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Loi Krathong/Yi Peng – a lan-turn up for the books

December 9, 2012

Loi Krathong/Yi Peng – a lan-turn up for the books

December 9, 2012

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by Kt

09.12.2012

We’ve just hit our years anniversary of leaving the England and we’re definitely not ready to be heading home yet. We will be in South East Asia until February when we will finally, regretfully, move on.
Well we’ve been static in Chiang Mai from early Sept, bar our brief visit to Laos and we are living a pretty quiet life. We’ve been trying to get online work to help with our very dwindling funds and take the chance to get a bit healthier.
It’s amazing how much it feels like home when you’ve been somewhere a while – you get your favourite shops, restaurants, even routes to get from A to B. Our neighbourhood, the most modern in Chiang Mai, really is lovely. It’s modern, arty and trendy, It’s also quiet and spacious and chilled.

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The weather has been lovely. We spent so much of our time here in the wet season which is fine, but could get annoying being drenched all the time and in Chiang Mai it meant for lots of grey skies which just reminded me of home. October and November have been dry, blue skied and also, happily, a little cooler. Still hot, just not humid and with a breeze coming in from time to time.

Loi Krathong, Yi Peng

I’d seen pictures of the lantern festivals in Chiang Mai and was chuffed that we had ended up staying long enough for it. It was, however, really confusing to try to work out when and even what it was. There is the nation wide festival, then there is the local festival but in the end it just seemed that they intermingled and this year mixed in a bit with some celebrations for the kings birthday so we had a week full of lanterns and fireworks. Our room being on the 11th floor came in really handy and the sky would have lots of lanterns floating up over the mountains and pockets of fireworks going off (including fireworks being set off from balconies – don’t ask!!). In the cow field next to where we stay they had these home made candles with flammable liquid set up along the low fence.

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We worked out that there were a couple of ‘main days’ and we certainly picked the right one to go into the Old City and down by the Ping river. It was truly one of the best experiences of my life. It was just beautiful and magical and a bit crazy.

There were big fireworks going off, there were also some small ones being bought on the street and set off, near the bridges. They were a little alarming as some of the kids with them were pretty young. You just had to not think too hard about it and get ready to duck!! It wasn’t a big deal, just one of those differences you notice between here and our health and safety obsessed society. The only time anything was particularly alarming was outside a restaurant/bar on the backstreets, was a western guy, quite clearly drunk, firing fireworks out of a gun. Stupid arse! Luckily it was pretty quiet around there.

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The traffic had been shut off from a lot of the Thapae gate area which made for a nice experience – it’s usually a bit crazy around there and you could appreciate the place in a different way. There were some amazing paper light sculptures set up by the – iconic buildings from around the world. There were lit up sculptures on the canal ways – always beautifully kitsch.

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There was a carnival style parade that went from from the Thapae gate and all the way along to the river. It did remind me of a smaller, Thai version of the west country carnivals. We followed the procession, stopping off in a Wat along the way to light our own lantern. It was lovely in the Wats as the monks were helping people out and really enjoying it. A monk with his mobile out snapping the lanterns is a funny site.

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Even the banks had paper lantern displays outside.

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There were so many people setting their candle lit floats into the river. There was a variety of floats, but I loved the bread ones best – shaped into things like turtles.

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The lanterns were the main thing though. You may have seen them at home – they tend to be a bit smaller and I remember Mark and I trying to light some on Brighton Beach and it failing miserably because of the wind. Anyway, the one’s here are much bigger, in fact some are simply enormous.
You light the base, hold onto it for a while, while it fills with hot air and then it whips up into the air, with surprising force.

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They were going off everywhere for the whole week, but when we were in the Old City on the Wednesday, it was on a whole other level. The sky was full. I can’t even imagine how many. And it was never ending.
My favourites were the ones that had fireworks attached to them. You lit the base and some strands off the side, then when it went up, when it got fairly high, fireworks lit up off the side. Utter gorgeousness!!!!

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The sky was full for hours. Looking up was just amazing. Photos of the sky didn’t really work to show what it looked like but I was just in awe the whole time.

There were obviously lanterns going off course all over the place, stuck in trees, on building – heading back down. But they’re pretty robust – they’d just burn out, amazingly never setting fire to anything. But quite frankly, I found the occasional element of danger added to the experience!

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Over the week there must have been 100s of thousands of lanterns going up, if not more. I’d love to know the actual figures. The clean up must be a nightmare and for a while the lantern remnants and failed lanterns were all over in odd places but within a week there were no signs anywhere!

Other weird and wonderful:

Political procession

I’d seen it before a few months back but it was a first for Mark – a procession of cars, coachs, vans and bikes of the Red Shirts who were going to making their way down to Bangkok for an anti government rally (weekend of 24th Nov). This is a long journey but politics is quite rightly taken very seriously and passionately here.

Nimmanheimen Design Festival

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They had a little arty festival down Soi 1 (Lane 1) of Nimmanheimen Road which was really nice – art and crafty but in a more modern, cool style. They had little shows on at the top end on a small stage and we saw a band of pretty talented kids including a tiny little drummer. There was also a ‘Turnip’ puppet show – unfortunately we only caught the tail end but it did involve a big white turnip puppet!!

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Kings Birthday

I got quite obsessed with watching the Kings birthday celebrations in Bangkok that were live on the TV. I guess it’s like how people abroad like to watch our Queen doing stuff – royal weddings and the like – I got really into it. They had their version of bearskin guards but they didn’t just have black hats – blue, green and even pink!! And all the crowds were dressed in yellow, the colour of the royal family and I’ve never seen so many people – it was quite incredible. The commentary was amazing too – it talked about the kings promise to the nation to look after the wild animals and help out the poor and keep them out of mischief. The general message was that everyone should be lovely, kind and considerate to each other. It was quite lovely and it never fails to amaze me the adoration most of Thailand has for their royal family. I guess it’s like the UK was donkey’s years ago when people had pics of the queen up in the house. But, yep, most of all I liked the pink hatted guards!!!

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Mark and the Giant Moth

Our balcony overlooks a bit of unused land so there is a bit of nature stuff going on down there and we were on one day visited by the hugest moth we had ever seen. I’ve never even seen anything this big in wildlife parks/butterfly houses etc – it was truly mammoth. Mark was very fascinated and yet scared. He tried to get very close to take photos and then screamed when it flew about a bit. Not sure what he thought it was going to do to him.

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Micky Mouse Bathroom

Rather loving the (not so sure official) mickey mouse bathroom stuff available at the shop down the road. I have since seen a rather impressive set of Hello Kitty stuff from there too!

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Sale!!

Loved this rather specific sales percentage sign

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Need good time?

Loved this that we came across in one of the lanes.

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Dog Head

I don’t know – but why not?

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Xmas Elephants

Outside one of the shopping malls they’d dressed up their elephant statues in rather natty xmas attire.

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Outdoor chandelier

At the opening of a new restaurant/wine bar they’d setup an outdoor venue with the most amazing outdoor chandelier.
It reminds me of Brighton round here – a business shuts and within a few weeks something else new and cool has opened in it’s place.

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