My first Loy Krathong Festival!

I’ve always wanted to let off my own lantern, and I finally got to do it this week at the Loy Krathong festival in Thailand. Living here for 8 months, I’ve heard so much about this amazing festival, Thai’s look forward to it all year! It’s a festival that happens every year on the date of the full moon, in the 12th month of the Thai Lunar calendar. This year it was on the 25th November but the festival lasts for 3 days.

My first experience was just incredible, I’ve never seen anything quite like it before, it was probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had!

Starting off at school on Tuesday 24th. We made our very own krathongs (flower and vegetable  baskets made with banana trees, which are put in the river to say thank you to all the water spirits in Thailand.) It was loads of fun, sitting all the kids down and giving them all the materials to make the krathongs. My class are only six years old, so we gave them ice-cream cones to makes theirs, so it’s food for the fish too!

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After, we had a traditional Thai ceremony with children doing dances to the Loy Krathong traditional song. Of course I took part too, all dressed in my Northern Thai attire!

After school, I went to the Ping river, which runs right through Chiang Mai! There was loads of people selling their own Krathongs along with sparklers (so we didn’t miss out on our bonfire night at home!), it was a  lovely atmosphere. Had to bend right over into the river to let my krathong go, holding on tight so I didn’t fall in! Stopped to watch a traditional Thai parade in the city too!

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On the 25th was the much anticipated mass lantern release at Mae Jo University. Inside the Uni, you had to pay $100, we decided to stay outside and watch with hundreds of local Thais!

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Letting our lanterns off was an amazing experience although challenging at first. One had a hole in so we had to throw it in the river before it caused a huge fire, but the others worked great!

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At 9pm, the mass lantern release was due. We patiently saved our last and biggest lantern ready for the release. Almost immediately after letting it go, we heard to crowds cheering and looked up to the most incredible sight I’ve seen! Thousands and thousands of lanterns released into the sky at the exact same time, shining bright with the huge full moon in the background. The atmosphere taking them in one direction, it looked magnificent! If you’re ever planning to be in Chiang Mai for Loy Krathong, go to Mae Jo uni, its a must see! (and don’t pay for those tickets as its just as incredible if not more outside, from the view we had!)

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Midway through the lantern release, we were surprised by a huge array of fireworks, literally blowing the lanterns to pieces in the process, a sight worth seeing that’s for sure!

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Don’t miss out on Loy Krathong next year, along with the lantern launch of Yee Peng! Definitely worth planning your trip around, just remember the actual date in November changes every year!

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A day in the life of a TEFL teacher

5:45am – Alarm goes off. Stay in bed until 6:15am. Get up, get ready, make my morning smoothie and leave at 7:10am.

7:15am – Get on the back of the bike, along the Super highway, passing school kids driving motorbikes and Monks walking barefoot to the temple.

7:30am – Arrive at school, greeted by a child hiding in my class. She’s taken all the chairs down for the students and turned on the lights. I make a joke that’s she’s now the Teacher at six years old, to which she falls about laughing! Another Teacher comes in to give me one of his Aloe Vera plants as I’ve been after one for ages! Was just expecting a small plant but it’s HUGE!

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7:45am – Load up my lesson plans for the day, starting with English and then Maths. Add words to my vocabulary tree. (Great idea to help the kids think of new words too!)

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8:10am – Make my way downstairs, greeting children and parents along the way. Position myself ready for assembly and the flag ceremony. Children sing the Thai national anthem whilst facing and watching the Thai flag being raised. It is a very respectful thing to see and a lovely way to see Thai traditions. Practice the Loy Krathong festival dance in assembly. Never thought I would be doing a Thai traditional dance in front of 300 kids when I came here!

8:30am – Bring the children up to the class, settle them in and welcome teachers. Another of Thailand’s respectful traditions. Children wai to Teachers (by placing your hands together near your face and bowing) and say good morning in unison to everyone.

8:45am – Start my first lesson of the day, English. We are learning how to describe our feelings.

10:15am – Line the children up ready for morning break. Count down from 5 – 0 and the kids scramble to be in the line and in the right positions including the line leader and caboose at the back. One of the children has brought in some snacks from his recent visit home to China, so the kids patiently wait for their snacks before break.

