Sometimes the travel gods smile on us. I would like to take credit for the brilliant planning that landed us in Chiang Mai for Loy Krathong, the festival of lights, but we were just lucky to be there at the right time and to find a room. The hotel was a modest three stars. We were a little concerned by the notice in the room warning of hotel thieves. But the location just inside the Pae Gate in the old walled city was ideal and the price was right.
Loi Krathong is celebrated across Thailand on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month, usually in November, when the tide in the rivers is highest and the moon at its brightest.
After check-in, we wandered through the gate into a plaza just outside the old wall that was decorated with hundreds of beautifully illuminated lanterns. After dark, the glittering decorated floats with young people colorfully dressed in traditional costume, paraded through the center of town to the river.
Vendors along the parade route sell Singha beer and ‘krathongs’. Traditionally shaped like lotus blossoms and made of banana leaves, they carry lit candles and sometimes incense food and coins. They float like little boats down the rivers and canals taking away bad luck. Meanwhile lighted lanterns drift into the night sky. If they rise out of sight before the light goes out, all misfortunes go with them.
Sunday after a day of adventure we were awakened from our afternoon nap by the sounds of the Sunday walking market. The parking lot below our window was packed with stalls light by lanterns. The market extends the full length of Ratchadamnoen Road. It’s a delight for all the senses to wander among the stalls until your feet hurt enjoying food, drink, and live music and admiring the hand crafted items displayed by the hill people in native dress. There are hammered silver beads, bangles and jewelry from the Karen; exquisite embroidery from the Hmong; and Lahu woven cloth.
Perhaps the travel gods were pleased that we also floated a kathrong on the canal and ensured no bad luck with room thieves. And all our misfortunes drifted to the sky with the lights of the Sunday market.