4000 People, 1000 Floating Lanterns

Waiting for the bus, taking refuge in narrow shade. Wondering about delays and leadership. Setting birds free for a moment of aww. An hour bus ride in traffic. Before entering the site we’re told to pay attention to the route because we’re walking back to this point – it’s sufficiently convoluted to turn on the GPS. Our 3 busloads are seated (on the ground) together. Five pm and there are 4 hours to kill.

Not much to explore. Couldn’t get close to the ceremonial installation. Photographers with the prime seats must have arrived hours ago.

Repeated instructions over the PA, some about how to show the proper respect during the ceremony, some on care and freeing of sky lanterns. Every third instruction was to not light your individual tourch (1 per each 4 people) until instructed.

As instructed, we spent a lot of time sitting down.

Before dark sky lanterns began launching from an adjacent field that was hidden behind trees. This continued for hours. At first is was 3 or 4 a minute but that built to 10+ a minute. I lay on my back, watching the artificial milky way drift over, listened to the soothing tones of the Thai speaker doing what I guessed was guided meditation, and did what I always do during guided meditation: I fell asleep. Awoke to relative hustle and bustle.

The main torch was lit.

On cue we lit our individual touches and waited … and waited … and waited (actually less than a minute but excitement built like while waiting as a kid to enter the living room on Christmas morning).

We lit, we inflated and we waited … and waited … and, oh you get the idea.

As soon as I signed up for this event I knew at the peak moment I would be taking in the experience, not taking photographs. Well, almost. As the moment approached I pointed my camera in the general direction of the sky, held down the shutter button to take continuous photos, then turned my attention back to the launch.

The earth fell away because my brain couldn’t handle it. I have no other way to describe it. In my field of vision were dozens then scores then hundreds of identical objects all moving away at the same time and the same speed. This was not part of human evolution so the grey matter told me I was falling. The poet’s portion of my soul noticed that, let it go, then continued to experience the speechless wonder of the spectacle.

Admission price included one lantern. Many bought at least one more. The next 10 minutes was happy photo time.

A long walk to the bus … guide had to ask directions … waiting for stragglers … got off the bus 1km from old town because of traffic (this was planned) … another long walk … 2 songthaew rides … another walk … home … backup the photos … shower … zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

A big thanks to TravelnLass, AKA Dyanne, for telling me about the Couchsurfing event to one of the Yee Peng celebrations. The way she conveys both the travel and expat experiences in words and photos is why TravelnLass is one of my must reads.


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