I moved to Chiang Mai the day before loy krathong four years ago – I always think of this holiday as my anniversary.
Chiang Mai is famous for going way over the top with parades and holidays, loy krathong probably being second only to the week-long songkran festivities. Temples, businesses and public buildings are decorated with saa paper lanterns, banana stems and leaves and lots of candles once the night comes. Firecrackers and fireworks have been going on for over a week in my neighbourhood. Little workshops prepare thousands of paper lanterns, waiting to be flown into the skies. Nights are already a little chilly, especially in the suburbs. The rains have stopped. There is change in the air – the atmosphere building up to explosion.
As for explosions…. just as songkran gets crazy with water-throwing totally out of control for more than a week, loy krathong is also known for the industrial amount of explosives being fired over the river, hurled into crowds, and sometimes exploding in people’s hands. Forget the serene and peaceful scenes suggested by postcards: it is loud, crowded and in the late hours of the night, when the lads are fuelled by too many beers, dangerous. When I “risked my life” taking a two-minute video from Nawarat bridge last year, my brother left a comment on it: “whoa! if I didn’t know any better, I would think this is footage from Baghdad!”
Nevertheless, I love loy krathong. I have learnt where to go and when to find what I need out of it: the colourful parades, music, dancing and activities at the temples, a little quiet section of the river, a viewpoint for seeing hundreds and hundreds of lanterns at night, painting and releasing a fire lantern with my children at school. I admit I launched my last krathong in 2003, but friends are trying to persuade me to float one this year, who knows, it may get rid of all the junk in my life. I am skeptical. I like to be an outsider.
The actual full moon day is on Monday, but Chiang Mai’s celebrations are already underway with the lantern parade tonight. Small krathongs follow tomorrow, and the festival concludes with the biggest, most extravagant big krathongs parade on the third day (Tuesday). The lantern parade usually starts from Thapae gate and proceeds down Thapae road, turning right into Changklan road. It is still not too late to set off
These are all photos of loy krathong preparations and lantern parades (day 1) taken in previous years. UPDATE: There is a thread at the Chiang Mai forum with some pictures taken this year.