Rap Bua Festival 2008
The annual “Lotus Receiving Festival” (rap bua) took place this morning at Bang Phli, Samut Prakan. I have been going for a number of years now and I have always been moved by the crowds of thousands who line the banks of Samrong Canal to throw lotus flowers onto a boat carrying an image of the Buddha. The event is held towards the end of the Buddhist Rain Retreat on the morning before the full moon of the 11th lunar month in the Thai calendar. This is usually in October. I try to go early in the morning but I always find it difficult to find a place to stand on the banks of the canal near Wat Bang Phli Yai Nai. The boat carrying a replica of Luang Pho To was due to arrive at 8 a.m. but there was no available space when I turned up at 7.30 a.m. So, this time I decided to park my car at the nearby Wat Bang Phli Yai Klang and then walk to the Tetsaban administrative offices alongside the canal. They also had many activities here for the festival, including demonstrations of Thai traditional games and Thai music.
The route for the boat carrying Luang Pho To goes from Wat Bang Phli Yai Nai westwards to Wat Bang Phli Yai Klang. It usually takes about 90 minutes as there is a ceremony about half way at the Tetsaban offices. You can take part in this festival anywhere you like along the canal. Most people will wait at Wat Bang Phli Yai Nai as you can see in the picture above. But you will have to go early if you want to get a good spot. There is no need to bring lotus flowers as you can easily buy them once you arrive. The canals around this area grow them in abundance. Many people also crowd the bridges in order to get a good view. However, be warned, the police will probably tell you to get off the bridge once the boats arrive. This is because you cannot stand directly above a Buddha image as your feet will be pointing towards the Buddha’s head. The same goes for any member of the royal family as they drive down a road. The police will block every pedestrian bridges across the road and all vehicle u-turn bridges.
For the first time this year I decided to take pictures of the event from Tetsaban. This is the administrative office for the Bang Phli Sub-District. By the time I arrived, there wasn’t that much space to stand and watch the boat parade. However, I was lucky that a member of the Thai media recognized me and came over to escort me into the VIP enclosure. This then enabled me to get a very close view of the events. Leading the ceremony was H.E. Dr. Mun Patanotai, the Information and Communications Technology Minister, and Mr. Anuwat Methiwibunwut, the Governor of Samut Prakan Province. They gave speeches and handed out some awards. Then, when the boat arrived opposite Tetsaban, it was moored here so that the distinguished guests could pay respects to Luang Pho To. In the picture above, the Samut Prakan Governor is praying after throwing the lotus flower onto the Buddha image. You can see that by this time the image is more than half buried.
The boat then continued on down the canal towards Wat Bang Phli Yai Klang where there were more worshippers waiting. Following the Buddha image were four or five large boats that were also part of the parade. At Tetsaban, a team of judges were waiting to give points to each boat. None of these were motorized and relied heavily on the oarsmen that were often women in beautiful Thai costumes. To watch this, I walked down to Wat Bang Phli Yai Klang. There is a bridge here where I always find it easier to shoot pictures of the boat procession. For most of the time, the boats have the sun behind them so I have to be careful with my camera angles. Another good reason to wait at this bridge is the drama as they try to negotiate the arch as it is the lowest on the canal. There is no problem if they go dead center. But, if they let it drift then the current could crash them into the side of the bridge. This is what happened again today. This resulted in all of the girsl on one side falling into the water. It of course could have been serious as they weren’t wearing the best of swimming gear. But, there were support boats nearby and one of the girls had to be rushed off to hospital with what looked like concussion.