For a few hours on the afternoon of Nov. 19, a spacious room in the University Union was transformed with festive decorations like string lights, paper elephants and gold streamers at the Thai Student Organization’s biggest event of the semester, the Loy Krathong: Festival of Floating Lights.
A large screen displayed images of glowing lanterns floating on water, providing a cozy backdrop for the festivities. Taking up the middle of the room was a blue mat where attendants could sit as they ate, talked, played board games or folded origami. At the center of the mat was a small inflatable pool filled with a colorful assortment of origami lotus flowers and dimmed candles that floated on the water’s surface. Additionally, folded lotus flowers made by TSO members were dispersed on every surface. Surrounding the mat were various stations that attendants could drift between, each denoted by posters painted by TSO members.
One of the highlights of the festival was the free food and refreshments, which members like Alita Lin, president of TSO and a junior majoring in biology, woke up at 9 a.m. to finish cooking and preparing. The event served the traditional Thai dish Pad Krakow, which Lin described as “basically ground beef with basil, garlic and Thai chilies” served alongside white rice. Along with the dish, Lin and her peers also made butterfly pea tea, a vibrant blue tea made by infusing the flower petals of the butterfly pea plant.
In addition the food, the event featured various traditional Thai games for students to try their hand at.
“The activities and the games that we chose were very unique, and we wanted to make it kind of specific to Thai culture,” Lin said.
One game, called E-Gar Fuk Khai — which Lin likened to capture the flag — had students trying to capture eggs from behind a marked line without getting tagged by a few students in charge of “guarding” the eggs. Another game was called marbles, which resembled a children’s Korean game shown on “Squid Game,” wherein players aim and roll a marble across the floor into a designated parameter. Prizes ranged from plushies and candy to traditional Thai snacks that Nortee Panpinyo, TSO’s cultural chair and a first-year graduate student studying industrial and systems engineering, brought back from his summer visit to Thailand.
Attendants who were unable to make their luck with any of the stations also had a chance to win one of these prizes through a raffle that occurred twice near the end of the event.
Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the festival was the scavenger hunt. TSO members hid multiple elephant keychains throughout the room, and those lucky few who found one would be rewarded with a prize. Toward the end of the event, nearly every attendant was searching for the last keychain, which was the most difficultly hidden. TSO members teased those searching with cryptic clues until the keychain was finally found in the mini pool of floating lotus flowers.
Macy Jiang, a freshman majoring in computer science, said her favorite part of the night was the scavenger hunt and the marbles game.
“It was really fun,” Jiang said. “I learned a lot about their culture kind of through participating in these activities.”
Planning an event of this scale was not without challenges, according to Panpinyo.
“This is a really experimental testing phase for us as TSO,” Panpinyo said. “It took since basically the beginning of the semester to plan this all out.”
Phoebe Lin, TSO’s publicity chair and a junior majoring in business administration, said that in spite of their best efforts, the TSO was met with a few hurdles even leading up to right before the event was set to happen.
“Last week they were saying this room couldn’t be used anymore,” Lin said. “We requested it and then it got canceled because Late Nite had to come.”
Additionally, preparing the food was in itself a logistical challenge.
“Food has its own restrictions if we’re cooking it off campus,” Lin said. “We had to go through Sodexo, Auxiliary Services — everything.”
In spite of these obstacles, the festival was an overwhelming success with a high turnout. TSO is already setting its sights on bigger and better future events for the club, with Panpinyo hoping to “transition into a really full-blown, large-scale banquet by next semester.”