Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chiang Mai: Festivals and celebrations

The second half of our week in Chiang Mai was jam packed with activities - celebrations, to be exact. Thanksgiving, hot air balloons, and Yi Ping, to be exact.

Through my research for this trip, I came across a number of amazing blogs of traveling families. And when I say traveling families, I am talking about families who are on the road for a year or more. Some are just taking a year off to see the world, some don't know if they'll ever go back. And they are all doing it with kids.

Because many people would already be in Chiang Mai for Thanksgiving, Peace's organized a Thanksgiving lunch at a restaurant that was indeed serving a true turkey dinner! About six families met up, including ones I had recruited from our Chiang Mai guest house, to celebrate the day. Not all were American, so for some it was their first thanksgiving ever. And for many who have been on the road for a while, it was their first Thanksgiving in years.Anyways, I got in contact with some of these families and eventually joined a fabulous Facebook group to use to get information and share resources. Through this group, I found out that many other families were traveling to Chiang Mai for the Yi Ping festival on November 24. What luck! We were going to meet up with other families on the road!

We had a great time meeting these other families, and learning about life on the road, how they earn a living, homeschooling, unschooling, and all sorts of adventures. Could that be us someday? ;)

Somehow we let a few of the families talk us into showing up at 6am for a balloon launch as art of the Thailand International Hotair Balloon Festival. We were at the festival before Mr. Sunshine even took a morning yawn thanks to our incredibly generous guest house owner who drove us there. It was really neat to watch them prepare fill, and launch the balloons. Simon was particularly excited by the flames shooting out the baskets - and you could really feel that heat a ways back. Finally the balloons were all launched and floating off to who know where, and we headed back to our guest house to enjoy breakfast and no more pans for the day.

The next day, Saturday, was what we were really looking forward to - Yi Ping, a traditinal Lanna festival paying resect to Buddha taking place in the Sansai district of Chiang Mai province. We had somehow learned of this yearly celebration and extended our Chiang Mai visit just for it. And as I said, many other traveling families were doing the same.

Simon in his festival attire!
We were very happy when our guest house arranged transportation for a group from our place to attend. We didn't know what to expect so we were glad that our minivan would be there waiting to pick us up, and the owner's daughter even attended with us, as she had never been before.

We obviously weren't the only tourists who had heard of this magical festival. The street up to the temple where the release would take place was lined with food vendors selling noodles, sausages, and drinks to not only Thai, but many, many tourists as well. We sampled various dishes along the way, and eventually carved out a small space for our group of 10 in the large field where we everyone would simultaneously release their lanterns.

At the front of the field was a stage set up where Buddhist monks led chanting and meditation. It was beautiful, but many of us were eagerly anticipating the release of the lanterns. Eventually, with instructions in both Thai and English, we were told to light the large candles mounted on sticks throughout the field. The field wasnnow aglow with soft candlelight. We were then instructed to light a lantern and wait for the signal so that all lanterns (thousands off them) would be released together.

We carefully lit our lantern, making sure to pull the sides away from the plane. At 90 cm in diameter, they require several sets of hands to maneuver. Slowly, the lantern filled with hot air, and we could feel a gentle skyward tug. (Simon was on my back at this point, as I didn't want to worry about all the fire around us.)

The moment arrived, and thousands of lanterns were released into the night sky. It was a magical moment. The kind that brings you to tears, though you can't quite explain why.
Check out the sky behind me!
(We have video that we can't upload and are hoping to get better pics from friends with better cameras, but we included a few of ours here. Check out this youtube video of the event. More to come!)
Simon made some great photo contributions as well. He seems to love photography... Here are a few samples of his work.

It was a very memorable night with great new friends. We know it will be a highlight of not only our time in Thailand, but of the whole trip as well.


1 comment:

  1. I love all the pictures! And that you had turkey on Thanksgiving. The lanterns look fabulous. I can imagine unexplained tears.