by Kate Sisk, Greenheart Travel Correspondent Scholarship Winner in Thailand
Almost every day I have spent in Chiang Mai during my language exchange homestay, there have been celebrations. Living across from a temple, I am usually awakened or put to sleep by music, drums, and sometimes karaoke! Fireworks are set off at all times of day randomly, and lanterns are sent into the sky.
I had read about Yee Peng and Loy Krathong and had seen the amazing photos of thousands of lanterns in the sky, but I was in awe seeing it in person! There are many parts to this over one-week long celebration.
Loy Krathong is a holiday to let go and release bad luck, negative thoughts, or past bad deeds. Krathongs are made out of bread or banana stalks and shaped like a lotus. They are decorated with flowers, incense sticks and a candle. The candle is lit and set to float off into the river to send away negativity and also sometimes to thank the Goddess of Water.
On the actual Loy Krathong day, which was hard to discern because there were celebrations almost every day, my host family and I had dinner together at home, lit almost 50 candles around the house and yard, watched fireworks, and visited the temple across the street.
The Yee Peng lantern festival coincides with Loy Krathong and similarly symbolizes sending your troubles and negative energy away.
Yiwha, her friend, and her friend’s mother took me to a Yee Peng festival at a university in Chiang Mai.
There are also beauty contests, fireworks, and colorful lanterns all around Thailand to decorate temples and buildings.
Lantern displays in the center of Chiang Mai
A temple colorfully decorated for Loy Krathong in Lamphun – the oldest city in Thailand
A Thai Wedding
I was lucky enough to be invited to the wedding of a friend of my host mom’s! Beforehand, she showed me her family photo albums that included her and her husband’s wedding, graduation, and photos of Yiwha when she was a baby.
My host parents at their wedding.
Before the wedding, I was expecting a traditional Thai wedding like the photos I saw. It was actually a reception we attended and it was very much like an American wedding, which really surprised me! The bride looked like a princess with a beautiful white wedding dress and a tiara. They threw the bouquet of flowers and a little girl who couldn’t have been more than 12-years-old caught the bouquet! I thought it was great that they cut the wedding cake with a sword! My host mom said that the traditional Thai wedding was in the daytime. It was nice to hear they aren’t losing traditions with the acceptance of Western ones- they are just celebrating even more!
The King’s Birthday
The King of Thailand, known as Rama IX, is the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history. Every year, his birthday is celebrated throughout the country. My host family and I went to the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek gardens for a parade and fireworks!
It seems after one celebration is over in Thailand, another one begins!