There we were, in the back of a cab, checked out of our hotel with luggage in tow, and no place to go. We came on this trip with no set itinerary, expectations, or back-up plans. So with nowhere to go but out of Bangkok, we asked the driver to change course and take us to the airport, where we found a flight to Chiang Mai leaving in 90mins. Did I mention that in Bangkok it is possible to purchase a plane ticket, check baggage, get through security, and book a hotel with time to spare in this situation? Yeah, TSA could learn a thing or two from these people.
An hour flight later we were in Chiang Mai and on our way to our hotel.
I suppose it is worth mentioning here that while it is very possible to stay cheap in Thailand, thus far we have chosen not to. By American standards the places we've stayed have been very very reasonable, but we have not made the foray into $15/night guesthouses yet. We were advised by multiple people that Bangkok is not the place to skimp as it is, to put it mildly, so hit or miss. What can I say, it's out honeymoon.
We checked into our hotel in the old city of Chiang Mai, rested a bit, and ate a late early dinner. By this time it was just passing from dusk to dark and we decided to take a walk to see the neighborhood.
A few short blocks later we noticed that trailing across the sky were a dozens paper lanterns. As we got closer we heard fireworks which appeared to be coming from a temple down the road. We followed the fireworks and lanterns to the gated yard of the temple where inside were a few dozen Buddhist monks and students, intermixed with other locals and some tourists.
Unsure if this was a private ceremony or not we hovered awkwardly until a middle-aged American couple invited us in. In turns out this couple spends any where from 4-12weeks in Chiang Mai yearly for business, a business I am quite curious to know more about, and considered this their "home" temple.
The locals were celebrating something, which I did not catch, by sending lanterns into the sky. As far as I can understand, the release of the lanterns is symbolic of sending away or letting go of the bad. A sort of cleansing. The Thais, who are also a superstitious lot, will release the lanterns with a firework* attached to scare of ghosts.
While I do not typically wax profane, or even consider myself a sentimental person, this ritual was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. The children of all ages playing with lanterns and running through the lot. The joy and calm of the monks. The intrigue of the tourists. It was magical to say the least.
*The lantern I released had a firework attached, that when the monk lit it, I almost peed my pants...
- Typos courtesy of my iPad