Chiang Mai – Thailand – Southeast Asia – 2015 – Day 22

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It’s one of the biggest days of the year here in Chiang Mai – Loy Krathong!

A little history – Yee Peng (local name) is part of the festival of lights in Northern Thailand to show respect to Buddha. It’s date usually coincides with Loi Krathong which all of Thailand celebrates using floating lights on water. In Northern Thailand Yi Peng, which is celebrated alongside Loi Krathong, is different in that lights are placed into sky lanterns which float up into the air. Loi Krathong still happens in Chiang Mai but the actual Loi Krathong floating lanterns on water event happens the day/night after Yi Peng. as the twelfth month in the Thai Lunar Calendar corresponds to the second month in the traditional calendar of the old northern Lanna kingdom. The festival features beautifully illuminated lanterns, which are either carried, displayed in houses and temples, and even launched into the night sky. Krathong which are an offering – traditionally made out of a banana stalk and adorned with candles, incense and some money – are floated down the rivers. The Khom Loy, also known as Khom Fai, is a cylinder of paper about one meter high, braced with wire circles. Suspended from the bottom of the cylinder is a tray containing cotton soaked in kerosene. Fireworks and firecrackers are also often attached to the tray. These catch fire and explode after the balloon is launched. Once the cotton is lit it takes about a minute for the air inside the cylinder to heat up enough to lift the balloon into the air. It is believed that launching one of these balloons can send a person’s bad luck and misfortune away into the air, especially if it disappears from view before the fire goes out. Often people will say a short prayer before launching the balloon. Sometimes they will also place their address in the balloon, or write it on the outside. Anyone who later finds the balloon can then claim money from the sender. In this way the good fortune is shared.

We witness the pre-2 day festivities with loy krathong floating lanterns yesterday but it wasn’t massive. Near the US Consulate on the Ping River is where majority of it happens.

Sing Prasert GymBamrunburi – for a muay thai class – 400baht for 2 hour session. Taught by Kru Yoi who has over 30+ years experience and is 66 years old. We showed up and immediately he made us skip rope for 10 minutes. A couple from France joined us – Marion and Stan but only Stan took part. From there, he wrapped our hands and then did some quick stretches with us then broke it all down for us on the moves. You need to be relaxed and loose and unlike boxing, keep your hands high and up. My shoulders were to stiff and I kept trying to use then for all my jabs when it should be hips as your power source. No bouncing in boxing or volleyball. Left punch, right punch, upper cut, elbows, high knee, push – long kick, twist with elbow attack. It was a very intense 2 hours and he does this twice a day.

We came back to shower and figure out the rest of the day. I had to go back to the mall for my VAT refund for my camera but Andrew didn’t want to come but Adam & Amy wanted cheap eats there. We decided to meet back at the hostel for 5PM and figure out from there the evening plans. Adam, Amy and myself walked to the mall and the sun was more intense than yesterday and also it was noon-1PM. We got there and immediately went down to the northern village food court. I grabbed a khao soi – 45 baht and a lemon lime tea – 35baht. The Khao soi was hot and hits the back of your throat but it was so good. I went back to Photobug and got my forms for the VAT refund within 10 minutes then back home in a tuktuk as Adam and Amy got hit by food coma and wanted to nap. By this time, it was about 230-3PM? So they took a nap and I went exploring on my own through little streets. I went east towards a cafe called Clay Studio Coffee in the garden that I read about before which is literally a cafe in a garden with statues and broken statues covering the premises. I grabbed a thai ice latte – 65 baht – tasty but really only there for the atmosphere. From there, I continued my wandering down random streets which would eventually lead me to the east wall and continue to the south wall that would bring me back to the hostel. There are already floats in the water and the people are prepping for the nights festivities.

The parade started at 7PM and the paper lanterns weren’t suppose to be launched until around 9PM but of course people launch them anytime they want. They send some into the sky during the day as well and attached sparklers or firecrackers to them. We opted for smaller roads and made our way east to the night bazaar. Coming to the east wall, we saw the start of the parade but it hadn’t started just yet. Amy was getting “hangry” so she pushed towards finding food and not stick around for the parade. We continued east past the gate to the river and night bazaar and came to stalls that were all facing inward against the street as there is still active traffic but there weren’t really any stalls for food there so we went into the Anusan night market where there were established restaurants but considering we have been eating at the local food market stalls where food is 30-60baht seeing lowest of 120baht for the same food we ate for half the price detoured us. We ended up eating at Roadside something and I ate the chicken pad thai for 60baht – it was ok but the cheaper ones I’ve had were much better and service was much faster. We finished our meals and followed the crowd towards the river. We walked up Charon Prathet Rd and followed the people and sounds. Little stages and stalls were set up for beauty pageants, food and games with people making and selling the floating lanterns. It was very congested as motorbikes, cars, and people took over the street simultaneously trying to go north. One crossroad that was packed was Charon Prathet Rd and Loi Kroh Rd. We continued straight and all of a sudden passing that street we looked up to see a sky full of lanterns gracefully floating away – so surreal.

We eventually made it to the epicentre of Tha Phae Rd / Praisanee Rd / Chaoroen Prathet Rd and Thanon Charon Mueang where massive amounts of lanterns were being lit and released but so much light pollution to get a true effect. Mae Jo University is apparently the BIG BIG place to release but that one you need to purchase a ticket in advanced and I think it is sold at $100USD for that experience. We watched and wanted to purchase lanterns ourselves. The best deal is 3 lanterns for 100baht. Don’t buy for 50 or 100baht! If you buy further from the site, much cheaper. We went looking for lanterns and the ones within that vicinity were selling for 100baht each and illegally as police were present stopping hawkers. We walked further down back to Loi Kroh Rd where we found a guy selling them on the side of the alley where we bargained and got 4 for 40baht each. We walked east through an alley. There were food stalls and even a spot for carnie games set up. We made it to the bridge where some were releasing it but it wasn’t anything special. Underneath the bridge, people had gotten down and were releasing their floating lanterns. We crossed that bridge and went back north (tons of cheap food stalls and floating lanterns on sale here) on Chiang Mai – Lamphun Rd toward Thanon Charon Mueang and we situated ourselves at the beginning of the bridge. I was the first to go and pretty much you open it up and either holding the top end open and lighting the cotton/wax circle you flip it over and wait for the air to inflate it and is ready for take-off. The lanterns send off bad luck and you can make wishes on them as they float into the sky. It was so cool to actually release one myself and watching them float away is amazing. The next to do it was Adam then Andrew then Amy. But be warned, wait for it to truly fill up with air or they will come back down or float away really slowly and beware of falling wax!

We watched for a bit there before making our way across the Thanon Charon Mueang bridge towards Tha Phae Gate. So many police cars trying to get through which cleared a path for us to follow but man I felt bad for the motorbikes stuck in the swarm of people. Also note, don’t try to release your lantern too close to trees or wires are they will get stuck and may catch on fire. I at some point grabbed a red horse beer (not cold so not enjoyable) from a really busy 7-11 and then also grabbed a banana rotee – 25baht. We decided that it would be a better option to walk home especially in all this traffic so we continued south on Mun Mueang Rd which is the east wall and walked down the south wall back to our hostel. Definitely an experience I would recommend people to do.