Did we (well Mark) say “our final month in Asia”?! ….. Well, my motto for one is “never say never” and after 2 months in the UK, we find ourselves back where is increasingly becoming our second home, Chiang Mai.
In truth, we’ve been here almost 2 months now and are hitting the road again in less than a week so I thought it was time for a long overdue update ……
We do feel like we’ve been a bit nose to the grindstone for the past few months which is my excuse for not putting anything on the blog. Our “working days” have been spent on our website which, by now, you are hopefully aware of (if not, read on for an opportunity to pay more attention!). We’ve also been going to the gym a lot in an effort to redress the excesses of time spent in England. Occasionally we allow ourselves an hour by the pool, but this has become a bit of a guilty pleasure. Evenings are unpredictable and can go either way – often, what is intended to be a quick Monday night visit to the market for a 50 pence duck noodle soup ends up several beers later at “Papa’s”. Papa’s is the social hub at the apartment block we stay in – it’s effectively a small mini-market with a few tables and chairs and a fridge full of cold beer and Papa is the lovely old Thai guy that runs it. He only speaks a few words of English – but he sees and understands everything and for those who can speak Thai, is a great source of gossip. He still manages to report any notable activity with his 10 or so word English vocabulary. There’s usually always someone having a drink at Papa’s and often a huge amount of willpower is required to bypass it and have an early night!
So in many respects, we have a nice little routine here and one that’s probably not that interesting to blog about too much. However there have been a couple of interesting things happening. One of which was the festival of Loi Krathong and Yi Peng. A major event in the Thai year, it’s held on the full moon of the 12th month according to the Thai lunar calender. Hence in the western calender it usually falls in November. It’s actually 2 different celebrations that combine into 3 days of festivities: Loi Krathong describes the floating decoration that is put into the river as a symbol of giving thanks, letting go of negative thoughts and the opportunity to make a wish. Traditionally they are made from a slice of banana tree trunk covered with banana leaf and decorated with folded banana leaves, flowers, a candle and incense sticks. You can also get modern ones made from styrofoam (not popular as they pollute the river) or hard bread which the fish can eat (much more eco-friendly). The ones made from the banana tree are, of course, bio-degradable. I had the opportunity to make my own krathong thanks to our lovely Thai friends and although it took me about 3 times longer than the Thai’s to make I was pretty proud of my effort and was a bit sad to see it float off down the river!
The Yi Peng part of the festival is a time to make merit and involves the release of hundreds of, if not thousands, paper sky lanterns into the night sky. Each has a candle/kerosene lamp which creates the air to make it float up and often a small trail of fireworks and firecrackers attached to it. It’s so beautiful to see the lanterns floating up into the sky which is dotted with glowing lights for about 3 nights in a row. Even looking out from our balcony in the middle of the night there would be hundreds across the skyline.
So glowing lanterns in the sky, candles floating down the river and non-stop fireworks and firecrackers made for a fantastic few days. OK, sometimes firecrackers throughout the night when we were trying to sleep gets a bit annoying!
We also went to a hot air balloon festival, the highlight of which was a kind of sound and light show – rows of hot air balloons “dancing” i.e. alternating their bursts of flame to good effect, against a backdrop of fireworks and a soundtrack of Gangnam Style! I was too buying trying to take photographs to video it but I came across this great one on YouTube in case you can’t envisage it! Watch here.
Dancing Hot Air Balloons and Fireworks at the International Balloon Festival in Chiang Mai
Other than that we’ve revisited some of our favourite temples and markets and I took a 2-day photography workshop which was very beneficial (I hope!).