Here in Thailand during the later part of October or the earlier part of November, they hold a large festival nation wide. The Loy Krathong (pronounced Loy Katong) festival marks the end of the monsoon season and is kinda like a festival of light. People light so many fire balloons and fireworks so that the sky looks like it's really on fire!!!
Okay, first of all, we didn't know when the festival was going to occur this year. So when we got here and we saw a large poster for it in Bangkok, we realized that we would be in Chiang Mai for the festival. We asked the lady at the front desk to tell us more about it and she told us that it was a three day celebration from November 11-13. She also told us a little bit about a certain ritual, the ritual of the floating lanterns (Kom Loy). We had seen them the first night here but we didn't know what they were. They are fire balloons that people light and send it into the sky. They wish for something while the balloon is going up. It's the same concept as a hot air balloon just smaller. The next day we found out about the boats. People make little boats called Krathong out of banana stalk, banana leaf and flowers such as marigolds, daisies and orchids. Then, during the festival they set it afloat (Loy) down the Mae Ping River with candles and incense lit. Some of the boats have their candles go out from being pushed out to the water so hard that they just get a dip into the water and lose their flame. People also make wishes for their Krathong. In Thai, Loy means "to float" and Krathong are the little boats set into the river. Through the whole festival, people light lanterns and small cookie-like candles in front of their homes. Fireworks and crackers also play a large part in the festivities.
Now, our festival itinerary.
On the first day of the festival, we had our Krathongs and matches and were heading to the river to light our boats and then watch a parade that was to go by. We delayed in putting our boats into the river and instead decided to light a Kom Loy first. They are truly huge!!! Many people get fireworks on their Kom Loy but we decided not to. The fire balloons are amazing!!! The Kom Loy we lit was a little scary but they are truly fun. I wish we could have lit more than just 2. Then our boats. We all set our boats into the water successfully and then watched the non-lit boats come down from further up the river. After that, we got some street food (safe to eat) and headed out. We then stumbled across a night market and then a Thai Dance contest so we watched that. Then we wanted to go down by the river again so we did and well, we never made it to the parade. But someone else told us that the parade the next night was even larger so we decided to head back and go to the parade the next day. The next day we headed out and we went directly to the parade. It was amazing!!! There were a lot of floats ornately decorated with lights and lotus flowers and people in amazingly beautiful costumes. There were also many fireworks and Kom Loy that night but we later discovered that there were more balloons in the sky the previous night. After the parade was over, we decided to walk down to the river to see the festivities. We got sidetracked in another night market and delayed ourselves. We finally made it to the river but only with enough time to light one last Kom Loy!!!
We keep saying that the Kom Loy would go over great in Clifton. The only thing that keeps us from buying some and starting a new fad at the lantern festival is that the fire department would call it a fire hazard!!!
Pictures (in order of appearance):
1. Many people lighting Kom Loy (fire balloons)
2. Our first Kom Loy!!! Up up and away!!!
3. Firework show!!!
4. All four of our Krathongs
5. My Krathong, the best of them all!!!
6. All the pretty Krathongs going down the river
7. A beautiful parade float
8. Another beautiful parade float
9. An example of the beautiful ladies of Thailand
10. Another parade float
11. And yet another parade float!!!