Due in part to the internet, social media, and travel bloggers, Chiang Mai Thailand has become well known for a breathtaking lantern release that happens every Fall. The Mae Jo lantern release is absolutely spectacular but due to it’s growing popularity it has changed from a free local celebration into a major ticketed event. While the event still retains it’s religious aspects, many Thai’s choose not to go or can’t afford to go, thus it is now largely attended by tourists and photographers. Perhaps less widely known is that during this time there is also an extremely popular Thai festival, involving lanterns, that happens over a period of three days called Loy Krathong. In 2016 the Mae Jo lantern release and the Loy Krathong celebration coincided. This may not always be the case so it is important to check the dates of each event to see when it will take place. It is believed that Loy Krathong was originally a Brahmanic festival where people would pay their respects to the Gods Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma. It was during the reign of King Mongkut that Buddhists were urged to adopt the celebration. During the festival candles are lit to honor Buddha and at the same time practitioners pray for luck and good fortune. Khome Loy (sky lanterns) are released into the air while krathongs (floating offerings carrying a candle) are floated down the river taking the believers bad luck away with them. Many events take place during the three days and it is a wonderful time to visit Chiang Mai. The first night of the festival fell on a Sunday so we headed to Old Town to check out the very popular Sunday Night Walking Street. After walking just a bit from Tha Phae Gate we came to a square with thousands of candles and hanging lanterns, there was literally fire everywhere. lol
A woman teaches young girls to make floating krathongs.
We missed the second night of the festival because we were at the Mae Joe lantern release but we did go downtown again on the third and final night. This time we headed to the river where we hoped to see people releasing lanterns.
The closer we got the more lanterns we saw, so exciting!
The river area was packed! There were all kinds of vendors selling food, balloons, floating lanterns, krathongs, you name it.
It also happened to be the night of the parade. The theme for 2016 was honoring King Bhumibol Adulyadej who had very recently passed away.
We watched people release lanterns from the bridge and decided to release one of our own.
These lanterns are not as easy to light as you might think, and once you get it lit you have to hold on to it until it fills with hot air. It starts to get very hot and it’s hard to keep the thin paper from catching on fire. We finally got our lantern lit and just when we were about to release it, one side started to catch fire and we had to throw it overboard. 😦
After our lantern misfortune we decided to head back towards Old Town, grab some food, and then call it a night. We arrived near a section of the old wall and happened upon the best place to eat! Sadly I’m a bad blogger and do not remember the name of it. The food was good, we ate pizza, but the best part was the live music. There was a band and a terrific singer that played all the best cover songs. Instead of taking our tired selves to the hotel, we sat, drank beer, and sang along with the music for a good three hours. So much better than sleeping. We watched people continue to light lanterns below. We watched several catch on fire. Watched a couple of them get tangled up on telephone wires and burn there. I definitely wondered what might happen if the wire were to catch fire, if the block would lose electricity, but our luck held out and we enjoyed an amazing Loy Krathong.
A lantern burning on a telephone wire.
If you’d like to eat where we ate, maybe you could use the businesses across the street for reference and find it that way. I promise to remember next time. : )