“It’s been cancelled,” said Rand, a look of distress on his face.
“The mass lantern release for Yi Peng at Mae Jo University, it’s been cancelled.”
The event that our whole family, especially Rand and Sierra, had been looking forward to since the early stages of planning our round the world trip was not happening this year.
Rand had promised Sierra that in return for being willing to miss her senior year at home, he would take her to the real-life Tangled style lantern festival.
Rand was devastated. Not only was he missing a fantastic photographic event, he was also breaking a promise to his daughter.
But the holiday Yi Peng, also called Loy Krantong, was not cancelled. Just the mass lantern lighting. Online sources promised there would be lanterns at Three Kings Monument and at the Old City gates and near the river on November 25th. Maybe not as many and not released all at once.
Perhaps we could salvage this anticipated travel highlight.
On the 24th of November, the festival would begin with a parade from the Ta Phae Gate to the Ping River. We are not big fans of parades, but I thought it might be fun.
We arrived at the Ta Phae gate just after the parade was scheduled to start. There was a huge crowd around what appeared to be the start of the parade. We decide to walk down the parade route and find a place to sit and watch.
We waited and waited and waited. We could see the front of the parade, but it never seemed to get closer to us. We eventually gave up and went down to the river.
At the river we found tables with locals selling kratong. Kratong are little “boats” often decorated with flowers, candles, and incense. As part of the Loy Kratong holiday, kratong are released into the river to symbolically let go of negativity.
We bought our own kratong, lit the candle and incense, and pushed them gently into the river.
Afterwards we followed the parade route back to the Ta Phae gate. Walking the opposite way turned out to be the best way to watch the glacially slow parade.
The next night we anxiously anticipated the lantern releasing. Unsure about where best to go to see lots of lanterns, we started at Three Kings Monument. On the sidewalk, we found a woman selling lanterns. She told us that the lanterns were to be released at 9pm. Thinking we might get to participate in a mass release after all, we went to the monument and waited.
At the monument small, square lanterns were hung in rows and lined up on the ground. We sat and watched the people and the lanterns. The candles in the lanterns were burning out and blowing out in the breeze. Rand was invited to help relight them. Eventually, we all joined in. Arwen loved it. She must have spent an hour lighting hanging lanterns.
Around 8 pm, we noticed sky lanterns floating in the sky near the river. A few at first, then dozens. We wondered if we should head to the river, but we thought it would be fun to be part of a mass release at 9 pm.
We waited until 8:30 pm, watching more and more lanterns float into the sky by the river. It didn’t seem that people were gathering for a mass release, so we gave up and left for the river.
We squeezed into a tuk tuk and asked the driver to take us to the river. Unfortunately, instead of taking us to the lanterns, he took us to a crowded festival area. We tried to push our way through the crowd towards the lanterns, but it was no use.
We dashed back to an open street and ran towards the lanterns. Rand was worried that people would be done releasing lanterns by the time we got there. But there was no need to be concerned. When we arrived crowds of people were still lighting lanterns.
We found an open space and lit one of our lanterns. Despite it being crowded, people moved back to let others light their lanterns.
This was a good thing because I thought you needed to toss the lantern into the sky and almost threw my lantern into some people.
My lantern was heating up, but not quite ready. I pushed it towards the sky, but it didn’t lift and people had to dodge out of the way. A local man grabbed it and we held it together until it was ready to float upwards.
We let off a few more lanterns including a huge one. This time waiting for the heat of the flame to lift the lantern before letting go.
All around us lanterns floated into the air. Already release lanterns dotted the sky like stars.
“This is amazing!” exclaimed Sierra.
“Is it all you dreamed it would be?” I asked
“Yes, and more,” said Sierra, the glow of the lanterns reflecting in her wonder-filled eyes.
Rand may have missed the photographic spectacular of the mass lantern release, but he kept his promise to his daughter.
Later that night, we sat at Burger King (having not managed to eat any dinner before lighting lanterns), watching still more lanterns floating into the sky in the distance. We marveled at the wonderful experiences we have had because we are traveling.