A year ago we booked the hotel to be at the Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai. This festival was the focal point of the whole trip around the world. We didn’t care where we went as long as we were present for Yee Peng – the Lantern Festival.
Chiang Mai is a beautiful little town in Northern Thailand. It has an international airport thanks to the popularity of the Lantern Festival. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Chiang Mai which is outside the downtown core, cheaper, and yet has great service. With IHG platinum status the suite was a great bonus. We changed hotels to be right in the middle of the Lantern Festival. Our hotel, Le Meredien, was only 900m from the Iron Bridge. The lounge access was great as it helped cut down costs and the service was wonderful. We returned to the Holiday Inn for the last night to save some money.
“Loy” means to float and a “Krathong” is a small handmade boat made from a the trunk of a banana tree adorned with ﬂowers, candles, and incense sticks. On the night of the full moon, the krathong is floated on water with candles lit, as a gesture of goodwill to the water goddess.
Le Meridien gave us two gifts on arrival, a small box of chocolates and a Krathong.
In Chiang Mai, Loy Krathong coincides with the Lanna (Northern Thai) festival of Yee Peng, or full moon day of the second month of Lanna traditional calendar (the twelveth month according to Thai traditional calendar).
Yee means “two”, and Peng means “a full moon day”.
In this festival, lighted Khom Loi (Lanna style sky lanterns) are released into the air through the course of the night. The act of releasing the lantern symbolizes letting go of all ills and misfortunes in the previous year, and Buddhists also believe that if you make a wish when you set off the lantern, it will come true (but only if you do good deeds the following year).
The Monks Trail
We decided that going for a walk up the mountain (hill for those who live in Alberta) would be a great excursion. We negotiated a Tuk-Tuk, where I got to ride in the jump seat beside the driver, he cackled, “you driver number 2” and he was to take us to the end of Sutthep Road for about 100baht. Since no one is stupid enough to walk in South East Asia the driver took us to a bus stop for the a ride up the hill. After ten minutes of further discussion with some folks that speak broken English the Tuk-Tuk driver agreed to drop us where we wanted to go. Well, that’s what we thought! and the price – whatever we thought was fair!
We got to the base of where we thought we should be but no Monk’s trail. Instead we we were walking up to Huay Kaew Falls. It turns out he dropped uss off on the Northern side of Chiang Mai University instead of the South side. It worked out in our favour as we ran into some fellow Canadians and got to walk through a beautiful park with Water Falls.
Our Favourite Restaurant (no English Name)
The Silver Temple (Wat SriSupan)
I went for a lone walk and decided to look for the Silver Temple which was featured in a newspaper article that I had read. After a few mis-turns and a couple of false Wat-expectations. I found it! It was 50baht to enter the Temple and it was worth it.
The temple was built in conjunction with the local silver smiths to promote their trade and to ensure that young people continue learning the skill. It is also a learning centre for buddhism.
We spent a total of ten nights in Chiang Mai which provided a welcome break from all the travelling around and helped us gain an appreciation for the city. It caters to tourists but there are also many places that you can find that are local. For example, our favourite restaurant was only 50baht for a meal, we had a second restaurant that served hot noodle pork ball soup (think pho) for breakfast for 40baht, and haircuts were 200baht for women and 100baht for men. The Lantern Festival is something that should be on everyone’s bucket list as it is truly amazing!