10:30am – Start my next lesson for the day, Maths. Learning all about ordinal numbers so play an interactive game on a great website called IXL. Loads of games for all grades and keeps them occupied for 15 minutes or so.

11:15am – I separate my class ready for our Christmas dance practice. Can’t explain how exhausting it is. 25 kids, all between 5 and 7 years of age, trying to organise them and get them to memorise a dance in time to the music! Very difficult but great fun though! It’s nice to take time away from our lessons to do fun things with the children. Sometimes it can be all about work and completing books, it’s nice to do something different which we all enjoy. I quite like playing choreographer too!

11:45am – Get ready for lunch. Take the children down to the canteen and meet my boyfriend. He works at the same school as me so it’s very convenient to go out for lunch, well I need him too as I don’t drive the bike myself! Drive to Big C – nearest shopping centre to school with a Thai food court. Had a delicious chicken fried rice dish and shopped for school supplies.

13:00pm – Sat down to address my huge piles of marking! Got through about 20 minutes to then find a Teacher is sick so I have to cover the lesson. Nothing like being fed information at the last minute like in Thailand. Gave children a worksheet and tried to explain the work as best I could, then continued with my marking.

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14:00pm – Call 3 children in to my class to complete our dance. Then realised I am running late for my break duty so scramble out of the door and down the stairs just in time! Catch children throwing a ball to each other so have to put my Teacher voice on and tell them to go outside!

14:30pm – Afternoon lessons at my school are Thai lessons as it’s a bilingual school so they have English lessons in the morning. However they also study Chinese but being a homeroom Teacher, I have to stay in the class during their lessons. Try to block out the noise with my earphones and start to create the next midterm tests. Never thought designing tests would be part of my job description here too!

15:10pm – Chinese lesson finished early so we decided to have some fun. I put their Christmas play song on loud speaker and the kids went crazy! We’re doing the Grinch this year, and although I have never seen it, they kids are in great spirits ready for practising. They love singing the song; I had some children pretending to be conductors using pencils, and others on the drums using a table.

15:20pm – Kids go down for their PE lesson so I finally have a free classroom and some peace and quiet for the first time today! Finish that mountain of marking and complete the background for our new around the world display! It took me ages to colour in the letters in different flags but I finally got there!

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15:40pm – One child comes running into the classroom, ‘Teacher Kirstie, this person won’t play with me and kicked me!’ So I make my way down stairs to sort out their disagreement, to find both children had completely forgotten about it and are there happily playing together. Love teaching six year olds!

16:00pm – Time for home, pack everything away and write myself a list of reminders for tomorrow! We’re only on Tuesday but already the week is going really slow! Children come stumbling into the classroom fighting over who gets to clean the whiteboard first! Finally, Children say Thank you and goodbye to Teachers.

16:15pm –  Order a new school T-shirt and then its back on the highway for 10 minutes. Reach my condo and find I have a parcel waiting for me. Take a lovely walk through the gardens of our condo to the office and find my new bag from Zalora has arrived! Great website for clothes, apparently they have a big sale on the 12th Dec so check it out too! 

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17:00pm –  Change out of my work clothes and get ready to go down to our huge pool to relax before the sun sets. Complete 15 lengths in the pool, then relax in the Jacuzzi area. Become terrified when I see 3 spiders literally crawling across the water, I never knew that was possible! Realise that I am never going to feel as comfortable going in the pool again, spiders are my worst nightmare, especially ones that walk on water!

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19:00pm – Head out for something to eat, come back and watch Masterchef on demand. Can’t miss out on UK TV whilst I’m here! Then relax, write my blog and iron my clothes for tomorrow. On certain days at school we have uniform to wear which makes choosing an outfit for the next day much less stressful! Set my alarm for 6am and silently nod off to start it all over again in the morning!

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17 things to do in Chiang Mai! 

