Loi Krathong - The Festival of Lights - was held on the full month of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, which fell on 1-3 Nov in 2009. Many Thai believe that floating a krathong will create good luck, and they do it to honor and thank the Goddess Mae Khongkha, the mother of water.
Loi means "to float". Krathong is small floats decorated with flowers, incense, and candles. They also have large paper lanterns released to the sky called Khom Loi.
This was our (my husband and I) first Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai - it was amazingly very beautiful. Flowers, candles, lanterns, and fireworks were everywhere. It was so colorful, magical, and romantic :-)
Oh - and Chiang Mai weather is cool and nice - important for me :-) My brain does not work well in hot weather :-)
On our first day in Chiang Mai, we went to a massage place (yes, of course, when in Thailand, massage is a must thing to do :-)) but unfortunately the massage place within walking distance from where we stayed, Maninarakorn Hotel, was not that great. The massage itself was not bad but the place and the ambience was not impressive.
We've done a bit of research before the trip and apparently one of the must-go-restaurant when you're in Chiang Mai was Huan Soontaree Restaurant. The restaurant was owned by a famous Thai Singer, Soontaree Vechanont, whose daughter was also a singer, Lanna Commins. This restaurant served delicious Northern Thai Food. We loved the food so much - I must say it was one of the most impressive food I've ever eaten in my life and I still can remember how good they're many years after. We ordered Sour and Spicy Fried Fish with Grilled Basil Leaves (very yummy!), Northern Style Curry Pork (I am not actually a fan of curry food but this one was really good), and a salad dish (that I can't remember at all). While we were there enjoying our dinner with a very lovely atmosphere by the Ping River, Soontaree sang. After dinner, we floated our first krathong to the Ping River, wishing our dreams to come true.
The morning after, we visited Hmong Hill Tribe village - very lovely little village located on the hill. We can get the view of Chiangmai from the hill.
(The village was actually much more colourful and beautiful than my photos below - with pretty flowers everywhere and there was a small waterfall. But somehow I didn't have any of those photos - without me featured :-)).
We visited Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (Doi Suthep Mountain Temple). From the temple, we had an impressive view of Chiang Mai. Just like in any temple, we must appropriately dressed (knees covered) and removed our footwear. But don't worry they also provide Sarongs for rent in case you come in shorts.
On the Loi Krathong night, we went to the city center and watched the parade. There were also performances on the stage. Everywhere people released the Khom Loi (paper lanterns) to the sky. We tried to release ours, too. We ended the night with a nice dinner at Antique House, by the Mae Ping River. When we did the trip, it was just the two of us without kid. I think it would have been a challenge to take your young kids with you (below 7 years old) as it was very crowded and we did a lot of walking to see different spots of celebration around the city.
On our third day in Chiang Mai, we had another delicious lunch at Huen Phen, a tropical Northern Thai cuisine. We filled the day in the old city, doing temple hopping and looking around - Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phan Tao, Three Kings Monument. We had dinner at Antique House where we had another Thai cuisine (yes - we both love Thai food so much) while enjoying the full moon and dark blue sky lit up by the Khom Loi (paper lanterns) followed by lots of walk and a visit to an old wooden house located on Charoen Prathet Road just at the back of famous Anusarn Market. This over 100 years old Lanna Ancient House was built in 1867. The old wooden house looked so fragile but indeed interesting to see the inside where they put some pictures and explanation about the house. We had to queue to go in as they limit number of people who can be inside the house at the same time.
On our fourth day, we did the Mae Ping River Cruise. Different scene along the river - started with the Loi Krathong decorations put up for the celebration, the greeneries, some restaurants, nice houses, and we also made a brief stop at local farmer's house to enjoy Thai fruits.
On our last day in Chiang Mai, we visited Maesa Elephant Camp and Baan Tong Luang Hill Tribe village, an eco-agricultural village. In Maesa Elephant Camp, we got to see some elephants performing and the elephants nursery (where baby elephants live with their mother until they are 2 years old). I don't know how they trained the elephants - they could draw!
When I visited this elephant camp, I didn't think much about the elephants well-being. Recently I am more aware - or people make me aware - it's probably not a good thing to visit such place, a form of animal exploitation in a way. I leave it to you to decide whether or not you should visit such place.
Will we come back to Chiang Mai? Yes, absolutely! I love the cool weather (it's not a big deal for my husband :-)) and the food (yumm!). I think we have not explored the nature and with our kid, that will be an interesting thing to do.
Will we come back for Loi Krathong? Not sure yet. Maybe when C is older (at least 10 years old). The crowd on Loi Krathong night is probably too much for young kids.
We flew back from Chiang Mai via Bangkok, where we stayed for another two nights to visit the historic city of Ayutthaya, located about 80 km north of Bangkok. We visited Wat Yai Chaya Mongkol and the Old Royal Palace in Ayutthaya Historical Park (which some part of it declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site). While it's very hot, I still could enjoy the visit - amazing city with stories from the old days.
Till next trip to Thailand!