Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Yee Ping Lantern Festival

Gosh, has it really been over a week since I've updated? Apologies, everyone, but in my defense it is the week before finals and I am on the leaving-Thailand countdown, so you've got to cut me some slack.

That doesn't mean I don't have a lot to say, though, because this particular post is one that I've been looking forward to writing since I decided to come to Thailand. That's right, this one is all about the floating lantern festival that enticed me to spend four months in Chiang Mai in the first place. I was finally going to get to live my dream!

We drove back from Bangkok in time for the weekend-long Loi Krathong festival, which actually is a Thailand-wide festival that is celebrated by floating little boats on a river with good wishes for the future. Yee Ping is special to Lanna, the former name of Northern Thailand centered around Chiang Mai. Yee Ping refers specifically to the release of the floating sky lanterns.

Thousands of tourists flock to Chiang Mai for this event each year, so I guess we were lucky to not have to try and find a hotel or anything! Traffic was still pretty bad in the city, though, so we arranged for a song taew to come pick us up at our building a few hours before the festivities were to start. We were headed out to a place called Mae Jo, where a temple outside of the university there was famous for the release of up to 10,000 lanterns at one time. The ceremony started at 6:00 pm we made sure to stake out our spot in the field - lanterns purchased and food cart dinners in our bellies - by 5:00 pm because there were already so many people there.

I say the ceremony started at 6:00, but the actual lantern release did not happen until 8:30. Obviously we had to wait for it to get dark for the lanterns to be most effective, but first and foremost this is a Buddhist merit-making ceremony and is done to honor Lord Buddha. Therefore there was a long ceremony beforehand where several monks processed in, we did a long meditation, and then the monks and other meditators did a circumambulation. There was a constant stream of lanterns in the sky from outside of the temple area, but those on the field were instructed to wait until the proper moment to light and release the lanterns.

I was glad that we waited because being in a sea of warm, bright lanterns for a few brief minutes and then watching the cloud lift up away from the earth and float up into the night sky was simply breathtaking. The tradition says that the lantern will take away all your woes and negativity as it rises away on a breeze, and we were also told to make a wish as we let go of the enormous lanterns. I made a big, important wish for my life. Can't tell you what it is, or it won't come true, but let's just say I won't even know if it comes true for quite some time!

My camera isn't the best so sorry for the low picture quality, but really no huge fancy camera in the whole world could truly capture the magic of the moment. I'm so happy I could see it in person. A true once-in-a-lifetime experience. I took a little video of the second lantern we released after watching the sky for a little while. As you can see, you have to let the lantern fill with hot air before releasing it.


I'm also glad I got to be there with the special friends I've made while in Thailand. It made me realize a few things that are important in life: surrounding myself with positive people and seeking out adventure whenever I get the opportunity. I would also like to express my gratitude towards everyone who has supported me along the way and who have opened the doors to adventure for me!

We thought we would "beat the crowd" and leave a couple minutes early so we could get back to our song taew driver on time, but apparently the rest of the crowd thought the exact same thing. I won't dwell too much on how hard it was to get out, let's just say that we tried to keep a positive attitude and it was a situation we can definitely laugh about in retrospect. Our song taew driver waited up for us, and we all made it back to Chiang Mai safe and sound!

Something I've been thinking about a lot lately is having incredible experiences like this so early in life. Just like in the movie Tangled, once you realize a dream you can feel a little bit disoriented and not as grounded. The amazing thing that I realized, though, is that the world is virtually infinite. There is no way that I can see everything in one lifetime, so as soon as I cross one thing off the  "bucket list" there are at least a hundred things that can fill its place. It's both encouraging and overwhelming, so I guess the best I can do is take things one adventure at a time.

Okay, that's probably enough reflection for one night! Hope you enjoyed reading about Yee Ping and the video. I have a few more ideas for posts before I leave Thailand, so, as always, stay tuned! Can't make any promises about the next time I'll be able to update, though. Schoolwork beckons . . .


  1. Todd and I thought of you while taking our walk on Thanksgiving Day. For the first time ever, we saw about seven lanterns floating up into the sky in our own neighborhood. Love --- Grandma.
    It was soooo exciting!!!! --- Uncle Todd