by Nathalie, Voluntourist, IHF Chiang Rai
I was lucky because during my first week in Chiang Rai, I could assist to the Lanterns Festival, called Yi Peng. This festival was originally celebrated as an individual event marking the end of the rainy season and the start of the winter but now it takes place at the same time as Loy Krathong. On Wednesday, I went with Laura and some girls of the center: Kantiya, Arisa and Janjira to the north of the city along the Kok River, a tributary of the Mekong.
The girls explained us that we should buy an offer, light up the candle and the incense and put it on the river after praying. It is mostly a piece of a banana trunk decorated with leaves and flowers. That was nice because I had seen the children making their own donations two days before at the center. I bought mine and everything seemed great until… it started raining so hard! Then the only aim was to get to the river avoiding the huge puddles that were on our way and, once there, light up the candle and the incense holding the umbrella at the same time. Finally, we gave our flowers to some little girls who were shoeless and able to cross a part of the river to release them. Later, after releasing two baby turtles with Laura and sharing candy floss with the girls, we went back to the center, it was a lovely day.
The following Friday, I had also a magical experience when all of us released lanterns into the sky from the IHF Chiang Rai center. Their light is significant in Buddhist culture because it represents the change from darkness into a brighter future. That night, fortunately, there was no rain, but there was a lot of complicity, wishes, firecrackers and, above all, pictures…! ☺ Thanks for this unforgettable time!