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Nakhon Phanom Province
 


Illuminated Boat Procession
Nakhon Phanom
Nakhon Phanom is situated on the bank of the Mae Khong River opposite Muang Ta Kaek of Laos. It is where the Phra That Phanom, the most sacred and ancient religious monument of the Northeast, is located. For the Phra That is venerated by both Thais and Laotians along the Mae Khong. Although is partially collapsed some time ago, it has since been restored to its glory. Nakhon Phanom is 740 kilometers from Bangkok.

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Phra That Phanom
Phra That Phanom
Phra That Phanom is about fifty kilometers from town proper. It has not been conclusively proved when it was built. However, according to archaeologists, it is about 1,500-year-old. Fifty-two meters high, each of its rectangular bases measures 12.33 meters, and its decorative top is made of gold weighing 110 kilograms. The annual Phra That Phanom Fair is celebrated on the full-moon evening of the 3rd Lunar month. Thousands of worshippers flock to Nakhon Phanom to pay homage to this most important religious shrine in the Northeast. Stalls and performances staged throughout the 7-day celebration.


Phra That Renu Nakhon
Renu Nakhon
The most interesting amphoe in Nakhon Phanom is probably Renu Nakhon, about fifty kilometers from town. Its main religious monument, the Phra That Renu Nakhon, is similar to the Phra That Phanom but in a smaller scale. Renu Nakhon boasts a market place not unlike San Kamphaeng in Chiang Mai, with cotton, silk, dresses and quilted blankets as leading local products.

 Festival and Celebrations Manual in Nakhon Phanom Province.


Illuminated Boat Procession, 30 Oct. to 4 Nov., 1998
Illuminated Boat Procession
Illuminated Boat Procession held annually in October or November, the event represents a traditional Loi Krathong ceremony of northeasterners marking the end of the Buddhist Lent. The illuminated boats are made of banana barks, bamboo or other floatable materials with a length of at least 6 meters. The boat will be elaborately fashioned into various shapes. The procession will be advanced in the streets during the day while at night, religious rites will be observed. Later, the boats will be illuminated and launched into Mekhong river.

 

    Each year, on a full moon day in October, there is a grand festival in Nakhon Phanom called "Lhai Ruahfai", or "the floating of lighted barges" on the Mekong tiver. The day on which it occurs is the fifteenth day of the waxing of the moon in the eleventh lunar month, when the high tides fill the river to the brim. Around seven o'clock in the evening, the full moon gradually appears on the mountain range of Khammuan district.
    The origin of Ruahfai and the faith of northeastern people
    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. This festival has been maintained in Srisakate. Sakon Nakhon, Nhongkhai, Loei, Ubonratchathani and, most splendidly, in Nakhon Phanom province.
    The people in rural areas of Nakhon Phanom usually group together in "Khum" or neighbourhoods and name their "Khum" after the name of the local temple, for example "Khum Wat Tai", or "Khum Wat Nua." The Khum members will join in organising 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 metre 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.
    Activities during Lhai Ruahfai festival
    The Khum members in each village of Nakhon Phanom, as well as monks and novices, participate in making and decorating Ruahfai made with six-foot lengths of carved banana tree trunks and bamboo fashioned in the form of pagodas, and mystic birds - Naga or Garuda. Competitors are judged in accordance with the Ruahfai's beauty, ability to float on the river without capsizing and the lenght of time the lamps and torches remain visibly bright on the barge. These days, modern lighting has replaced the use of lamps and torches which burn too quickly.
    Early on the morning of the festival day, the Ruahfai's are placed on wheels and moved, in procession, along the main road accompanird by village folk dancers. It is at this stage the prizes for the best decorated boats are decided. The procession ends at rhe 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, Khum members light their barges and float them on to the rive.
    Imagine a flotilla of brightlylit 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 colourful festival.


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