Thursday, November 10, 2011

Loy Krathong and Yee Peng Festival

Today started out with a great little breakfast at our hotel's outdoor restaurant.  We had eggs, toast, fresh fruit, chicken sausage skewers, fruit smoothies, and coffee.  As a bonus it has an excellent view of the rehab clinic across the street.....

After breakfast we set off to see some temples- it would be irresponsible to come all this way and not get some culture.  Lauren took charge of the map and making sure we had all our belongings & sunscreen on, earning the title of Mama-San for the day, and led us off through Thapae Gate.  All the temples were ridiculously beautiful and ornate.

Wat Phan Tao


Because of the festival there were also lots of additional lantern decorations around the city and at the temples themselves.



Wat Chedi Luang 


We saw lots of people worshipping, including monks, which was pretty special.  This is probably one of my favorite photos of the trip, if not of all time.

 During our snorkeling excursion back on Phi Phi, I scraped the top of my foot against some coral.  Since it was conveniently located in the exact location of my flip flop strap, it subsequently became a red, angry, mess so we stopped at the pharmacy so I could bandage it up.  Amanda is apparently allergic to Thailand itself, so we also picked up some cream for her plethora of rashes.

We decided it was time for some curry so we stopped at Henry (I hear that is a very traditional Thai name, almost like John in America) next door to the pharmacy for some lunch.  Preston took a tuk tuk over from his hotel to join us & we ordered what I believe in America is called "an irresponsible amount of Thai food."  Everything we had was really amazing, we got a curry of each color, an extra masaman curry (which was beyond amazing, even if it did have pineapple in it & caused me to get a couple hives- totally worth it) and two orders of some of the best spring rolls I've had in either country.  And of course we had an assortment of lassies (fruit smoothies) to wash them down.

Lauren had used the bathroom in the pharmacy during lunch so I headed over there before we got going again.  I asked the woman if I could use her bathroom and she looked at me a little weird but gestured through the door.  I walk back into what is clearly- her house!  She had a bed, a TV, a little area to make food and the bathroom had a shower in it.  I was mortified I had just invited myself into this woman's home- she is probably expecting us to come back later and invite ourselves over for dinner.

After that little fiasco, we took a trip to the Museum of Culture and Art, conveniently located next to the women's prison.  It was two floors with interactive exhibits and dioramas, plus they had a photography exhibit with pictures from all over Thailand, which I was excited about.

After getting all knowledgable about Chiang Mai's history, we walked back to the hotel, stopping for some fresh coconut ice cream off the street cart and to take some photos of some more lanterns being set up in the square & at the monks residences.

We went to our respective hotels with plans to regroup and check out the parade in a little bit.  As soon as we stepped out onto the street, we could see the full moon over the rooftop (of the psych center lol) and a handful of lanterns floating way up in the sky.  It was so beautiful and I had no idea how much better it was going to get.

We walked up to the end of our street to find we were right on the parade route.  We grabbed a banana pancake (it had been about 4 hours since I had eaten one, so I was overdue) and watched the parade go by with all the costumes, floats, and music, as more and more lanterns were going up into the sky behind them.

After awhile we walked toward the river, stopping at temples where the monks were helping people launch their lanterns.  It was really like nothing I have ever seen and it was so stunning that it's hard to put it into words and I don't think the pictures really do it justice either.  It felt really peaceful, but joyful and celebratory all at the same time.  I can't even believe that I got to have this experience, I'm just really thankful.


We were lucky enough to catch a couple monks launching their own lanterns in a parking lot across from one of the temples.

The scene at the river was crazy!  Hundreds of people were launching lanterns off the top of the bridge, while others launched unregulated fireworks over the sides, basically towards the crowds of people on the riverbanks trying to make their way down the fairly steep embankment to float their krathongs, which were also lit with fire, into the river.  There would not be enough waivers in the universe to allow this to happen in America.  There were also people wading into the river to steal the coins and offering that people put on their krathong, which I'm not sure I would do since they were also selling fish and snakes that you could release alongside your krathong.  Amanda managed to get down to the water to release her krathong unscathed, I got my arm grazed by a bottle rocket trying to take photos and and we decided it was time to head for a safer ground.


It was pretty awesome to see the thousands of lanterns clustered together in the sky over the bridge but I really wanted to launch mine with the monks and have a quieter experience with it so we headed back up the street.  We got a four pack of lanterns and found a temple close by.  Lighting the lanterns and releasing them was kind of a surreal experience.  They help you get it all set up & lit and let the hot air build up underneath it, then they let go and you get to send it into the sky with a wish attached to it.  There's something really magical about the idea of thousands of wishes floating together, lighting up the night.

By this time we were starving so we stopped to get some dinner & drinks at a vegetarian restaurant on the main street.  Afterwards we got a recommendation for a place to go out and headed to Rock Bar in old city for some buckets.

We made friends with Emily and Toby, who were just coming from doing a week of silent meditation training and did not make friends with the little Thai boys who were running around the bar, trying to sell stuff, using foul American language and throwing fireworks under people's chairs!  After a couple buckets it was time to go home & we had our first ride in a tuk tuk, which we of course had take us to the 7-11 next to our hotel so we could get Thai potato chips.

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