One thing I’ve learnt living in Chiang Mai, is that it is totally different to being a tourist here. You’d expect it to be different but the things you see make it an awesome place to live! Being a tourist myself when I first came to Chiang Mai, I didn’t venture far from the central area of town, Thapae gate, the night markets and central temples. Having now lived here for a year there’s so much I’ve seen that’s off the tourist route, I thought it would be perfect to write about. So here’s my list of 17 things to do in Chiang Mai:

Mae Ngat Dam and reservoir

One of my favourite places to visit in Chiang Mai! Mae Ngat dam has some spectacular scenery overlooking the mountains and a huge reservoir. When you arrive, you have the option to hire a longtail boat to take you to a floating restaurant, you’ll have to pay 40bht each to enter Sri Lanna national park too. The other option is to stay on land and admire the views from their reservoir side restaurant. You can also stay overnight on a floating bungalow, I know the prices were quite high but it would be great if there’s a few of you together. Relax, have some lunch, watch the fish jumping in the water and the boats gliding across to the other side. Perfect way to spend a lazy weekend afternoon. The on land restaurant does an amazing freshly cooked Tilapia for under 200bht, it’s delicious and huge too!

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Wat Palat

Another high favourite of mine is Wat Palat. This incredible temple hidden within the Doi Suthep mountain is well worth a visit. Set in stunning grounds, overlooking the whole of Chiang Mai, this temple is very unique as many of its features are both Thai and Burmese. You can take part in a nature trek through the jungle to reach the temple which is an amazing experience. A very knowledgeable Monk told me only a handful of people visit the temple each day, making it well hidden away from the busy tourism of Chiang Mai. Read more about it here.

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Samoeng loop


If you have a motorbike, the Samoeng loop is an amazing day out, stopping off at many unique points along the way. You can check out the stunning scenery Chiang Mai has to offer, driving past rice fields and farms, with mountain views all around. Along the loop you’ll have spectacular viewpoints to stop and admire too! 100km in length, the Samoeng loop will keep you busy for the whole day! To read more, have a look at my detailed post all about it here.

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Chiang Mai Grand Canyon

Formally a quarry, which has now been filled with water. It is a quiet destination for expats and locals to visit on a relaxing weekend and only 25 minutes’ drive from the city. The water is around 40meters deep and the cliffs range in size. Some decide to jump from the cliffs for fun although there are warning signs around. Relax and have a drink or some lunch in the restaurant, rent out a rubber dingy or rubber ring and have some fun swimming in the calm, warm waters! Great fun for kids too!

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Muang On Cave

These caves are a must see in Chiang Mai, they are very grand! From the Chinese dragon steps leading to the front of the cave to the huge structures hidden inside, Muang On cave is spectacular! You’ll have to crawl under part of the cave to enter, looks daunting for any claustrophobic but after you’ve entered there’s nothing more to worry about. There are 2 floors in the caves; all very well lit so don’t be ripped off renting a flashlight from outside. The caves are very well respected with Buddhist shrines all around, including a large reclining Buddha too! I recently did a driving loop around Muang On caves– check it out if your in the area!

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Sticky waterfalls

Known to locals as Bua Thong waterfalls, these hidden waterfalls are spectacular! Around 90 minutes drive from the city, these waterfalls are popular with expats and locals alike. Being a little far from the city, you won’t see many tourists there which adds to the amazing experience. They are made from limestone rocks which means you can actually climb up and stick to the rocks. With 3 levels of the falls, if you climb to the top you get a stunning view of the forest scenery below. Climb down to the bottom and you’ve got a cool waterfall shower to soak in! And the best bit, it’s absolutely free! Read more about the sticky waterfalls here. 

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Mon Cham

Another of my favourite places to visit around Chiang Mai! Mon Cham is quite a way from the city, you can reach it on the Samoeng loop or you can go direct and camp there overnight. Driving very high through the mountains, Mon Cham overlooks a stunning sight! Have some fun on the wooden go-karts or relax overlooking their beautifully well-kept gardens. Stop for a bite to eat in a bamboo hut directly above those incredible views too!

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San Khampaeng Hotsprings

If you like hotsprings the ones in San Khampaeng are great to visit. They are situated just outside the town of San Khampaeng, about an hour’s drive from the city. Don’t be put off with the time though, as the drive is stunning! You’ll head into the natural countryside of Chiang Mai, with mountain views and paddy fields in the distance. When you arrive, you’ll pay 100bht to get in. Stop off at the shops and browse through some traditional Lanna clothing at a very reasonable price, or buy yourself some eggs to boil in the springs for 20bht. Muang on cave is located very close to the springs so bear that in mind when you go, you could visit them both in one day!

