When I think of Thailand, I envision candle lit lanterns taking off into the sky and competing with the stars for a spot to twinkle. Having always seen this in travel blogs and tourism guides, I was ecstatic that I got to make this a reality when I attended the ‘Loy Krathong’ festival in Chiang Mai.
Considering this was Chiang Mai’s busiest time of the year and one of Thailand’s largest events, I decided to spend the day exploring some of the more authentic highlights of Chiang Mai before the city went into full blown tourist mode.
So I went temple running! I walked around the temples, taking in the intricate designs on the walls and the traditional practices of the monks that sat inside. The orange and gold paint on the temple’s ceiling matched the apricot orange robes that clothed the monks.
As the lantern festival grew near, you could feel the atmosphere change. I walked along the streets of the city and noticed a larger community presence as the locals gathered to prepare for the following evening.
Many locals who had picked flowers all day were sorting them into bouquets whilst others braided straw to make baskets. They then put the flowers in the hand-made baskets and added a candle as the finishing touch.
These baskets were then sent off down the river as the locals chanted prayers to the river gods of the Mekong. As I gathered by the water’s edge ready to cast my gift to the gods, I was told to light the candle as soon as the basket touched the surface of the water. As I set it off down the Mekong, the flame danced along the ripples of water and my basket floated down the river into the darkness.
The sense of community strengthened when a mix of locals and tourists wrote messages of love and hopes for the future on their paper lanterns and sent them off into the sky. Although there were thousands of people by the river, all sound was omitted as we all watched in a breath-taken silence.