Tag Archives: holidays

Launching Lanterns On New Year’s Eve In Chiang Mai

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New Year’s Eve in Chiang Mai is a holiday that is treated by the locals in the manner that we regard Christmas.  It’s a joyous occasion where people get to get with their families, celebrate, and make wishes for a prosperous and happy year ahead.  One of these traditions involves lighting a lantern and releasing it into the sky.  On the day of/in the days leading up to the big day, vendors will be selling these collapsed paper bags with a wick that is shaped like a doughnut.  This is what you and thousands of people will be sending into the sky en masse on New Year’s Eve in Chiang Mai …

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To send your lantern into the ether, unfurl it, then light the wick, which has been pre-primed with an accelerant that will keep it lit for a good long while.  Next, it won’t fly away until the air within the lantern is hot enough to provide the upward thrust to keep it rising.  Many people get impatient and let theirs go way too early, leading to it hovering near the ground, and sadly, due to the moat present in the main area of Chiang Mai, splashing down in the water, possibly leading to a year of bad luck 😛

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Eventually though, the heat will have built up to a point where you can let it blast off (3-5 minutes is usually enough time).  Off into the sky it will go, along with thousands of others … before the law of gravity takes over and begins raining fire and extinguished lanterns on the surrounding neighbourhoods! 😛

Have you ever launched paper lanterns into the sky, be it in Thailand or elsewhere in the world?  Tell us about it below!

Photo: Movie Night On The King’s Birthday, Lopburi, Thailand

Movie Night On The King's Birthday in Lopburi, ThailandLocal Thais watch a movie on the King’s Birthday in Lopburi, Thailand.

The King of Thailand is one of the world’s most revered monarchs. Ask any Thai, and the vast majority will espouse how the King has led the country from being an agrarian nation at the conclusion of World War II, to a modern and well-regarded state where people’s quality of life has vastly improved. Everywhere you go in the country, you’ll see giant portraits of King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit. Small framed photos of the King can be spotted in shops, guesthouses, and homes. Despite the fact that Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, which means that the King has no real political power, politicians often call on him for advice, and nobody dares to disrepect him when he voices an opinion, one way or the other. Indeed, it is a crime to insult the King in Thailand.

On the date of the current King’s Birthday (December 5), a bank holiday takes place throughout the entire country. Speeches to honour the King take place on TV, the sale of alcohol is banned (stock up before this day and ALL other scheduled Buddhist holidays), and festivities, including fireworks, take place across the entire nation.

In Lopburi, one of the events they held to honour Rama IX was a movie night on the King’s Birthday. Right outside my guesthouse door, they had a giant video screen set up, where they were showing videos trumpeting the King’s leadership over the years through various tough times. The movie shown above was one concerning typhoon Gay that struck places like Surat Thani and Koh Samui in 1989, making it the first tropical disturbance to form in the Gulf of Thailand and make landfall since 1891. Over 600 people in Thailand were killed, necessitating a massive relief response.

The King led the formation of a charitable organization, which sprung into immediate action in the wake of that disaster, and it has been called upon in other calamities in the years since then (the most notable example being the Tsunami that struck Southwestern Thailand back in 2004, killing 7,000 people). The video was very well-produced, and it did an excellent job to help explain why Thais love their King so dearly.

Ever been in Thailand during the King’s Birthday? What events did you witness/partake in?