Jamie's Phuket Blog

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Loy Krathong Festival 22nd November 2018

Loy Krathong (ลอยกระทง) is a very old festival which takes place on the full moon of the 12th lunar month (so the date is different every year). In 2018, the date will be November 22nd. Last year it was November 3rd. Loy Krathong is an old tradition and the exact origins seen unclear. It was maybe adapted from an old Indian festival to honour Buddha or may have originated in the Sukhothai era (13th - 15th centuries) and is also thought to be about giving thanks to the Hindu goddess of water, Ganga (Phra Mae Khongkha in Thailand). There are many links between Buddhism and Hinduism, being that the Buddha was born in India. The Loy Krathong festival is not as huge in Phuket compared to Chiang Mai for example, but nevertheless it seems that everyone does it! Every year there are events at Patong beach, Karon beach (at the lake), Chalong Pier and Naiharn lake, at Sapan Hin and Suan Luang Park in Phuket Town and at Bang Wad Reservoir and pretty much anywhere else there's a beach or a lake to float a krathong! Local news websites normally update exactly when and where the festivities will take place. Hotels may also have their own Loy Krathong events for hotel guests.

What happens on Loy Kratong? Well, aside from a bit of a party, the idea is to "Loy" (float) your Krathong for good luck and to let go of anything bad from the previous year. And what is a Krathong? Well, it's like a little floating home made container normally vaguely resembling a lotus leaf, with added flowers, incense, candles ...

Loy Krathong

(above) Floating a Krathong

People will often add coins, and maybe hair and nail clippings, hoping for good luck and casting off bad luck. A few years ago I wrote about How To Make A Krathong. We sometimes make them ourselves, sometimes it's easier to buy one on the day - people will make them and set up stalls to sell you a krathong. They are traditionally made of banana stem, banana leaves and then you add the decorations. You can also get krathongs made of bread which is good because they don't pollute. Styrofoam krathongs have hopefully now been banned everywhere.

Making a Krathong

(above) Making Krathong at home

Selling homemade Krathongs

(above) Or you can always find people selling krathongs on the night ...

At some locations there are also beauty contests and who-can-make-the-best-krathong contests. You'll also find plenty of food and drink at the big Loy Krathong events. We used to always go to the Bang Wad Reservoir which is quite close to home, it was always busy there. More recently we prefer to be somewhere quieter by the beach to float our Krathong.

My daughter at Loy Krathong

(above) Quite a few years ago .... our daughter with a krathong at Bang Wad Reservoir

Floating Krathongs

(above) Loy Krathong at Bang Wad Reservoir - as you can see there are a lot of krathongs in the water! They say that your krathong should float away from you for good luck - if it comes back to shore that's not good luck, so it's best to give it a bit of a push and make sure the wind is behind you!

Loy Krathong at School

(above) Loy Krathong at our daughter's school many years ago. At school they normally make their own krathongs and dress up in olde traditional clothes.

Ready to Float a Krathong

(above) My wife lighting the candles and incense before floating our krathong out to sea at a quiet beach.

The festival coincides with the Yi Peng festival which is largely celebrated in northern Thailand and is also based on merit making, praying for good luck. Rather than krathong, paper lanterns containing a fuel cell or candle are lit and float into the sky. The lanterns used to be made with a bamboo frame, but more recently a wire frame is more common. These are called kom fai or kom loi. These things are getting to be a bit controversial, since they burn out and then the frame, often made of metal, falls down to litter the land or the sea. In 2018 I'd be careful letting lanterns go unless you are sure it's allowed ... not strictly legal, certainly banned in some places.

Launching a Lantern

All you need to do is light the fuel, let the hot air rise and watch them go. One time at home we found that lighting the fuel was not so easy with a bit of a breeze. One of the lanterns took off and then landed again in the garden next door.. then took off again and got stuck in their TV aerial. I thought the burning fuel would burn their TV cable, but the lantern blew off to safety in the end. We used to tell our young kids that the lanterns floated up to the sky and became stars :)

Kom Fai (Lantern)

(above) A kom fai burning and ready to release!

If you are in Phuket for Loy Krathong it's certainly something to get involved in. Maybe your hotel has an event or if you're near one of the main events, I'd certainly go and float a krathong!

