On the first of November, the bungalow we were staying in put up a glimmering gold-metallic banner with red letters spelling out "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" in both Thai and English. A few other shops and restaurants hung the same sign, but unlike our bungalow, they cut off the part which read "Merry Christmas".
Either way, a New Years sign seems a bit untimely in the month of November, unless you're following the Thai lunar calendar. Because, if you did, the decor wouldn't seem out of place at all. Actually, it would be strange not to see it.
What I was looking forward to was not the Thai New Year, but what preceded it: Loi Kathrong, a festival to pay respects and ask forgiveness to the goddess of water, Pra Mae Khongkha. It occurs the night of the full moon on the 12th lunar month. It also happens to coincide with the annual floodings, which seems fitting.
In some parts of Thailand, the holiday is also celebrated on the same day as Yi Peng, the lantern festival. Millions of paper lanterns are lit and float gracefully across the sky. Sadly, due to the protected rainforest on Koh Chang, the Yi Peng celebration was prohibited. So instead of lighting up the sky, we lit up the waters with slices of banana trees covered in banana leaves to resemble a lotus flower.
After attending a festival in a nearby city with its staged plays, street markets selling everything from clothing to fried cockroaches, games for children, and stations to receive blessings from monks, we went back to the pier in our little village of Bang Bao and made our wishes for the new year before lighting the candles and letting our kathrong float off into the ocean.