The huge vessel drifts past our bank then disappears downstream like a fiery ghost. Another boat, of equal intricacy and size follows, then another and another. In Thai these are known as rua fai, although English approximations like “illuminated boats” or “fire boats” hardly do justice to these spectacular, artistic conflagrations. The original rua fai were modest, candle-lit rafts that carried offerings of flowers, incense and a little money to other villages downstream. The fire in the boats had two functions, to symbolically burn away the previous year’s suffering and to petition the nature deities for future good weather, long life and prosperity. [2005]

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