Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lantern Festival

Yesterday was the craziest day we have had yet.  I know I will not be able to explain it accurately but here is my attempt.

Chiang Mai and Thailand are known for the "kom loy" or lantern festival.  This weekend was the traditional religious event where thousands of people gather at a university to honor the Buddha and bring blessings on the new year.  (there is a good chance that some of this information is wrong :/ ) There is a whole religious service, chants, prayers, etc. before the releasing of the lanterns.

We knew some people were getting there very early, but we did not decide to even go until later in the afternoon. Five of us decided to ride together, so we did not end up leaving until about 530. It took us about an hour to get to the general area.  We sort of had no idea where we were going, so we just followed the cars in front of us. Eventually we got to a place where lots of people were walking and police was directing traffic and decided to park right there.  It was a perfect spot.  We were as close as possible!

We had a little bit of a hike ahead of us. It was quite dark so we were trying to hurry and not miss it!! Once to the location (an outside arena type thing) we had the joyous task of finding our friends who had saved us spots.  Thousands of people praying and meditating while five foreigners were trying to find their friends.  It took us a little while but we got it.  Then we waited for probably another 30 minutes.  Then the monks and presumably other religious leaders/people circled the group three times.  We were then instructed to light the ground lanterns, which looked like tiki torches! We were given directions for how to light the floating lanterns and told to wait until the signal.

The white ball is the stage where the monks were. The balls of light are the ground lanterns being lit. 
More people and lanterns going off before they were supposed to!
We lit our lantern, which was honestly harder than I thought.  These lanterns were about 4ft high and 2ft wide.  You had to light the center part and wait for the lantern to fill with the hot air.  It was HOT.  Fire everywhere. Staring at the lantern to make sure it was catching. People everywhere.  HOT! This picture shows how we had to light it. But the top part should have been opened up more...

Suddenly fire works went off directly over our heads and that was the signal to release.  We let ours go and watched as thousands of other lanterns were let off into the sky. It was gorgeous!!  Here are some pictures a friend took and then a video I took that does not have sound :(  

Here is the video:

It was an awesome thing to be part of. Truly amazing.

After we had let off quite a few, we decided it was time to go and tried to beat the rush of people.  We basically ran to the car - weaving in and out of people, motorcycles, and cars - passing as many as we could.  As we got to the car, we realized it was facing the wrong way.  But suddenly there was a break in the traffic.  We hopped in the car and quickly made a u-turn and got out of there.  We did not hit ANY traffic on the way back either.  It was nuts.  We were totally lucky.

BUT THEN..........

Again, we made great time to the condo where we met.  It looked like it was going to storm, crazy winds and dark clouds.  By the time we got out of the elevator it started pouring rain. Since it was so windy it was soaking us in the hallway.  Opening the door to the condo was difficult because they left the windows open and the draft of wind was pushing against the door.  We quickly realized the rain was coming in through the windows.

Then , we remembered the windows upstairs with TVs in front of them. Someone ran upstairs to check. She screamed and heard a loud crash. Moe went running after her and fell on the wet floors.  I followed and found the other room drenched as well.  Closing the windows upstairs was just as challenging as opening the door.  As soon as we got some towels to start drying things up the power went out.  It was unbelievable.  

As best we could we dried things up in the dark.  Thankfully nothing was damaged but a lot was wet.  Since the power was out the elevator was out.  We were stuck for about an hour. But it was beautiful.  We could watch the storm over the city.  We laughed a lot about how ridiculous things were.  We created memories :)

We were very lucky.  Had we been slowed down by people, had we hit traffic, had we stopped for a drink, had anything been different we could have been stuck in that elevator!!

It was truly a night we will never forget.  We are definitely blessed!

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