More Phuket Festivals

Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Songkran in Phuket
Phuket Old Town Festival
Hungry Ghost Festival

Exploring Krabi Again!

After living in Phuket for so many years I am not sure why it took us so long to start exploring the Krabi area. I think maybe it's the distance .. a bit too far for a day trip really, but when we have a longer holiday we have tended to head further from Phuket to places like Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon, Kanchanaburi ... Last year we finally decided to try Krabi and booked a 2 night trip in April 2017 (see : Holiday in Krabi) and we liked it so much that we did another 2 nights in July (see : Another Krabi Trip). In 2018 we spent all our holiday time and money on a trip to England in June/July. But we just about managed to squeeze in a 3 night Krabi trip in October before the high season kicks off. Another very nice trip, very relaxing, explored some new places, nothing too strenuous! We had thought about another hike at the Tiger Cave Temple, but laziness got the better of us (plus a bit of rain put us off).

We arrived late afternoon and checked in at Just Fine Hotel in Krabi Town. It was only 700 Baht per night for a room, cheaper than when we stayed there last April! Location great for us, with parking, right by the river, lots of food / street stalls nearby. In the evening we took a walk along the river where (just south of the hotel) there are lots of food stalls and seating. I just got myself a roti (pancake) ...

Roti (Pancakes) for sale, Krabi Town

Just a snack before dinner! We'd found some very tasty noodles last year and the same place was still there - just a simple mobile cart plus a few streetside tables and chairs. I had noodles with beef, my wife had noodles with chicken. 50 Baht, no extra charge for drinking water. My kind of dinner! Krabi Town is small and easy to manage and has everything you need.

Beef Noodles in Krabi Town

Next morning .. we planned to get out quite early to visit the Emerald Pool again. Sky was blue, perfect weather. Getting my family up early is a challenge. 2 teenagers!

Just Fine Hotel, Krabi Town

(above) Blue skies over the Just Fine Hotel

The Emerald Pool opens 8am and we already knew we had to get there fairly early - last year 9:30am was OK, and this year we managed to get there a little after 9:30am. We're planning our next Krabi trip and next time we WILL get to the Emerald Pool at 8 and have the place to ourselves! As it was, we arrived before the crowds and for a few minutes we had the pool to ourselves. Photos below taken when we arrived.

Emerald Pool, Krabi

Emerald Pool, Krabi

It really is a gorgeous place when nobody is there! Over the next 30 minutes people arrived slowly in small groups. Lots of local visitors as it was during school holidays. Then 1 big group of Europeans arrived and suddenly the pool looked busy and the water was already starting to lose it's clarity as everyone stirred up the sediment. The photo below was taken about 40 minutes after the photos above ...

Emerald Pool, Krabi

By 10:30am we were walking out and passed about 100 people on the way in. Like many popular spots, if you visit during "tour time" like 10am - 4pm you are likely to see plenty of other people. Same goes for plenty of other very popular places around here like James Bond Island, or the Phuket Big Buddha. Back to town for an easy lunch of Khao Man Gai (chicken on rice) - a new shop had opened up right by the river road about 30 seconds walk from our hotel. More cheap and easy food! Much of the afternoon was spent at the hotel dozing .. or in my case answering emails for the dive shop. I sent 54 emails that afternoon! Then another nice walk by the river ...

Krabi River early evening

(above) Looking up river from Krabi Town. The 2 little limestone "mountains" jutting up by the river make the view very scenic and there are caves too. The mountains are called "Khao Khanab Nam" which means something like "mountains surrounding the water". I had been wondering about asking a longtail boat at the riverside about taking us there, so we asked. They said 500 Baht for an hour (for the boat, not per person). Deal! It was getting dark and the longtail guy asked "you want to go now?". Very funny! We said we'd find him in the morning.

Walking path along the river, Krabi Town

(above) Early evening, plenty of people go walking or running by the river in Krabi Town

That night, 17th October happened to be the last night of the vegetarian festival. I figured they'd be doing something in Krabi, although probably not as big as Phuket (for more about the festival see Phuket Vegetarian Festival). During the night a procession was walking all around the town. We were eating noodles when we heard firecrackers coming along the street ...

