For our 3rd city, we started to explore northern Thailand and landed in Chiang Mai. It’s about 1 hour flying, 8 hours by train from Bangkok – can you guess which route we took? #backpacking. As mentioned, Chiang Mai is in northern Thailand and I *think* it’s the second largest city – to Bangkok of course. It’s definitely modern and cosmopolitan but not nearly as busy or dizzying; not nearly as many skyscrapers and high rises; and not NEARLY as hot or humid!!!
It’s nestled in the mountains which means there’s a whole lot of greenery surrounding the city which I’ve come to realize I really love. Similar to Kanchanaburi its super peaceful, calm and beautiful.
We arrived just at the end of the Lantern Festival, which takes place all over Thailand and other countries in SE Asia. Called Loi (sometimes spelled Loy) Krathong and is held every year on the full moon of the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar which means it always happens in November but the specific dates vary year to year. The name can be translated to mean “to float a basket” and stems from making decorated baskets or krathongs to float in the river. These baskets are traditionally made out of banana stalk & adorned with candles, incense and sometimes small change. Loi Krathong also coincides with Yi Peng (a festival in northern Thailand) in which thousands and thousands of people launch Lanna style lanterns into the sky – it’s quite a site and pictures and videos do not do it justice.
Originally, Loi Krathong was a way for people to pay respects to 3 Gods: Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma but about 150 years ago, it was adopted by Buddhists to honor the Buddha. Nowaways, people say prayers to ask that their wishes and hopes for the future be fulfilled. The lights that are floated down the river are meant to symbolize the drifting away of bad luck & misfortune. However for many Thai people, it’s also an opportunity to honor the Goddess of water – Phra Mae Kong Ka.
After we checked into our place, we went to find a dinner spot and happened across a place right on the river called Deck 1. After a weeks of fried noodles and pork, we decided to treat ourselves to a place that had lighter options. Because it was the night of the festival, the place was full for reservations however we smooth talked the hostess to let us sit at arguably the best table until the reservation at 8. We posted up around 5:30 and enjoyed appetizers, main course, dessert and washed it down with a bottle of wine. After we finished, we went to get lanterns and krathongs and walked the streets which was by far the best part. It was full of people from all over the world with infectious energy. Legit, everyone just wanted to have a great time and had not a care in the world. So glad to have experienced something so wonderful – hope we discover more things like this.