by Anna Idler
I’ve never wished I was taller more than fighting through the Loi Krathong festival crowds in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Fragile paper lanterns in hand, Rachel and I weaved through the packed streets trying not to knock into anything or anyone, a near impossible act. I looked up at the sky near the Ping River, our destination, to see a few lanterns already floating in the warm winds.
We changed tactics and lifted our lanterns above our heads to get the last couple of feet to the edge of the bridge; because of my height disadvantage this simply meant my lantern was now bumping into the backs and necks of people rather than legs.
By some miracle we made it to an open area on the bridge. We examined our precious cargo – two small lanterns and one big one, for both of us to lift into the sky – and were relieved there were no rips or tears.
“You want to go first?” Rachel asked as I’m already flipping my lantern over excitedly to try and light it. Then came the tricky part: getting this thing into the air without burning ourselves or any innocent bystanders. We’d already seen a guy’s head almost catch fire from being hit by a wild floating lantern that flew horizontally instead of up into the sky.
Loi Krathong is celebrated annually in Thailand. Swarms of sky lanterns are lit and sent into the night. The khom lo, “floating lanterns,” are made from rice paper stretched over a wire frame with a circular candle attached. You light the candle and wait for the hot air to fill the lantern; once you feel it lifting from your hands, you have let it fly.
It was moving to hear everyone enthusiastically shouting “let it go!” when it was time for a lantern to float on its own. I wanted to hold onto my lantern, to that moment and experience, for a long time. But the time comes where if you don’t toss it up, it will overheat and collapse in on itself. I think sometimes we aren’t ready to let things go in life either. But there always comes a point where we have no choice and have to, where we must either let go or be burned.
Rachel and I lifted our separate lanterns up and then lit our last one together. We made wishes and threw it into the night where it floated towards all of the others. I watched it rise and blend in among all of the others, everyone’s hopes and dreams lighting up the night.
Follow Anna’s world travels:
Surfing in Lagos, Portugal
Spain & Portugal
Running with the Bulls in Pamplona
26 year-old Anna Idler lives in Montgomery County, PA and is a freelance writer for Montco Happening. To learn more about her travels, check out her website Outlaw Summer.