multiple fire hazards – a loi krathong retrospective

The city is old– old enough that the oldest part has a completely intact wall surrounding it. We ended up in a guesthouse far away from the Old Town, though, and the tuk-tuk ride was about 60 baht each way, so I stayed in our little bungalow at the Pun Pun guesthouse most of the time. It was tiny as hell and noisy and chilly at night, but I liked the open-air feel.

We were there along the river for Loi Krathong. The Loi Krathong festival turns the entire city of Chiang Mai into a fireman’s worst nightmare for the third weekend of November, so at night our guesthouse was a hell of a lot noisier than usual– one night we woke up to shouting about a misfired firework that nearly set the backyard next to us on fire. Fireworks were ridiculously cheap and readily available in the makeshift vendors that lined the river that weekend. Krathong to float on the river were also easy to come by. Even our guesthouse owner’s really sweet wife knew how to make beautiful ones.

Kom loi are the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. They’re cheap paper hot air balloon lanterns, with a masking tape roll-shaped candle suspended by wire at the bottom to inflate. Some people attach long streams of sparklers to the end of the candle, but if you’re not experienced in doing this you can very well set the whole thing on fire. It’s baffling how the local police and firemen deal with this entire weekend without going into a collective nervous breakdown.

My sister and I had a blast lighting kom loi, letting them go, and hoping they didn’t make a building catch fire. You’re supposed to pray and make a wish before you let it go, but sometimes we were kinda busy worrying about whether it’d kill someone first. ‘Cause, you know, that’s pretty bad karma.


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This is a blog of things place-related, by a cash-strapped Stanford grad who's lived in various places and writes about life. She's currently looking for a job in Manhattan or the Bay Area.

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