All this week is the festival of Loi Krathong, celebrated all over Thailand at this time. In Chiang Mai the celebration is known as Yi Peng (the full moon of the second month), as the twelfth month in the Thai Lunar Calendar corresponds to the second month in the traditional calendar of the old northern Lanna kingdom. The festival features illuminated lanterns, which are carried, displayed in houses and temples, and even launched into the night sky. Krathong are an offering – traditionally made out of a banana stalk and adorned with candles, incense and some money – which are floated down the rivers. At this time the people say prayers to ask that their wishes and hopes for the future be fulfilled.  The lights that are floated down the rivers are meant to symbolize the drifting away of bad luck and misfortune, but for many Thai people it is also an opportunity to honor the goddess of water, Phra Mae Kong Ka (พระแม่คงคา). Kong Ka is the Thai form of Ganga, the Hindu goddess of the sacred Ganges river in India. It is believed that Loy Krathong is an ancient Brahmanic or Indic festival. There are lots of fireworks going off all week, all around the city, and here in Thailand anyone can get all those fireworks that are illegal in America. Kinda hard to sleep lately.

I was invited by a new Thai friend to go to Maejo University for the ceremony of releasing sky lanterns. The sky lanterns are called Khom Loi. It turned out to be a special treat and a bit of an adventure. A large group of monks sat at the central dais, chanting and saying prayers while Thais circumambulated around the central circle, before lighting the torches and eventually the lanterns. There were thousands and thousands of white paper lanterns released; it was beautiful and awe-inspiring, considering we all sent up a prayer for world peace, among our own personal prayers and things to release. On the way back, we were hit by a storm and had an adventure on the back roads with downed trees and over-large buses amidst lightning and thunder, wind and rain. I’m told storms are unusual this time of year, likely due to global climate change. It was a very enjoyable evening.

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City electricians working on street powerlines. That’s a bamboo ladder he’s climbing. Hmm…doesn’t look like the way it’s done in America…

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This is a horned beetle. Some Thai people raise them and gamble on them in fights, not unlike the sport of dog or cock fighting. I was told the bigger they are, the more money the owner makes, ’cause the bigger ones usually win.

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A view of Doi Suthep mountain from my apartment building.

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