By KIMBERLY JUCHNOWSKI
Chiang Mai is certainly one of the most beautiful cities in Thailand. There’s just something about it that makes you never want to leave. Possibly the best time to visit the city is during the magical celebration Loy Krathong, also know as the lantern festival. It takes place from November 1 to November 3 but you can see lanterns floating in the skies all over Thailand even a couple weeks before it starts. I was in Pai towards the end of October and saw at least a few dozen lanterns floating up into the night’s sky.
Even though it’s one of the most recognized holidays in Thailand it’s a little hard to understand what it’s really about or who it honors. There are a few different theories on the origin but the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that it is about washing away your bad luck and misfortunes. Every year tens of thousands of candles are sent down the rivers in floats and even more lanterns are released into the sky. There is a strong belief that lives are ruled by the power of good and bad luck in Thai culture. When the Thais send these candles down the rivers and lanterns into the sky they believe it will bring them good luck in the new year. Any bad luck from the past year is washed away with the beautiful drifting lights.
The lanterns are made out of paper with a wire that circles around the base. In the center is a good size, donut shaped candle. You unfold the lantern, then hold a lighter to the candle in the middle until it lights, which can take a pretty long time. Once it is lit, you hold the top of the lantern letting it fill up with the hot air from the candle. Once the lantern is good and full you will feel it start to rise and then you release it into the air and hope it flies. I say “hope” because you never know how the wind will shift things. I’ve seen lantern get stuck in power lines, stuck to the side of buildings, and even collide with other lanterns and come down on people. Sometimes the wax drips down from the candle just after its taken off and can sting a bit when it lands on you, nothing too crazy to worry about though. It’s actually pretty funny to see how lax people are about the safety when having 5,000 people launching these very flammable objects into the air.
It does get a little hairy though when the fireworks get involved. The Thai people love their fireworks and during Loy Krathong a lot of people seem to think it’s a good idea to attach the fireworks to the lanterns and send them firing off into the sky. Fun to watch. As long as you aren’t anywhere near them. A lot of people actually get injured during the festival due to the lack of concern for safety. You’ll even see locals throwing firecrackers at the feet of the tourists. Of course it’s all in jest and they do not mean any harm, but it is still pretty startling and can make some people feel pretty unwelcome. If you happen to be in Thailand in November try to make your way to Chiang Mai during the festival. It is without a doubt the best place to experience Loy Krathong. The city comes to life with parades, partiers, and families all flooding the streets to participate in a few magical days.
Kimberly Juchnowski first fell in love with travel three years ago when she went on a seven month tour across five countries. She blogs regularly about Thailand packages and is always looking to find the best Thailand travel deals and share them through her site tikikiki.com.