Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Loi Krathrong Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Now a month into our travels, we flew from Hanoi in Vietnam [read about Hanoi and Halong Bay here] to Bangkok. We waited a few hours into Bangkok before getting a night train to Chiang Mai. This was one of the first things we did last time we arrived in Thailand in February, so we had mega deja vu! You can read about our last trip to Chiang Mai here

We had booked a flight from Chiang Mai in Thailand to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia the day before we left for our trip. We were worried about having to prove onward travel within the 30-day Thailand visa on arrival, so thought it best to get it booked in. This resulted in us ending up taking quite a detour to get to Chiang Mai, as we had originally planned to go a logical route through Laos from Vietnam, but we ran out of time. We didn't mind going out of our way to return to Chiang Mai as it was such a great place to visit the first time round. By chance, it was also Loi Krathong Festival during our time there this time, which was really lucky and great timing!

Loi Krathong is a celebration of the spirit of the river, with street parades, thousands of floating lanterns let off into the sky [to represent releasing your problems] and floating beautiful handmade krathongs down the river. The whole town is even more vibrant than usual, with lanterns and other decorations hanging all over the town, a giant stage erected near the Thapae Gate, hosting beauty and other contests and a generally electric atmosphere in the town, during the three-day celebrations.

The weather was really lovely and sunny on our first day back in Chiang Mai, which we enjoyed chilling by the pool in our hotel and wandering around the Night Bazaar in the evening. Annoyingly, it rained heavily and pretty much solidly for the next two days, which wasn't great timing with all the festivities going on in the town. Despite this, the resilient locals were undeterred and carried on regardless, including parading through the streets with huge carnival floats and with fancy outfits on, in the pouring rain!

We were in a post office, posting a parcel of souvenirs and gifts back to the UK at HUGE expense, when they asked me to write a sign for them to put outside. I know it's not really that exciting, but it was cool to see my little sign outside their shop whenever we walked past for the next couple of days. 

A carnival float parked up in the town, before the huge parade later in the evening

It was great to see so many familiar sights in Chiang Mai and we ate loads of nice food at our favourite restaurants from our last visit. 

A few cafes around the town were running krathong making 'workshops', where the staff gave you a few pointers and all the materials to make your own krathong. We enjoyed making this and were really pleased with our finished effort! A couple of local Thai people commented on how good it was when we were out and about and couldn't believe we had made it ourselves, so we were pretty chuffed!

We headed down to the river on the main day that everyone floats the krathongs down the river, where it was very busy. It was lovely to see so many beautifully crafted krathongs floating down the river and it was funny watching some people trying in vain to get their over-elaborate krathongs to float! 

Since our last visit, this piece of street art has appeared near to the area we stayed last time. I love street art, but you don't see a huge amount of it in Asia and I thought this was pretty cool.

From Chiang Mai we flew to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, which I'll be posting about in the next few days. Thanks for reading!

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