So, Chiang Mai was downright magical. We arrived right before the Lantern festival began, or Yi Peng. Loy Krathong and Yi Peng coincided with each other, so it was actually two festivals in one that we were about to experience. You know all those photos you see on Pinterest with hundreds of lanterns being released into the night sky at once? Yeah, it's not really like that when you stay in Chiang Mai. If you want to see that, you find your way to this college outside the city, pay the tourist price because this isn't the real festival (they set up a separate festival, strictly for tourists, apart from the actual religious ceremony.) We decided to skip that because a) traffic is terrible and b) we wanted to stay where all the action was. So glad we did!
There were crazy parades multiple nights in a row, with magical glowing orbs floating above us like little golden stars. Thailand takes their parades very seriously, and even when it down-poured one night (like holy crap, tropical downpour), they still marched on like nothing was happening.
Also, there were lots of fireworks! Not like here in the US where things are set off by pro's and you just are a comfortable distance away. No, everybody and their bro were setting off firecrackers left and right. Attaching them to their lanterns (!!!) or just sending them into a crowd of people. So yes, watch your back! It was (a friendly) mayhem on the streets and it was AWESOME.
Sunday Night we went down to Tha Pae Gate for the night market and found the entire (giant!) street shut down for the biggest craft fair I've ever been to. So, we bought all the things. Quite the magical night strolling with hundreds of other people underneath a full moon and little golden orbs. Lots of food stalls set up (I found a strictly veg Pad Thai cart set up and another little cart with mini coconut pancakes that were adorable and quite nom-able) and lots of people-watching was had. After shopping our little hearts out, we walked down to the riverfront, where people were releasing their lanterns into the sky and their little flowered krathongs into the river. We released a lantern (harder than it looks in the wind!) and just wandered around soaking in all the festivities. It was nuts.
It was hard to take photos of the lanterns in the sky. I didn't bring a tripod with me, and there were some harsh street lights everywhere, so at some point I just put the camera away and just tried to commit it all to memory, which is what you should do anyways, right?
|Parade watching. Little lanterns in the sky overhead. Also, full moon at the top of the pic.|
|Had to get the 7-11 in the shot.|
|Motorbikes whizzing by and lanterns in the sky.|
|Everyone was watching a lantern that had gotten stuck in a tree and had caught on fire. This happened a lot and no one seemed to care? The fire eventually tapered out, but I was generally feeling a bit anxious every time I saw it happen.|
|Night market was CROWDED.|
|Outside Tha Pae Gate.|
|Releasing our lantern!|