19.07.2016 - 19.07.2016 34 °C
The candle float from Wat Liab in Ubon Ratchathani that was crowned champion during the 2015 Ubon Candle Festival
Unexpectedly, I was in Ubon Ratchathani, the north eastern province which is also known as the Isaan region of Thailand. July is the beginning of Khao Phansa season, where during the ancient times, the monks will converged in temples instead of moving from place to place to offer blessings in return for food from the public. This was when the raining season begins and the monks will stay inside the temple to meditate and reflect on the past. Due to the lack of availability of electricity supply, the people in the old days in this Isaan region also offer candles to the monks providing alternative to the lights as source of brightness during night time. Soon, the idea came about on how not to waste the abundance of candles that were left over after the end of Khao Phansa season. This was when the people in Isaan region in Thailand creatively use the candles to carved it into various sculptures depicting the life, culture and belief of Thai society. And there born the tradition of the yearly candle festival held in the north east provinces of Thailand. It is a very distinctive and unique festival to the people of Isaan in particular Ubon Ratchathani as the Candle Festival is so well known to all the Thais all around the country. Internationally, the Candle Festival has gained much reputation with even competitions related to candles carvings creativity being held in conjunction with the Khao Phansa Candle Festival which drove foreign talents to Ubon in showcasing their great carving skills. The Candle festival will usually be held for 3 days in which this year's version of Khao Phansa started 18 and ended on 20 July 2016. The week before the actual festival begins, visitors have opportunity to visit selected temples around Ubon which were open to the public for preview on how the creative carvers came together to carved out some outstanding sculptures which include the Buddha, elephant, horse, flowers, and Phra Khrut Pha (A garuda symbol used by Thai government for official documents). The Candle Festival ultimate highlight would be the Candle Float Parade which received participation from various organisations, private companies, state-owned entities, local government agencies, schools and of course from temples all around Ubon Ratchathani.
THE CANDLE FLOAT FROM WAT LIAB UBON THAT WAS THE 2015 UBON CANDLE FESTIVAL CHAMPION BEING PLACED IN AN ENCLOSURE OF THE WAT
THE CANDLE FLOAT FROM WAT LIAB BEING PULLED TO THUNG SI MUEANG PARK FOR PUBLIC VIEW ON THE NIGHT OF THE EVE OF THE CANDLE FESTIVAL DAY PARADE
Other than the candle float parade, I also spent some time to savour one of the best Ubon food, which is the "kway chap graduk moo" or rice noodle with soup and pork ribs. This soup based noodle dish has very strong similarity with the central Vietnam's specialty in Hue known as Bun Bo Hue or spicy and sour soup based beef noodle. This Ubon version of kway chap graduk moo has different variety which is distinctive to each different shops that sell this noodle. But most importantly, it is served with the soup boiled from pork ribs which can either be chopped into mid-size or small sizes added with moo yor which is a fermented steamed pepper pork sausage wrap in banana leaves (a special pork sausage in Indochina region which also available in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam), fresh eggs, white carrot, minced pork and sprinkled with onion leaves and culantro.
A BOWL OF DELICIOUS HOT KWAY CHAP GRADUK MOO IN UBON
On the eve of the Candle Float Parade Day, all the candle floats will be taken to the Thung Si Mueang Park located right in the heart of Ubon Ratchathani city for the people, visitors, tourists be it local or foreigners to have a closer look prior to the candle float parade day. I have the opportunity to have a first look at the candle float which was the overall candle float champion during the 2015 Ubon Candle Festival. This candle float was from Wat Liab which I did not visit during the previous year Khao Phansa where other than witnessing the candle float, I also have been visiting several temples around Ubon taking opportunity from an extended visit here for the special festival last year. Wat Liab is one of the few newer temples in Ubon Ratchathani and what made the temple special was that it has 2 chedis instead of the usual single chedi. Wat Liab's chedis were also different from other temples' chedi because the chedis were accessible with sculptures of sitting Buddha placed inside. Others would only have full chedi structure without any entrance to it.
WAT LIAB IN UBON RATCHATHANI
All candle floats will be readily available for open viewing by curious visitors who came from all around Thailand and the world by the evening of the eve of the Candle Festival. Thung Si Mueang Park in downtown Ubon city was turned into an overly hectic, busy, noisy and festivity city when people thronged endlessly to get preview of each of the candle floats. While the people took party to the street, you will see many retailers taking advantage of sea of people that stroll the streets to snap photos of themselves, their loved ones and friends with the candle floats to sell goodies and food. I did not stay for the actual Candle Festival Parade as I was not intentionally be here in Ubon for the most important and grandest festival of the year but was indeed still feel glad that I managed to get a glimpse of the festivity and joined the candle float preview. This year's candle floats also seen the revival of the floats with sculptures derived from banana leaves after a short absence as I did not witnessed this during the last year's festival. Maybe in years to come, there will be some other creative additions to the current tradition which could attract more visitors to Ubon and add more colours to this well known and special festival to Ubon specifically and Thailand generally.
THE VARIOUS CANDLE FLOATS FROM RANGE OF PARTICIPANTS BEING PARADED AT THUNG S MUEANG PARK IN UBON ON THE EVENING OF THE EVE OF THE CANDLE FESTIVAL PARADE