scoop up water and splash it towards the group on the shore.

Day Two: Take the boat to the sea and Pa Dak sticks ceremony.

At dawn, the men carry the boat to the sea, while the rest of the community sing a song to send the boat off, taking away negative energy with it. Some Urak Lawoi people also seek blessings from their ancestors' spirits to ensure the happiness of future generations.

The men lower the boat onto a long-tail boat and transport it to the middle of the ocean before releasing it. They believe that if the boat returns to the shore, it signifies the return of negativity until the next Pra Jak Boat Ceremony.

The ceremony continues, culminating in a Pa Dak sticks and holy water ceremony on the final night. The Pa Dak sticks are removed from the ceremonial site and replanted around the village's perimeter and in the village's centre. This is done with the belief that the sticks will ward off evil spirits and prevent their reentry.

The Prajak boat, crafted from White Cheesewood and Ra Gam trees, is a significant symbol. It represents the vessel that transports souls, both of people and animals, to another world. Beautifully carved Ra Gam wood pieces adorn the boat, with a bird on the bow symbolizing To Burong, an ancestor who controls the rain and the wind. Carved fish teeth represent To Bigong, an ancestor who was a shark, and a snake symbolizes Akhoberatai, an ancestor who was a snake. The Ra Gam dolls on the boat carry the suffering and illness of each family member, offering it to the ancestors to take to the Kununghirai. Those who participate in the entire floating boat ceremony are seen as individuals who have transcended suffering and illness, with the promise of a future filled with happiness and good fortune.

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Urak Lawoi koh Lanta

"Urak Lawoi, which means 'sea people,' takes its name from 'Urak' meaning 'people' and 'Lawoi' meaning 'sea.'

In the early days, their way of life was deeply connected to the sea, with boats serving as their homes. They have settled in the provinces of Satun, Krabi, and Phuket. Their initial settlement was in an area known as 'Satak,' which we call Koh Lanta. Koh Lanta is often considered the heart of the Urak Lawoi community.

This community's unique way of life is closely tied to the sea. They've passed down cultural wisdom through generations, enabling them to use and conserve natural resources in a sustainable manner. An essential part of their culture is the 'Pla Jak Boat Floating Ceremony,' performed to ward off misfortune and send their ancestors' spirits back to 'Kununghirai,' believed to be their homeland.

In the past, the Urak Lawoi people lived in the Kununghirai mountain range along the coastal area in the state of Kedah (Sai Buri). Over time, they ventured into Thai waters of the Andaman Sea. In the beginning, they lived a nomadic lifestyle, using wooden boats as their residences and vehicles. They would use kayaks or thatch for shelter on the boats or create temporary shacks on the beach during the monsoon season.

Their survival depended on their skills in sailing around the islands, occasionally coming ashore to forage for wild resources. However, their primary source of sustenance came from hunting marine animals using simple tools like harpoons, prongs, and hooks. They possessed the remarkable ability to dive deep to spearfish, catch lobsters with their bare hands, and collect shellfish from the seabed.

Today, you can find the Urak Lawoi people settled in various locations, from Koh Siray, Rawai Beach, Laem La Nuea, and Ban Sapam in Phuket, to Koh Phi Phi, Koh Jum, Koh Pu, Koh Wai, and Koh Lanta Yai in Krabi province. They also inhabit Koh Adang, Koh Lipe, Koh Bulon, and Koh Rawi in Satun Province.

Their culture revolves around honoring their ancestors' spirits, and they believe in the influence of the supernatural on their way of life. The 'Tho Mor' plays a pivotal role in conducting various rituals, including the boat floating ceremony and vow-making ceremonies.

One of the most significant rituals among the Urak Lawoi people is the 'Ari Pajak' boat floating ceremony, held twice a year in the 6th and 11th months. On this special day at the beach, you'll find tambourines, songs, singing and dancing, and a range of festivities. It's a time of joyous celebration, as they come together to remove bad luck from their community and celebrate their important cultural traditions."

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