New Years Eve - Elephants and Lanterns
We flew to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand on Dec 30th. It was a bit quieter than Bangkok, but not much since everyone had traveled to the town for New Years Eve. We stayed in the center of town, which is full of of small alleys and streets with plenty of guest houses and cafes. That evening we wandered around town through the night market full of vendors selling everything imaginable to buy or eat. We of course stopped in to view a few Wat's, one in particular was very ornate, and we stopped to listen to the monks performing their evening prayer chant. The temple was full of hanging prayer flags put up by people to wish for good luck in the coming year. Sara hung one and asked for best wishes for humanity, the earth and all the animals. (So you are all covered for 2013).
The next day (Dec 31st) we visited an elephant rescue park. It was a wonderful experience allowing us to closely interact with the elephants, including feeding and bathing. There were some very sad stories about the suffering of the elephants, many who had been abused, and were now blind or injured. They do now have a wonderful area to roam as they wish, with plenty of food and kind attention. There were two young couples in our group, and we really enjoyed talking to them and sharing the experience. A friend from work recommended we visit and I'm very glad we picked this park. We of course left with several souvenirs, and made a donation to sponsor an elephant for the year!
That evening we learned why so many people go to Chiang Mai for New Years, it is so magical. The streets were packed full of people and street vendors, including a live band. The best part is everyone was lighting paper lanterns and releasing them into the sky. This is a tradition for good luck in the coming year, and an way to release the bad things that happened in the previous year. We purchased a lantern for 30 baht ($1) and decided to launch our own lantern..... its not as easy as it looks!
John was ready with the camera and Sara started the lighting process aided by a friendly American tourist. Unfortunately a wind shift caused the flame to catch the lantern on fire, and not wanted to get burned we let go. The lantern took off and flew into another tourist, sending sparks and flames around his head and shoulders. Some frantic slapping by Sara averted a nasty disaster, and further stamping extinguished the still burning lantern on the ground. John was too stunned at the disaster unfolding in front of him that he didn't take any photos! A little shaken by the experience we were concerned our Karma was damaged for the coming year, however some local folks took pity on us, and helped us light and release another lantern sucessfully. Mission accomplished! It was truly the most memorable New Years Eve we have experienced.