the ups and downs of Loi Krathong

What we really should have done was hushed the nagging voices that told us not to go to Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai last weekend.

“Too much money,” the voices pointed out.  “It’s not that big of a deal,” they sighed.

But then one of our coworkers came back from the weekend and she said it looked like this:

photo credit: (

“Why didn’t we go?!” the voices wailed. “It’s just moneyyyy.”

Then, the more reassuring: “Eh, our cameras would have been too shoddy to get a picture of it anyways.”

Cameras or no cameras, our Loi Krathong night didn’t exactly come out as spectacular as this one.  We ate dinner with Blake’s coworkers from Knowledge Zone on Wednesday night, planning to partake in the festivities, but the rain more or less destroyed our faint hopes of making it to the river to float our sins away.  The river is only 5 km away, but on a slippery night with our bicycles, we didn’t dare chance it.

The sight of the lanterns raising gracefully in the sky is always peaceful, magical, awe-inspiring — a little like the 4th of July but a lot quieter. (Though there were many fireworks going off, there are no organized shows here, only little pyromaniacs who spend their lunch money on sparklers.)

Our Burmese friends watched with interest and delight as a group across the street from us lit a lantern and tried to guide it upwards.  It took a try or two,  but it eventually floated in the right direction.  One or two people shook their heads and said that they were glad we weren’t in a village, where it’s possible that the flame-propelled lantern would take a wrong turn and set the natural building materials ablaze.

It does make you wonder what happens to the lanterns when they lose their motivation to rise up and up….

Luckily, I had an answer the next morning:


Post-Loy Krathong lantern
No casualties here, only a bit of not-so-pretty lantern in our small garden that our landlords maintain.  It was gone within the next few hours.  I hate to think of these stuck on the tops of trees, where no careful landlords bother to scoop them up and find a better home for them.  Luckily, some entrepreneurs have come up with an eco-friendly solution.  The likelihood that Thailand will adopt them is slim, but it’s an encouraging thought.

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