The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

Loi Krathong Festival in Chiang Mai, where lighted lanterns fly skyward

Written By: herbrunbridge - May• 10•10

Cape Canaveral, we have lift-off

Every November on the evening of the full moon, a spectacle of lights can be seen in the skies of Thailand.  Like oversized fire flies, thousands of paper lanterns (cohm) slowly fly over every town and city in the country.  Below, the rivers are aglow with small Krathong boats made from bamboo, banana leafs, and flowers.  Aboard each of them is a payload of burning incense, candles, coins, and the wishes, hopes, and prayers of the people who set them adrift.  This is Loi Krathong, and during the full moon of the 12th lunar month, people all over Thailand celebrate the end of the rice harvest, and pray for good growth in the coming season.  Considering that Thailand has led the world in rice exportation since the 1960’s, it’s a pretty serious affair.           

Loi Krathong can be enjoyed anywhere in the country, but many would agree that it can be found at its absolute best in Chiang Mai, where without the hindrance of tall buildings and crowds, you have a clear view of the glowing sky.  This along with the cool weather and a feeling of old world romanticism, there’s no better time to visit the ancient capital.  While hundreds of people line the banks of the Mae Nam Ping River waiting to send their boats downstream, craftswomen can be seen just a few feet away painstakingly creating the beautiful Krathong, working fervently to keep up with the demand for the ornately decorated boats.  Several streets are closed down to traffic for the occasion, making it the perfect opportunity to enjoy the festivities by foot while en route to the river. 

For around 50 baht ($1.50 USD), you can also purchase a paper lantern, or Cohm from one of dozens of vendors, who are always kind enough to give you a crash course in lighting it.  A roll of tissue paper is soaked in fuel and suspended from the bottom by a wire frame.  After being lit, the Cohm is held in place while it fills with hot air.  Once full, it will begin to fly on its own.  Note: If visions of burning trees, power lines, and roof tops are flooding your mind, you can relax.  The few incidents we’ve seen of palm trees ablaze resulted in their being quickly extinguished by brave locals.  You shouldn’t have any trouble finding someone to help you get yours off the ground and safely into the air.  This wonderful event is an excellent way to begin the cool season, but make reservations early, as most hotels and guest houses in Chiang Mai tend to book quickly.

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