One of my favourite festivals in Thailand is the Rap Bua Festival in Bang Phli, Samut Prakan. I usually go every year now. In English, the festival translates as “Lotus Receiving Festival”. However, it has another name in Thai which I think describes it more accurately. This is “Yon Bua Festival” which translates as the “Lotus Throwing Festival”. This is basically what happens as countless thousands of local people line the banks of Samrong Canal to throw lotus flowers onto a boat carrying a replica of the famous Buddha image Luang Poh To.
If you want a good spot then you must go early. The boat carrying the Buddha image wasn’t scheduled to pass the front of Wat Bang Phli Yai Nai until after 7.30 a.m. We arrived there an hour earlier at 6.30 a.m. and it was already very crowded. All the best locations were already taken. It is on days like these that you really need to be a tall person in order to see over the heads of people. The route of the boat covers a distance of only 1.6 kms but it takes them over 100 minutes from start to finish. Most people go to Wat Bang Phli Yai Nai which, for obvious reasons, has the best atmosphere. But you can also watch the boat parade from Bang Phli Old Market, the District Office and Wat Bang Phli Yai Klang.
The boat carrying Luang Poh To wasn’t the only one on the canal. Following close behind were about five or six large colourful floats. Some were being towed while others had its own rowers all wearing traditional Thai costumes. In addition, there were several hundred smaller boats belonging to local people. Some stayed moored by the banks of the canal while others went up and down. I was lucky enough to get on the media boat this year for the first time. This allowed me to see the entire route from start to finish and I could see where all the people were waiting to throw their lotus flowers.
As the boat approached, people brought the lotus flowers up to their face to say a short prayer. Then as the boat drew nearer they then did their best to throw their lotus flower on to the boat carrying Luang Poh To. Many of them missed. At least half a dozen hit me on the head and back. People on a few boats were following close behind scooping up these lotus flowers. Someone was making an announcement telling people not to worry if their lotus didn’t reach the boat. However, some people believe that if your lotus flower lands onto the lap of Luang Poh To then your wish will come true. As I had a few recycled lotus flowers sent my way, I took advantage of this to say a quick prayer and then toss it onto the boat.
By the time the boat reached the end of the route the amount of lotus flowers had risen up to the shoulders of the Buddha image. Obviously many people had been able to throw their flowers accurately. If you are planning on going to this festival next year, then I suggest that you go to Wat Bang Phli Yai Nai first as this is where there are the most people. You have time to spend about an hour here taking pictures of the boat as it passes and then the floats. Or just soak up the atmosphere. Then hop on a motorcycle taxi that will take you the short distance to Wat Bang Phli Yai Klang where the boat will finally reach shortly before 9.30 a.m. There are less people here and much easier to take pictures.