On Explosions, Fire, and the Second Half of a Festival

Boom! Splash! Screech! Fizz! Kablam! Or for the real version, listen in HERE. Those are the follow up sounds to the last post, as this time we're talking about the Loy Krathong festival. If you were able to gather the magical and calm giddiness Yi Peng instilled, then this should be a good way to start a post about how different the two festivals are, despite being mildly linked in spirit and timing.

Almost two weeks after the floating lantern festival just north of Chiang Mai, we found ourselves still in the city and game for one more peek into the festivities and traditions that go along with this time of year in the Thai calendar. Loy Krathong is also a Buddhist festival that, while venerating the Buddha, symbolizes sending off the bad parts of oneself (anger, grudges, etc...) - in this case by floating a Krathong down the Namping river that flows down the east side of Chiang Mai.

Some days before the festival we learned of a Krathong building class at the most excellent Cafe Compassion. What better way to participate in the festival than to build our own and release them with the masses?

Build we did. It took a couple hours, but was relatively easy and, best of all, was completely biodegradable. Banana tree trunk base? Check. Banana leaf wrap and points held on with toothpick pieces? Check. Cabbage leaves, flowers and butter/clay tea candle? Check. Given that we've seen them around town made of plastic, styrofoam and/or multicolored ice cream cones(!) we were happy to go a more traditional and environmentally friendly route, knowing we wouldn't be turning any fish a bright shade of radioactive. (More documentation of in-progress and finished Krathongs can be found HERE.) Krathongs in hand, we were off to the races and totally unprepared.

Above is the crush of people along the parade route as we tried to get to the edge of the river to the left, there. Below Is Casey sending off her Krathong once we made it to the river edge, just moments after nearly receiving a prematurely released, flaming rice paper crown from some nearby festival goers. Below that one is the general scene of the place, which we stood watching in awe for half an hour or more as fireworks of every kind were launched back and forth over (or directly across, or right into the river, or sometimes not even launched at all...just lit and left).

In some ways, the chaos was almost as serene as Yi Peng. I think I was even able to get lost for two or three short moments in the steady stream of Krathongs making their way out of sight past the river bend. Overall, though, Loy Krathong is a party to Yi Peng's celebration; the flavor equivalent of a Scotch Bonnet to a slow, open-fire roasted Chipotle. Neither one is necessarily better or worse than the other and in fact I would say that each enhances the other, but their combined efforts left us both excited that we'd not only made it in time for Yi Peng, but also stayed long enough for Loy Krathong. And with any luck, some fish down the river is enjoying some banana leaf lunch on our behalf.

Location:Ratchamanka 6, Mueang Chiang Mai, Thailand