Loi Krathong

This photo was taken at a Chiang Mai temple a couple nights after the main Loi Krathong celebration.

This photo was taken at a Chiang Mai temple a couple nights after the main Loi Krathong celebration.

On the evening of the full moon of the twelfth month in the Thai lunar calendar, the nation of Thailand celebrates Loi Krathong, a festival of lights. In Thai, "krathong" means lantern, and at this holiday once per year, Thais release paper lanterns into the sky and floating lanterns on the water, often accompanied by sparklers, fireworks, and a parade. The history is complex, and Thais celebrate for many reasons including thanking the Water Goddess for a good harvest and letting go of anger and grudges from the past year. Whatever the origin, Andrew, John, Kim and I had planned our trip to Chiang Mai to coincide with the largest Loi Krathong festival in all of Thailand. Be sure not to miss the photo galleries throughout this post - the pictures are among the best on our whole trip!

That Time I Was In A Thai Parade

We showed up for the parade a little late in the evening, and only saw a few floats pass by before the crowds collapsed behind the final vehicle. Not knowing where else to go, we decided to follow the end of the parade to its destination, hoping that that would be the prime lantern-launching point for the evening. Noticing that there were still a few people on the sidelines, Andrew joked that we should smile and wave to the thin crowd of onlookers, several of whom winked and smiled in our direction. After about a minute or so though, we noticed the crowd of people who had filed in behind the parade route with us had dissipated. We looked back and realized that a couple blocks back, there were actually more parade floats behind us. Andrew, John, and our new friend Yuki headed for the sidelines, but as Kim and I looked around, we realized that we were attracting quite a lot of amused, incredulous attention from Thai parade watchers. Why not continue our little charade?

The parade shortly reconnected, with Kim and I squarely in the middle, practicing our queen wave and shouting a confident "Sawadeeka!" Thai hello to the increasingly thick crowds. Soon, there were hundreds of spectators on all sides, with people laughing, pointing, and waving to catch our eye for a photo. Behind us in the parade there was also this creepy Thai guy who made his own light up suit out of stuffed animals while he handed out flyers for his personal show. He seemed quite disgruntled that we were taking away his attention from many of the kids and onlookers, a reaction that only heightened our amusement. At several points, local police offers even stepped in to push back the crowds and make room for the parade, but each time they let us continue along the parade route. 

Lantern Release

After a solid half hour or so of parade impostering, we dove back into the crowd just before our section of the parade passed the judges table. We made our way to a central bridge overlooking the water and purchased sky lanterns for release. Soon, the sky was dotted with glowing yellow lights from the thousands of lanterns released from all over Chiang Mai, bringing a mirthful glow to the throngs of well-wishers below. 

We also got a bit creative with the sparklers...

Finally, one of my favorite things about the evening was the opportunity for some artsy photography. 

In The Sky

On The Water