I went to the Ping River last night with my neighbours to celebrate the Loy Kratong festival in the city. All week, neurologist pop-pop-BANG and CRACK could be heard in my neighbourhood and red sparks of homemade fireworks could be seen in empty parking lots, along with silhouettes of young people laughing and drinking. Nawarat Bridge was a launching point for traditional white-paper lanterns and larger fireworks, while people floated kratongs off bamboo docks along the river’s edge. On the other side of the river, we could see the steady procession of single dots of flickering candle light joining other kratongs released upstream to become a wave of twinkling lights representing hopes and prayers of the hands placing them in the water. In the sky, paper lanterns glowed amber and bobbed like jellyfish into the darkness.
The police were on display at the edges of the bridge, perhaps in response to threats from the Red Shirts who have been commemorating the six month anniversary of the violent demonstrations in Bangkok that reverberated around the world. Some carried hand guns, others rifles. Curiously, I noticed some were no older than 20 years old and others looked more like grandfathers conscripted to patrol the bridges as a show of force. Police tents were set up alongside food vendors, displaying firecrackers deemed “unsafe”, while merry-makers blew up the identical items after making sure no policemen were watching. Within an hour of our arrival on the bridge, the sound of firecrackers intensified, the acrid smell of gunpowder blanketed us and the sky sparkled with a multitude of lights, both big and small. Tourists and locals alike posed for photos, while helmeted police escorted the occasional driver willing to cross the rapidly crowded bridge.
Heading back to the car, we passed by a group of tourists who jumped back after carelessly exploding their firecracker right in front of their faces. A Thai man released a lantern with a tail of lit sparklers that brushed along his girlfriend’s hair and then wrapped itself around a bridge wire. He frantically tried to untie the sparking tail. Another person mis-aimed a shooting firecracker and it landed directly into a crowd, causing them all to shriek and jump backwards. All the while, the police watched disinterestedly, perhaps thinking of the beers and whiskey sodas waiting for them at home when their patrol was over. Along the Canal Road, we drove by hordes of university students spilling out of bars and lounging along the concrete separators of the irrigation canal. Coloured lanterns fluttered in the warm night wind.
On my way to UHDP in Mae Ai, cardiologist
I saw these Osama bin Laden mud flaps on a truck we were passing. Haha.