There really is something magical about the North of Thailand. It holds a type of beauty different than other parts. Before beginning my travels, I had based my trip off the Yi Peng and Loy Krathong festival in mid November held in Chiang Mai. Both are a festival of lights in celebration of Buddha on the full moon.
Upon trying leaving Pai, Kole and I tried buying bus tickets to Chiang Mai, shooting for around 10 or 11 in the morning. When we got to the bus station, we found that all tickets were sold out except for the last tickets at 5 pm. We bought the tickets, both not really minding, because we definitely learned that if it’s something you can’t change, it’s something not to stress about. All day, we sat in several cafes, people watched, blogged, vlogged, and got some shit done.
When 5 finally rolled around, we got on separate busses headed to Chiang Mai. When I say we got the last tickets, we literally got the last 2 tickets for 2 seperate busses.
With that, we were off down the WINDY 3 hour road. Luckily, my mini bus driver this time took corners quite slow and steady, instead of my last crazy, life flashing before my eyes, stomach churning driver.
Arriving in Chiang Mai, I made my way to the Dozy Hostel, a place we booked in advance as the city was very busy during this time of year. The festival took place from the 13th to the 15th of November, this year. Driving in the back of my taxi, I was able to see my first glimpse of the first part of the festival, the floating lanterns in the river, a sight I would soon get to see up close and personal in the next days.
The second day of the festival was the big, main day of the 3 day festival. This year, since the passing of the King, the festival was meant to be far more traditional than in past years out of respect. It was interesting, because no one seemed to know what was going on or what to expect, not even locals. The whole festival was not orchestrated or organized in any way, except by the people showing up and participating.
Kole and I got to the festival very early, around 5 pm, on our shared motorbike, as we could only find one to rent after walking around for hours. After seeing the INSANE traffic, it was a blessing I was not able to rent one, because my driving skills are limited to back roads and chill rides, not the pile up of madness, which Kole maneuvered and kept us alive, bless his confidence and driving skills. Luckily, since we arrived so early, the we got an awesome parking spot, and were able to see all the stands and beauty before the crazy rush of people flooded in.
We walked around, admiring all the “boats” we could buy and release into the river. We chose our floats, (mine taking me a while, because how do you choose from all that art) and a lighter and made our way to a small dock which we could do our release. We lit the candles within the floats as well as the incense, making a wish as we watched them float away down the river, carrying our hopes and wishes within it, as believed.
As the hours went by, more and more people began showing up. At about 7 pm, we saw the very first lantern be released into the sky, the next part of the festival.
Prior to, we asked several locals if there would be the lantern release this year, and no one had a clue what this year would be like or even where you could get the lanterns. As more people showed up, more floating lanterns came with them. We asked several people where they got them, and they said the only place was in China Town, about a 40 minute walk from where we were. We decided as amazing as it would be to release our own lantern, we didn’t want to miss out on the beauty of all the lanterns beginning to light up the sky.
Walking around and seeing this festival truly was magical. The lanterns lit up the river as well as the sky, and even though it was crowded, and cars were honking and most people would see the atmosphere as frustrating, I was able to drown all the chaos out. I ignored the mass people and just stared into the night sky. The feeling I got from the festival was so immense… I really felt like I actually was letting go of whatever may have been holding me down, even though I had not released my own lantern… yet.
As we watched the lanterns and lit boats, we overheard a girl asking several people where they got their lanterns.
“Right down the road, about a 5 minute walk. Kole and I looked at each other. Should we…? Yes. We sprang up and followed the girl as she made her way toward the direction she was pointed. She actually passed where the lanterns were, so we caught up with her and stopped her. We decided we would all get our own lantern and release them together. 3 lanterns, 3 travelers. Yes! Not stressing out over things has probably been the reason I have got myself into some of the things I have. I have realized things have a way of working themselves out, if you let them.
Even more full of energy and life than I was before, as I got to release a lantern now, the image in my head I had since I had gotten to Thailand, we made our way to the bridge.
The lanterns were quite large, much larger than some you would see in photos or other festivals. We put together our lanterns and lit them, watching them as they began to inflate with the heat. When they were full of hot air, I gathered up any negative energy I had inside me, and when we slowly let go of the lanterns and watched them float away into the night sky, I felt as though I was watching all that negative energy float away with it, a sort of meditation in ways.
This festival made me feel truly alive. Maybe it was because of the atmosphere I created for myself in making its meaning of the release mean something special to me. Or maybe it really was the fact that the celebration was of your wishes coming true and of bad luck leaving you. Of negative energy leaving you. I felt on top of the world, filled with so much joy and amazement throughout the night, that I truly could not explain. I will have this image of a truly magical night in my head forever. A sense of love and fullness and sense of self.
What an amazing, life fulfilling experience this was for me. It’s quite interesting how different experiences can affect people so differently. Some may have seen this festival as negative for all the people that filled the streets, but I found it magical. That’s the thing. Any experience you have is exactly what you make it. I really have been starting to learn to see the good in all situations, and how to fill myself with love and life with the simple beauty’s and experiences life holds. It is my choice to be happy and to love life. That realization has saved me, and fills me with so much joy in knowing that this is just the beginning to a wonderful, full life.