After a couple of weeks of lazing about, the last couple of days have been really busy – at least for us!! Yesterday we had to move to a new apartment. Because we have extended our stay a couple of times, we could no longer stay in the apartment at the Astra. We were so fortunate to stay there for as long as we did. It was in the heart of Chiang Mai and only a 15 minute walk to the old city. Our new apartment on the other hand is quite a ways from the Epicentre. It is also not as luxurious so we were feeling somewhat sorry for ourselves for a few minutes. The new apartment is right next door to a super mall so we thought we would check it out. It is definitely a high end mall with most prices higher than our North American counterparts. It does have a food court however so we were able to have a bite to eat and sooth our wounded souls. It also has a movie theatre so we spent a lovely afternoon watching Bohemian Rhapsody- the story of Freddie Mercury and Queen. It is a wonderful movie and if you haven’t seen it yet, I encourage you to do so.
Today we were up and about fairly early as we were celebrating American Thanksgiving with some of our new expat friends. We met at the Grandview Hotel and enjoyed a wonderful International Lunch Buffet. Unfortunately there was no turkey or mashed potatoes and gravy, but the food and the company was good nonetheless.
After lunch we decided to walk back to the Astra as Richard had forgotten his belt there. It was a bit of hike but we were prepared with our running shoes and a couple of full water bottles. About half way there we stopped for a couple of beers at our favourite Canadian pub. We got to the Astra a little after 3 PM, retrieved the belt and came up with a plan for the rest of the afternoon.
Loy Krathong (the Festival of Lanterns) and Yee Peng Lantern Festival are currently on in the city of Chiang Mai. We thought that it would be worth checking it out so we started walking towards the river where we were told most of the events happen. As it was still mid afternoon, we crossed the river and walked alongside the riverbank. We were able to watch the vendors setting up their stalls, the pyrotechnicians setting up for fireworks and many other preparations taking place. We were looking for an establishment to sit for an hour or so (most activities start after dark) but with American Thanksgiving and Loy Krathong both taking place, there was not a seat to be had. We finally decided on a spot on some cement steps looking over the river. We struck up a conversation with our neighbors, four young women from Chicago who were in Chiang Mai for a few days. They had spent the last week or so touring in Vietnam and Cambodia. We whiled away a couple of hours as we waited for the festivities to begin. The festival consists of Sky Lanterns – Khom Loy/Khom Fai and Krathong – Floating Lights
The Khom Loy, also known as Khom Fai, is a cylinder of paper about one meter high, braced with wire circles. Suspended from the bottom of the cylinder is a coil of cotton soaked in kerosene. Fireworks and firecrackers are also often attached to the tray. These catch fire and explode after the balloon is launched. Once the cotton is lit it takes about a minute for the air inside the cylinder to heat up enough to lift the balloon into the air.
It is believed that launching one of these balloons can send a person’s bad luck and misfortune away into the air, especially if it disappears from view before the fire goes out. Often people will say a short prayer before launching the balloon. Sometimes they will also place their address in the balloon, or write it on the outside. Anyone who later finds the balloon can then claim money from the sender. In this way the good fortune is shared.
The Krathong is a small floating offering about 20 centimeters in diameter. Traditionally this is made from the leaves and wood of the banana tree. The raft is decorated with flowers, a candle and an incense stick. People often leave a small coin in the krathong, and occasionally they will leave a lock of the hair or even nail clippings. On the night of the full moon, people will light the candle and the joss stick, say a prayer, and float their krathong down the river.
As with the Khom Loy, this is a way that bad fortune can be discarded and made to float away. Thousands of these will float down the river making for a beautiful and moving spectacle. Usually, at the same time, thousands of Khom Loy will be drifting across the sky, so that the night sky mirrors the spectacle on the water. Almost constant firework displays, and the splashes of small boys diving in to collect the coins in the krathongs, complete the picture, and make for an unforgettable experience.
We purchased a Krathong for 20 Baht (less than a dollar) and the Chicago girls and I lit our offering and let it go down the river. I didn’t put any coins in mine so didn’t see any boys diving into the river after it!! The sky was also lit up with thousands of Khom Loy. I read an article that stated that Chiang Mai had asked for permission to launch 64,000 of them. Not sure if there were that many but it was pretty spectacular. We wandered back into the streets and it was MAYHEM!! People, music, food vendors, motorcycles and cars were all on the streets. We grabbed a couple of food selections and headed towards a quieter street where we called an Uber (or Grab as they are called in Asia). After walking about 12 miles today, we thought we deserved a ride. All in all, it was a wonderful day and we were able to take in some of the Chiang Mai culture. It doesn’t get any better than that.
There is an ice rink at the mall next to where we are now staying.
Celebrating American Thanksgiving with our new American friends.