Thanks to the start of Buddhist Lent and the offical start of the rainy season here in Thailand, we enjoyed a nice long weekend in July. We were considering treating ourselves to some gin and tonics in Chang Mai but then one of our Thai friends invited us to go with them to Khorat where there is an annual candle festival. Keen not to pass up an opportunity to experience a bit of Thai culture and our first Thai festival, we took her up on this kind offer.
We did not regret this decision and our 'family' of 6 plus chauffeur went on a 2 day road trip in a rather plush minivan including an unnecessary trip to the Cambodian border and a magic double banana.
The candles are really more wax sculptures - there are no wicks and i cannot imagine any of these giant structures being lit! As we arrived in the centre of Khorat we passed intricate sculptures depicting Buddha, elephants, the King and flying horses amongst many other things. We stared at them in amazement only to be told that this was the 'bronze' category and we hadn't seen the good ones yet!
On Saturday the floats were paraded throughout the city, wobbling slightly and struggling to dodge the overhead wires! It was an amazing sight and the city centre and a real carnival atmosphere.
Our tour guides and new family are Vietnamese so we were kept full with Vietnamese coffee, breakfast, a feast for lunch and all the local treats our new friends could lay their hands on. I really miss good coffee and I think a trip to Vietnam would be worth it just for the coffee!
After Khorat we visited the ancient Khmer temple at Phimai. The ruins were beautiful and you could still seed Khmer inscriptions on some of the walls. It has made us very keen to visit Cambodia and Anghor Wat to experience more Khmer culture.
Our last stop before heading home was to see a banyan tree. It is a small woodland that is actually all one tree - the trees branches have roots and so grow back into the ground as new trees. It's beautifully eerie and reminds me of The Lord of the Rings - this is the kind of tree that whispers!
As part of the Buddhist holiday, people were releasing fish into the river to 'make merit'. One woman turned around and lobbed a turtle over her head - a pretty big splash followed!
We had a wonderful couple of days full of culture, food and generosity. We are in full swing at school at the moment but are looking forward to our next little adventure! Unfortunately we lost our camera and all our footage from our trip so for now it's just photos but we hope to be able to get back to filming soon.