The Candle Festival in Ubon Ratchatani

Discussion in 'Thailand' started by kwai, Sep 12, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. kwai
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    kwai Gold Member

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    I lived in Ubon, not to be confused with it's more foreign populated Isaan neighbor Udon Thani, for several years but never was around during the Candle Festival. Since leaving Ubon I've gone back each year for the event. Held on the full moon in July which marks the start of the 'rains retreat' or 'Buddhist lent', it is the beginning of a three month period when the monks are expected to remain within the wat they reside. The holiday itself is called Kao Paansaa.

    Ubon marks the occasion with a major parade. It's easily the biggest even in the provincial capital. As I've come to understand it, traditionally locals would bring candles to the monks during the time they were confined within the wat . Somehow, over time, this morphed into a festival where the candles were paraded ahead of the 'confinement'.

    This year the full moon was on July 15 and the parade was held on the 16th. Below are some of the pictures from 2011's event.
     
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  2. kwai
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    kwai Gold Member

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    This year I arrived early in Ubon and wandered to some of the temples in their last days of preparation. These pics are from Wat Phra That Nong Bua. As you'll notice this particular float is made from a mold and then carved. There are other styles you'll see later.

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  3. kwai
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    These next photos are from Wat Jaeng. In a very different style from above, Wat Jaeng uses small molded, colored wax to adorn the main float and add texture and complexity.

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    People living around the temple, or those having associations with, will help by taking the excess wax from the needed molds. For a float over 20m long this adds up to a large number of hours of work.
     
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  4. kwai
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    This next group of pictures is from Wat Mahawararam. Like Wat Jaeng, this temple also uses small molded pieces. They are attached to individual shapes before being put onto the float.

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    This last picture is nice because you can see the before/after aspect.
     
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  5. kwai
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    kwai Gold Member

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    This is from Wat Thung Si Meuang. They undertake a much less complex float.

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    (will add another picture shortly)
     
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  6. kwai
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    kwai Gold Member

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    Getting the candles from the temple to the viewing area:

    Typically tractors, occasionally pickup trucks, are used to move these often large and heavy floats. This is done in the middle of the afternoon on the day preceding the parade (often in rain).

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    They are accompanied by a band and supporters and the music is great and lively. :)

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  7. kwai
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    Often times last minute repairs or the final touches need to be finished.

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    And then the viewing begins. Crowds come from all over the province and beyond. Getting flights into UBP is fruitless close in; they're all sold out. Hotels as well. We often secure our lodging when the parade is announced (its never official until a month before) lest we be stuck annoying friends or worse, needing to stay outside of town.
     
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  8. kwai
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    These are from the afternoon through early evening the day preceding the parade.

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    On this next pic you'll notice there are bitter melons and long (snake) beans. I had never noticed this previously.

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  9. kwai
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    While it's crowded and difficult moving around, much less getting a good angle for pictures, the evenign can be a great time for pics.

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    Yes, those are bubbles floating above Wat Jaeng's candle.
     
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  10. estnet
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  11. kwai
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    The morning of the parade I try to get down to the city center park, where the floats congregate, fairly early. As my local coffee shop doesn't open until 7 my MO the past few years has been to walk around, photograph, and then, a bit before the parade begins, walk over to my favorite Ubon breakfast of guay jap.

    This year the sun didn't come out until the middle of the parade (no sun for the two days prior as well) so there was no nice morning sky to include. :( Here are some early morning, pre-parade, pics.

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  12. kwai
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    kwai Gold Member

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    And some more:

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    This candle below is from the float in post #2 and also in post #7 (as well as the one directly below it). It is from Wat Phra That Nong Bua and I put it here to show the intricacy of the carving.
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  13. kwai
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    The parade itself.

    The parade is filled with floats, as I've already shown, dancers, local troupes, music etc. This year I didn't see some groups that I've enjoyed in the last few years, not sure if that is due to my departure somewhat early or that they were simply not involved in this year's parade. Here is a selection of pics though.

    Music:

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    Below are several reed-like instruments called kaen. They are very common in northern and northeastern Thailand and places with ethnic Lao populations.
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    Below is a pin: a stringed instrument with a hypnotizing sound. One of my favorites.
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    I've tried to include a video (as a zip file) but it's apparently too big. If someone can alert me to the largest file size allowable I'll try to cut it down.
     
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  14. kwai
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    Here are some of the groups that participated in the parade.

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  15. kwai
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    And some more:

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  16. kwai
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    And finally, just so you don't get the idea that all I did was take pictures of the women, here's a candle from the parade.

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    Being pulled by a pickup with several women in the back. :D
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