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Illuminated Boat Procession


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Illuminated Boat Procession or 'Lai Reua Fai' (which literally means to set afloat a 'fire boat') held annually in October or November; the event represents a traditional Loi Krathong ceremony of northeasterners marking the end of the Buddhist Lent. The i
Last Modified On: Friday, 22/June/2007 04:45:04am

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Lhai Ruahfai festival is an age-old tradition of northeastern people. It is often held after the Buddhist Lent from the fifteenth day of the waxing moon to the first day of the waning moon of the eleventh lunar month. 


The people in rural areas of Nakhon Phanom usually join in organizing post-Lent religious festivals which include boat racing, a wax castle parade and Lhai Ruahfai.  Ruahfai or "Huahfai" in northeastern dialect is a 10-12 meter long barge made from carved banana tree trunks or bamboo. The people place on the barge items of food, desserts or anything they wish to donate for charity. The barge is exquisitely decorated with flowers, candles, incense sticks and, most importantly, the lamps and torches which are lit before floating the barge. 


The basic belief behind this festival may be similar to that of Loy Kratong festival which invokes worship of the Lord Buddha's footprints on the sandy beach of Nammahanathi river and worship of the Goddess of the river, or the mystic Naga, which inhabits the Mekong. 


Since 1980 Lhai Ruahfai has become a grand festival in Nakhon Phanom province marking the beginning of the festive season of the coming winter.  Traditionally, a 'fireboat' was hewn out of a 10-12 meter banana tree trunk or and other buoyant material readily found in the vicinity. The various forms and structure it takes is made by shaping spliced bamboo slithers and other inflammable components. Contemporary versions are either made from actual boats or petrol drums adorned with flowers, incense sticks, candles, light bulbs, fireworks and pyrotechnics. Once the ritual offerings have been made, the boats are salvaged and recycled for the next festival. 


Early on the morning of the festival day, the Ruahfai's are placed on wheels and moved, in procession, along the main road accompanied by village folk dancers. The procession ends at the bank of the Mekong River in front of the Governor's old residence. At dusk, before floating the Ruahfai, religious rites are performed including evening prayers, observing essential Buddhist precepts by listening to the sermon and joining in words of worship to the Lord Buddha's footprints. After completing these rites, the barges were lit and float them on to the river. 


Imagine brightly lit barges floating along on the river's current on a full moon night with showers of fireworks flying and crackling in the night air. What a delightful scene for both locals and tourists. This explains the large influx of tourists to Nakhon Phanom during the festival all seeking to be impressed by the beauty of River Mekong and the colorful festival.




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