Before we left on this journey I got the crazy idea that maybe we should festival hop our way across the world. You know, experience a country through its holidays? Ever practical, Danny shot the idea down for logistical reasons, it would involve too much land jumping. Fortunately we’ve caught a few festivals here and there on our travels, mostly out of sheer luck, and they’ve always been interesting experiences. We were bummed to have missed the autumn traditional boat races in Laos, but excited when we saw a poster in Bangkok for the Loi Krathong Festival.
Loi Krathong originally probably celebrated the spirit of the water, and traditionally people release small banana leaf boats, decorated with flowers and candles into the river on the night of the full moon. Coinciding with Yi Peng, or the lantern festival celebrated in Northern Thailand, the entire festival is called a festival of lights and basically its just a good excuse to have fun. After catching a floating parade and fireworks in Bangkok we headed to Chang Mai, in northern Thailand to see the festival in its full glory.
Three days of fireworks, parades, parties, music, street markets, food and of course lanterns.People released their own small boats into the rivers and causeways, but the real festival in Chang Mai was in the air. Each night hundreds of thousands of white paper lanterns were lit and released into the air. Couples, families and friends gathered around each lantern and launched it into the air. Like small sparkling stars, the lanterns floated around in the sky following the wind. It was magical, although more than a few did crash and burn!
Chang Mai has two special markets, the Sunday Market and the Night Market. Combining these two with the festival left us wanting nothing, from food to crafts to crazy nick nacks. The streets were crowded as huge colorful parade floats, with beauty queens and religious depictions rolled by. Although we didn’t actually see it, there is supposedly a float just for the infamous lady boys. According to the lady at our hotel, they’re they best looking women in the parade. Decked out in flowers, lights, glitter, lady boys and fabric, the parade was a feast for the eyes.
At the end of the festival, we set off our own lantern for good luck in the upcoming year.