Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Loi Krathong

Loi Krathong is Thailand's "most beloved festival" celebrating the river goddess for providing life to the plants and trees and asks forgiveness for the polluting ways of humans. This festival falls on the full moon of Thailand's 12th lunar month. It lasts 1-3 days, celebrated mostly at night with a parade and floats, the lighting of lanterns into the sky, and setting small handmade boats filled with flowers and candles into the water.

There were many things we wanted to do in Chiang Mai but we decided that the morning of the festival we should walk around the city to see the temples and the towns people setting up the festivities. Chiang Mai is a large city in the north of Thailand, close to the boarder of Burma. It is also the original capital. Old Chiang Mai is a walled city where most of the temples lay, outside the wall the rest of the city that is surrounded by mountains and has a river running through it. Our hotel was between the wall of the Old City and the river and just off the main street where they had the parade... a great location!

We started the day with temples... we had yet to see one, so we were very excited. FYI, Wat means "temple".

Wat Chedi Luang

Phan Tao

Wat Phra Singh

After we went to lunch and had my favorite meal so far! It was a small place on the corner with a beautiful tree in front and vines growing all around. It was called Henrys and was run by an older "LadyMan" who was also the chef. Preston had come to meet us and we ordered spring rolls, Masaman curry, green curry, and banana and mango fruit shakes. Everything was delicious!

After lunch, we walked to the cultural and art center which had lots of written info with diagrams and small scale people from earlier eras... exactly what you would expect. On our way home we passed an open square where they were building some of the floats for the parade that night. As I was taking pictures, these two beautiful little Thai girls, about 6 or 7, came up and each gave me little fantastic smelling flower. They handed me the flowers, mumbled something in Thai, giggled, and then ran off. It was the sweetest thing and totally made my day!

Thought this was too cute

That evening we walked along the main street and joined the rest of the festival goers in watching the parade. Everyone was dressed up in traditional Thai garb holding signs, sitting on floats, dancing playing instruments.

Strewn about the crowd were people lighting lanterns. Many monks were out, helping people to light them on the street and in front of the temples. It was very special to see.

With the full moon

We walked down to the river to watch people light lanterns off the bridge and to place the Krathongs in the water.

Amanda lighting ours.

On our way back down the street towards old town, we passed a temple and had monks help us light our own lanterns!

As the festival slowed down we decided it was time to celebrate. On the way to the streets with the bars, Preston tried a fried cockroach from a street vendor... Ugh!

That night we went to a bar and had many more Sang Som buckets. We met more foreign people who were very nice and danced until the early hours again. We also decided to take a Tuk Tuk home because we had never been on one. One of the most bizarre things from the night was that there were little boys with their mothers (up way too late mind you) trying to sell flowers to the boys to give to us. When first they said no, the children were funny and tried to throw little firecrackers under our table the chairs of the people next to us. Then when we refused again, they responded with some foul words that I certainly didn't know at their age!!!

Day 2- otherwise known as my day of death:
I'll put it this way, I have yet to have another bucket, and even the sound of it brings a gag reflex. However, we had a full day planned with elephant parks and tiger temples! It was a seriously rough day but if you have to be hung over, might as well be hungover snuggling a baby tiger!

Maesa Elephant camp
When we reached the camp we sat in bleachers around an arena where the elephants performed. First they danced and did the hula hoop.

Then they did a trick with the trainers where they took their hat and would pretend to put it back on. Then they played soccer and basketball.

Lastly, they painted!

Truly remarkable!

Then it was time for a ride where we went up into the hill to visit a traditional "longneck" tribe.

One of the woman asked me to sit and talk to her for a bit. She was very nice and her english was very good. She was 30 years old and had four children. She seemed surprised that at 28 I had no children yet.
As we continued to walk through the village one of the men asked us if we wanted to try and hit the melon target with their version of a crossbow.

I got the melon.

Next stop, "Thai-ger" temple!

First we saw the babies who were so sleepy

They have blue eyes as cubs

Next were the big boys, who were also sleepy

But loved having their bellies rubbed

Here he stretched and an caught me off guard

And this is when the trainer told me this tiger was hungry after hi stomach started growling... but trust me, they were well fed and well taken care off. Every inch we touched was pure muscle!

Here are some funny shots off the girls with the tigers

Lastly, we saw the young ones, who were also sleepy, because let's face it cats sleep a lot, but were a little more rambunctious.

What a great day!

Day 3:
On our last full day in Chiang Mai we took a Thai cooking class. We started the day by going to the market and having a look at how the locals shop.

Next we drove to the organic farm where we would cook and get some of our herbs, spices, etc.

The first thing we made was our curry. We had to mash and pound our ingredients until it became a thick paste.

Next we made Tom Kaa soup and coconut chicken with veggies.

Final product

It all tasted delicious! Later we also made Pad Thai and desert, sticky rice with mango. It was so much fun to cook this way and we got a recipe book so hopefully I'll be able to recreate it.... but we'll see!

Day 4:
Today we left Chiang Mai and flew to Bangkok. The girls didn't leave until late that night and I didn't leave until the next morning so we took a half day tour around Bangkok to see a few temples. Luckily, we did not experience any flooding.
(pictures to come later)

That afternoon I went back to my hotel because I was not feeling too well, but the girls went back into Bangkok before their flight for some more city fun.

Thailand was a truly amazing experience. The country, people, food, culture, everything was wonderful and I would recommend it to anyone!

Location:Chiang Mai, Thailand

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for taking me along for the ride on your fabulous vacation! I really enjoyed your posts and all the wonderful photos. Be sure to stay in touch when you get to Denver.
    Liz Hoskins