Next morning .. no rush, it's holiday! No harm in having a lie in now and then! After coffee and breakfast we walked to the river and were quickly approached by a longtail boat guy. Same price given as the guy we saw yesterday - 500 Baht for the boat for an hour to ride up river and visit the Khao Khanab Nam caves, then he said we'd head downriver and cruise along a mangrove creek. 5 of us for that price seemed like a good way to spend the rest of the morning and do something new.

Boat Trip on Krabi River

(above) heading up river from Krabi Town. It's a short ride, about 1.5km to reach Khao Khanab Nam where there's a small wooden pier and a path leading to the caves. Entry fee is 30 Baht per person. Thai or foreign. There's a little hut with someone collecting money and handing out tickets. And there were quite a lot of monkeys too! Very quiet and well behaved monkeys.

Just a short walk to find the cave. There are a couple of ways into the cave, the entrance is above ground level ...

Khao Khanab Nam Cave, Krabi

And once inside the Khao Khanab Nam cave is quite impressive ...

Khao Khanab Nam Cave, Krabi

Khao Khanab Nam Cave, Krabi

(above) Inside Khao Khanab Nam cave. The cave also has a few "educational" displays ...

Khao Khanab Nam Cave, Krabi

Certainly worth a little visit. And the scenery is great!

Boat Trip on Krabi River

(above) Heading back towards Krabi Town with Khao Khanab Nam behind us. We passed the town and into a small side channel in the mangroves. I thought this was just for sightseeing, but there was actually a small village and looking at the map I can see that it's actually on an island with the main river on it's west side, another mangrove river on the east, the narrow channel to the north and open sea to the south. The island is called Koh Klang and from Google Earth you can see it has several small villages, lots of agriculture and shrimp farms. Boats are hopping across from Krabi Town all day and we heard longtail boat engines after dark too. We did not know there were a couple of restaurants there and our longtail boat stopped at one of them. We'd had a late breakfast, but nonetheless the kids ordered food - not expensive at all, and we all had a cold drink too. Quite a nice place and another we can re-visit next time!

Restaurant in the mangroves near Krabi Town

(above) Restaurant in the mangroves at Koh Klang near Krabi Town. By the time we were back at the pier in town nearly 2 hours had passed, but the longtail boat dude only asked us for 500 Baht (though he had said 500 for 1 hour). As it was such a lovely sunny day we asked for an extra night at the hotel (midweek, low season, plenty of space). In the afternoon we drove north of Krabi Town a little more than 20km in search of a waterfall that we'd seen on websites and looked fairly impressive. Huay Toh (or Huay To) Waterfall is located in Khao Phanom Bencha National Park. Easy to find and thankfully no silly foreign entry fee - just 100 Baht for me. There's parking and a small restaurant at the entrance and a little walk of about half a kilometer, maybe a little more to reach Huay Toh Waterfall. The path near the falls is narrow and rocky. I found a rock to sit on and admire the falls from below .. rest of the family continued up a narrow path to the next level of the falls where the kids did take a little dip in the water.

Path to Huay To Waterfall

(above) Walking to Huay Toh Waterfall

Huay To Waterfall, Krabi

(above) Huay Toh Waterfall. There are several levels. The photo does not really do it justice. Beautiful and peaceful. Only a few other people there.

Our day of exploring was cut short by rumbles of thunder. Thunderstorm coming! We just made it back to the carpark before the rain started and got heavy, so we sat in the restaurant, ordered a few drinks and then since my wife and I had eaten a late breakfast, but no lunch, we decided to have an early dinner right there. And of course the kids ate too. Rain continued for an hour as it often does at this time of year, and then the skies cleared as we drove back to town. Another evening stroll by the river and we started to think "we could live here"! No time for beaches this time although I really loved visiting Railey and Phra Nang beaches last year. I like to have a mix of relaxing, revisiting places we've seen before and discovering new things to see. Krabi is now firmly in our minds as a great place for a long weekend. And I am sure we'll be back yet again!

Map of the Krabi Area

Peranakannitat Museum (Phuket History) in Phuket Town

Right in the heart of old Phuket Town housed inside 2 buildings you can find the Peranakannitat Museum (also called the Baba Museum), which was officially opened in May 2017 by Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, but then soon after the grand opening it closed again mainly because the items on display for the visit of the princess were all borrowed from local Phuket people, and not permanent museum exhibits! I have checked now and then over the last year and a half to see if the museum is really open, and finally last weekend - yes, it was! I'll start by saying - it's still under development, but it does have 2 definite plus points - free entry and aircon!

