We took a songteow into town, and we found people just beginning to set up their vendor stands, and by tdhe waterside crafting the floating flower candles that would be released later that night.
The downtown center of Chiang Mai is surrounded by a moat , and a few large floats were to be found hanging around.
We went to get some Mexican food at Miguel’s, a well-known Mexican restaurant in town. Thankfully, it wasn’t real Mexican food (yay for Tex-Mex!), and we were excited to eat tortillas and tortilla chips again, if only for an evening!
When we exited, the sun had already gone down, and the festivities had begun. Near the Tha Phae gate they’d had famous buildingsdepicted in large glowing (at night) structures. Jared took Ethan to the Kremlin…
…and we visited others like Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower.
The parade was already going, and we stood watch close to the Tha Phae gate. The night before had been the actual start of the festival, but this night’s parade had almost 8x the amount of floats, so we opted to save the late night out for the 2nd day.
We were not disappointed when it came to floats! We watched the varied floats and parading groups for about an hour. The kids stood in front of the wall of people, and then people would keep pressing forward and forward, until a float wouldn’t fit. Then some cops would show up and push the crowds back and direct the float through…and it repeated itself about every 10 minutes.
Here they are carrying a picture of their king. He is very well-loved by his people, and you find his photo and paintings of him everywhere!
Check out those fingernails!
To say the floats were elaborate would be a bit of an understatement!
We observed one float rider suffering from motion-sickness, and an audible “gasp” came from the crowd as we witnessed him relieving himself of dinner in a bag as he sat on his knees (no photo).
I’m thinking that there is a beauty contest related to this parade…but I’d need one of my better-informed friends to set me straight!
Further down the road toward the river, we found the wats (temples) to be a beautiful background to the parade!
Some people had a better idea of how to pass their time, rather than trying to push through the throngs of people. These roadside massages gave them the opportunity to see plenty of floats!
The parade turned down the road towards the American Embassy, leaving the blocked off bridge over the Ping River to pedestrians only. It was a crazy mess of people letting off lanterns, vendors selling their wares, and people letting off fireworks that sometimes whizzed dangerously past people’s heads!
We watched as many people released their floating candles/flowers into the river below.
In search of something away from the crowds, we sought out a different location where people were celebrating in quieter groups. Jared had seen a photo on Facebook from the night before, and pin-pointed it to be taken at Wat Chedi Luang, in the city center.
We were happy to arrive and see that it was quiet, festive, and extremely photogenic!
Monks were all over the grounds, lighting and releasing lanterns with the small amount of foreigners watching and participating.
One group of monks invited the kids over to help release the lantern.
The monks were clearly having a lot of fun, and were pulling out their smart phones to take photos, and asking to pose with Ethan, etc.
From what we observed as we returned home…the parade went on for more than 3 hours! Lanterns were being released here, there, and everywhere!
Overall, a memorable evening that we won’t soon forget! If you’re coming to Chiang Mai, make sure you don’t miss this festival!