Amazing Thailand Lantern Festival
Amazing Thailand. Always Amazes You.
That is the official Thailand Tourism Bureau’s tagline. (http://www.tourismthailand.org/campaign/en/)
Dan and I have made fun of it since we got here.
It’s like when your teacher would say that you couldn’t use the word you were defining in your definition, right? Like there wasn’t another adjective we could have used in the second sentence?
Maybe it’s just me.
Regardless, after last weekends trip to Thailand, I am willing to cut them a little slack on the redundancy of the tagline, because AMAZING is the one word I kept using to describe what we saw.
Warning: This is a post filled with some not so beautiful photographs, to highlight an absolutely gorgeous event that we happened upon in Chiang Mai Thailand last weekend. This post showcases some poor, poor picture taking skills. I almost didn’t use any of my pictures, and the rest of them are on facebook if you want to see them in all their glory. A few excuses: First of all, I didn’t bring my big camera (who thought you would need it for a teaching conference?!), which would clearly have been better to be able to adjust ISO and such. I only had my little camera. But, I haven’t really learned how to use my little one because I always use my big one! (lesson learned) Plus, once I realized what was going on, I really was so excited that I was just pushing buttons on the camera and jumping up and down at the idea that I happened to be in Thailand on the night that this lantern festival was happening. I swear I know how to take night photographs. Swear.
Last weekend, few friends/colleagues and I were headed to a teaching workshop in the north of Thailand. We were looking forward to a few things, namely amazing Thai food, cheap messages, cheap beer, and cool weather. We ended up getting all of those things, plus unintentionally being a part of the annual Lantern Festival and the Loi Krathong Festival. I didn’t know anything about it at the time, but this is what I found out about it later.
This old festival held on the full moon night of November is said to be the most charming of all in Thailand. In Chiang Mai, a procession of floats with beautiful maidens sitting on goes through the city to the bank of the Mae Ping River, where hundreds of people assembling to float their banana-leaf containers (krathong) decorated with flowers and candles onto the river to worship the Goddess of Water. Moreover, Lanna-style hot-air lanterns are launched which are believed to help rid the locals of troubles and are also taken to decorate houses and streets.
Sounds pretty cool, right? Well, it looks even cooler. Check out this picture that I did NOT take, but was the closest to what it actually looked like on the streets of Chiang Mai. And still, doesn’t do it justice.
It was beautiful. Amazing, some might say. Everywhere you looked were these lanterns floating, like jellyfish in the sky. It was pretty loud with all of the parades and firecrackers, but when you stopped and looked anywhere in the sky, thousands of floating lanterns were shining against the black sky, and it seemed almost meditative. Really, I can’t explain how many times that night I caught myself just staring at the sky with a huge grin on my face. I don’t know why I liked it so much, but it was a pretty incredible experience.
After I realized what was going on, I wanted to be a part of it! So I ran and got my friends and we bought some lanterns of our own to light and add to the festivities.
Our new Thai friends didn’t want us to burn the city down, so they helped us with the lighting of the lanterns and told us when there was enough hot air in them to let them go. Before you let them go, all the Thai people started telling us, “Wish, wish!” so we did. (And, no, I can’t tell you mine because then it won’t come true, duh.) Our lanterns almost got caught in the masterful asian telephone wires, which I think would have boded poorly for the wish that I had made, but luckily they all made it through and floated up towards the heavens. Amazing.