It’s a BIG day today! Ever since our departure, we have been looking forward to this moment: my dad and stepmom fly over to travel with us for two weeks in Thailand. Together we will experience the magical lantern festival Yi Peng! We are incredibly excited (and a bit anxious). We had arrived few days early in Chiang Mai, but saved the sightseeing for later. Before we go to the airport to pick up Frank and Hanneke, we move from our couchsurfing house to our new hostel. Yes, Frank and Hanneke wanted to experience the backpacker-life, how fun!
A Mysterious Haircut
The big day starts with Maartje going for a haircut, all by herself. Normally we do everything together but I’m not allowed to join this time, how mysterious… I have no idea what’s going on but I decide to wait for the surprise! For lunch we meet up with Gretka and Nico, a couple we met in Malaysia! We inspired them to go to the lantern festival so here they are! We are really happy to see them again, they are so cute and Gretka is one of the happiest persons we have ever met. After lunch we get our bags, bring them to our hostel and travel to the airport. Of course we don’t want to be late!
Another Emotional Reunion
We arrive on the airport and struggle to find the right arrival hall: the number of the plane changed. But luckily we find the right one and as soon as Frank and Hanneke walk down the stairs we spot each other. They are so happy to see us, we are afraid they walk out the doors without their luggage haha. It doesn’t take long before we can hug each other. It feels so good to see them in real life, instead of on a small screen!
By grab-taxi we go to our hostel, where we relax a bit before we go out again. That night is the start of the Loy Krathong festival and we don’t want to miss it! We walk into the old part of the city where all magic happens. There are already so many candles and lanterns! We love it. It’s super crowded at the square of the opening but hey, who doesn’t want to be here?! And even though there are so many people, we bump into Gretka and Nico! We wander around the city, visit a beautiful temple with hundreds of lanterns and have dinner with the six of us. Great start of the festival!
During the next days we take it easy during the day, in order to fully immerge ourselves in the magical night activities later! It’s very unclear what the best spots are for the lantern festival. We ask many local people, but no one could tell us a clear story. We start to feel a bit anxious: this is only a once in a year event (maybe even lifetime for us), we want to be in the right place in the right time!
Wat Phan Tao Monk Ceremony
Our Internet research tells us the second night of the festival, the celebration of Yi Peng, is the night of the massive lantern release. There are many paid tourist events, but we want to experience a more authentic experience. So we start our night at a temple where monks will perform a special meditation ceremony. In order to get a good spot, we arrive two hours before. And it is so crowded already! We push a way through the people and manage to squeeze our tripod somewhere on the first row. We stand so close to two other tripods, it’s impossible for all three of us to take a picture at the same time. But we are willing to make some enemies if it means we’ll have awesome photos. The ceremony is super pretty but a little boring. So we walk in the direction of all the floating lanterns. It looks like there is a particular place they’re coming from: we need to go there!
Releasing our lanterns and wishes
On our way to that place we stop at another beautiful temple, where many people release their lanterns. It’s a magical spot and we release our first lantern in the sky. It feels like the Disney movie Tangled: so magical!
We walk further towards the Narawat bridge, where we meet Gretka & Nico again. It turns out to be the most popular spot to release lanterns, but it is a little too crowded. We look into the sky full of little lights and then walk back to the temple to release more lanterns.
While walking I notice that Maartje is still crazy nervous. No need to be nervous any more, right?! We’ve already seen so many beautiful things and shot lots of pretty shots! But after we release our last lantern, Maartje starts to cry. Is it because we didn’t eat yet or are you tired? I ask here what’s going on. “I can’t tell you” she says, while sobbing. “What on earth can you not tell me? You are not going to propose right?!” She looks up and cries “yeheeess I am”.
Read the full (awkward) proposal story!
Grande finale: the parade
On the last night we take it easy. The other nights we wanted to see and do everything but that was a bit too much. This time we only go to the final parade and to the Ping River. There are some fireworks and we release our very last lantern. Or well, it doesn’t go too well. The wind is the strong and before we know it our lantern caught fire. Sad story.
Thai Cooking Class
The festival was so amazing! We’d recommend everyone to go! It’s really crowded, but definitely worth it! We stay in Chiang Mai for three more nights and visit the beautiful temple on a mountain and join a cooking class! We love Thai food, so why not learn how to make it ourselves?! A queen teaches us how spring rolls, friend rice, Pad Thai and different curries. The best part is we can eat it all! See it all in our Thai Cooking Class video!
On our last day in Chiang Mai we meet up with Gretka and Nico again, and we say goodbye for now. They will travel to Vietnam and maybe we see each other in Cambodia again. Maartje meets up with Jennifer, a girl we know through Instagram, and I explore one more temple with my dad and stepmom.
Time to continue our Thailand-adventures! We take a night train to Bangkok, you’ll read about it in our next travel journal!