Chartered Bank Building in Old Phuket Town

The main entrance to the museum is on the corner of Phuket Road and Phang Nga Road (see map at the end of this blog post). This building was originally the Chartered Bank, built around 1900 I think, just when Phuket Town became the main town on Phuket Island and the tin mining industry was booming. It was the first bank in town and the police station was built directly opposite (the building with the clock tower). There's no huge "MUSEUM!" sign anywhere ... I was not sure it was open, even though an "OPEN" sign was hanging on the door handle ...

Phuket Peranakan Museum

I opened the door, happy to feel aircon on a hot, hot day. Inside the room was largely empty save for photos of the princess on the wall and a couple of (quite impressive) displays of old Chinese style tableware. And on the far side of the room a desk and several surprised looking young ladies, a couple of whom were dressed in olde Baba / Nyonya style clothes. Oh my goodness! A visitor! One of the young ladies spoke decent English. I signed in to a visitors book, was given an information brochure and was happy to hear that there is no entry fee. I had a quick look at the displays in the main room (which would have been the ground floor of the bank).

Phuket Peranakan Museum

Behind the desk is a back room that was originally the bank vault. Inside is a small collection of jewellery and some explanations of what the jewellery is/was for.

Phuket Peranakan Museum

Phuket Peranakan Museum

(above) Gold jewellery on display in the former bank vault of the Chartered Bank.

I should explain a few of the meanings of words ... Peranakan is the name given to people of mixed Chinese and Malay decent. By "Malay" I don't mean "from Malaysia" but "from the Malay peninsular". In the early 19th century many Chinese left Southern China and settled in places like Singapore, Malacca, Penang and Phuket. The majority of the Chinese were male and many married local ladies. Phuket had a huge influx of Chinese at a time when the tin mining industry was taking off. The names Baba and Nyonya are also used - Baba are the men, Nyonya are the ladies. There is a big Baba Wedding ceremony here in Phuket every year which I have attended a couple of times.

So I was informed by the museum staff (volunteers, I guess, since it's a free entry!) that an Audio Visual presentation would start at 1:30pm on the 2nd floor of the museum. The presentation takes place 5 times per day at 10am, 11am, 1:30pm, 2:30pm and 3:30pm. Every day except Monday when the museum is closed. Well .. I was there at 12:30, so had an hour to kill walking around old town and finding some cheap local food for lunch. Plenty of cafes and restaurants around old town. Back at the museum, I was taken upstairs - just me! A good view from the 2nd floor looking over the road to the clock tower - the building used to be the police station in the early 20th century ...

Phuket Old Clock Tower

The "audio visual" presentation took place in several small rooms. One of the volunteers guided me, and several Chinese tourists who also turned up to watch halfway through the first part. It started well with a film showing Chinese heading away from war torn South China to seek their fortune and ending up in Phuket after many weeks at sea.

Phuket Peranakan Museum

The second part might have been good but the sound was not working - showing the Chinese settling in to Phuket and having families. Then we had a display showing family life in a typical shophouse style house with the skylight in the middle, followed by small displays about Nyonya clothing and some local foods. It maybe needs a little more work, maybe more signs explaining things, but anyway ... free entry and aircon!

Phuket Peranakan Museum

(photos above show parts of the audiovisual display)

And that was about it .. for now. Over the road in the clock tower building, work is underway with some more presentations of photos and information. I think I'll head back next year and see what's been added. I'm a big fan of museums although I do realise most people visit Phuket for beaches and museums may not be top of the list of things to do! But my Phuket blog does try to suggest more than just the usual attractions, and I do recommend looking around old Phuket Town and so .. why not have a quick look at this museum while you are there!

NOTE - there is another place by the main road in the north of Phuket called the Peranakan Museum, quite a big place. I might check it out soon, but as far as I know it's just a couple of rooms of displays and then some souvenir shops and a restaurant .. a place for bus loads of Chinese to browse, I suspect. (website here)

More places to visit near the Peranakannitat Museum

Thai Hua History Museum
Chinpracha House
Kopitiam Cafe
Old Chinese Herb Shop
Abdul's Roti Shop

Phuket Peranakannitat Museum - Location Map