[Regular visitors please note: This post is my entry to the Indiblogger/Cleartrip contest; the full day-by-day report of this Thailand trip will appear after I’m done with my Malaysia posts]
I arrived in Thailand after I got a great deal from Cleartrip last November for the Bangalore – Bangkok route: Thai Airways return flight + Rs. 1500 hotel voucher + Rs. 500 preloaded Thai SIM + entry to DreamWorld theme park — all for Rs. 16,472.
After buying a bunch of camera equipment from Bangkok, I arrived in the historical city of Chiang Mai two days later.
What was my purpose of landing up in Chiang Mai? Firstly, I love this city. The word I often use to describe Chiang Mai is ‘charming’. But the main reason why I was here in November 2010, was to witness the Thai festival of Loy Krathong, more popularly called Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai.
I always wanted to witness the festival as just seeing the photographs and videos lead me to think this is such a beautiful festival to experience first hand! Loy Krathong is the Thai equivalent to Diwali. You could say it’s Thailand’s ‘festival of lights’. I chose the dates based on information I gathered online, but even after arriving here and asking the hotel staff, I still couldn’t get any concrete information on the schedule of events.
Regardless, for day 1 in Chiang Mai I went around town to find out more about the days ahead and more importantly, where the big release of lanterns was going to be held.
I rented a bike and decided to just go for a drive, as I loved it when I rode around town the first time in 2009.
But my stopping point was the last viewing point before you reach the top of the hill.
As darkness fell, I made my back down and back into town.
After learning how to make Thai Green curry at the cooking class I attended in the day, I set off for Mae Jo in the evening. One of the staff at the cooking class told me the massive release of lanterns would be from here.
Ever since I saw photos of the festival, I made it a point that I would witness it myself. So by 5pm, I hired a Tuk Tuk as I didn’t really know how to get to the grounds at Mae Jo.
It was pitch dark inside and virtually no street lights anywhere. When I had spoken to the staff earlier in the day, he told there would around 20,000 people at the venue. Judging by the traffic and the scores of people in front of me, I believe him!
After walking further in for around 10 minutes, I stopped at a crowded section where hundreds of people were lighting lanterns and releasing them into the sky.
I knew I was there to find the site where thousands of lanterns were going to be released at the same time but I couldn’t help but get distracted. It’s such a beautiful sight and a lot of fun to see people attempt to make these lanterns fly.
Half an later of observing people and staring into the full moon night, suddenly, I hear screams.
I turn around, and couldn’t believe my eyes…
I ran, but so did several others! I tried to squeeze through the crowds to try and get a good shot but alas, to no avail. There were just too many people… disappointed, just like me 🙁
I was gutted.
The one moment I was hoping to see up close for months… and I couldn’t be in the middle of it all.
The grounds from where the actual release was happening was still further away. By the time I finally managed to get in, it was all over.
Words can’t describe how gutted I was in knowing I was ‘so near, yet so far’ from being there at that moment. I could have consoled myself by saying “Oh well, hundreds of others missed it too…” but it couldn’t cheer me up any which way.
I went back to Chiang Mai city disappointed.
I was in no mood to party that night.
After yesterday’s disappointment, I wasn’t even in the mood to step out during the day. I was also feeling a bit feverish as the return journey in the tuk tuk was chilly– and I was woefully ‘under-dressed’ yesterday night.
I finally stepped out by around 4pm and hoped for something today to make up for yesterday’s ‘loss’.
And yes, there were events lined up that did bring a smile back on to my face.
Hundreds of locals thronged to the banks of the Ping river to release krathongs into the water.
The release of the krathongs into the river is a symbolic act of letting go of one’s grudges, anger and any past bad moments, and hope one can start afresh in life.
All the Buddhist temples were abuzz with activity and many turned into food courts, offering all sorts of delicacies.
With all that was happening around me, for a moment, I forgot about yesterday’s disappointment and just enjoyed what was on offer today.
Loy Krathong is an amazing festival. Though its celebrated across Thailand, Chiang Mai throws the biggest ‘party’ of them all. I waited months and invested quite a lot in photography equipment for this visit, and although I extremely disappointed on missing being at the site where the big release of lanterns took place, I told myself: “I’ll be back next year”
And my ‘purpose’ remains the same.