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Huay Tung Tao lake

If you visit Chiang Mai, you have to go to Huay Tung Tao Lake. Not too far from the city and only 50bht to get in, this lake is huge and full of idyllic scenery all around. Drive round the lake for the best views and pitch yourself up in one of the numerous bamboo huts. Have some great Thai food at great prices or share a few drinks with friends. This lake is popular with local Thai’s in the evenings but never too busy. If you have kids, you can even rent out a pedal boat too!

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Wat Umong

The hidden temple of Wat Umong! Situated very close to the city, Wat Umong is one of the most unique temples I have even seen in Thailand. From its gigantic Chedi, to its historical features, this temple is not to be missed! There are underground tunnels leading to large Buddhist shrines in every corner too! Don’t forget to check out the humorous artwork scattered around and the big lake at the bottom of the temple grounds. You can feed fish and birds in the lake, spot a tiny turtle swimming in the waters and buy some delicious coconut ice-cream too!

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Queen Sirikit Botanic garden

Situated just past the town of Mae Rim, Queen Sirikit gardens are a must for nature lovers! Explore the well-kept gardens, various banana tree species, or several greenhouses containing Cacti, Orchids, Lotus flowers, everything you could think of! Pay 100bht to get in, you can also drive around on your motorbike for 20bht extra and stop off at as many places as you want! The grounds are stunning!
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Doi Inthanon

Doi Inthanon hosts the highest point in Thailand, so it’d be a hard decision not to go! Located 2 hour’s drive from the city, you arrive at Doi Inthanon national park. Pay your 300bht to enter the park, and you’re free to explore the natural wonders of the park for the day! There’s loads of waterfalls to check out, my favourite being the Wachirathan waterfall as it is just magnificent! There are nature trails and caves to explore and most importantly the King’s and Queen’s Chedi’s situated at the top of the mountain. Due to the long drive, it’s worth considering staying over for the night. You can rent huts or tents in the middle of the park, but bear in mind they get full very quickly so it’s worth booking in advance! Check out Thailand’s peak here! 

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Khamtieng flower market

A spectacular flower market very close to the city. Located just off the Super highway, behind Tesco Lotus. It’s well worth a visit, there are four parallel roads, each with numerous individual shops selling an array of different plants and flowers! From miniature cacti to gorgeous orchid’s and everything in between! They have shops selling pots, stones, soil, anything that is garden centre related! Stop for a lovely break at Panmai coffee too!

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Chang Dao caves

Magnificent looking caves around 90minutes drive from the old city. These caves in Chang Dao are very unique. You enter walking up to a Buddhist temple, pay 40bht for electricity charges and enter the caves. Very grand inside, you’re offered the option to pay for a private guide in the non-lit areas or carry on yourselves in the well-lit zone. If you shine a flash light above, you may even see bats hanging from the caves, you’ll definitely see a fair few fly past you! Well worth checking out for the day, you can also stay overnight at Chang Dao Nest which is meant to be a lovely experience too!

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Mae Sa waterfall

Ever been to a waterfall with 10 tiers? Visit Mae Sa waterfall in Mae Rim for a great experience! Having 10 levels, you can relax on the lower areas, taking in the amazing scenery and sharing lunch with friends. You’ll find this place is popular with Thai’s but not so much with tourists. The further up you go, the quieter it becomes. Bear in mind it’s quite a walk to the top, but your met with some wonderful views if you venture that far. You’ll find you’re probably alone on the 10th tier as not many venture past the 7th. You can swim up there too! Great fun for all the family!
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Royal Park Rajapruek

Situated not far from the centre of Chiang Mai, the Royal gardens are stunning. Set in enormous grounds overlooking some amazing gardens of flowers from all around the world. 100bht to get in, the park is huge so you may want to use the shuttle bus to get around. Rows and rows of lovely exotic flowers, there’s a spectacular temple in the middle of the park too, well worth a stop. You could easily spend a few hours here on a nice, dry day.

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Warorot market

Visit Chiang Mai’s busiest and oldest market. Situated just beside the Ping river, the market spans a huge indoor market and numerous soi’s around the market too! A very local market, where fresh fruit and veg is on offer, along with clothes, meat, spices, flowers, anything you could want that isn’t catering for the tourist population in Chiang Mai. In the day, check out the indoor market. At night the market outside comes to life! Well worth a stop on your trip to Chiang Mai!

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Looking for a place to stay in Chiang Mai? Check out airbnb and get 712bht towards your first stay for using this link! 

Photo credits: Lee Rawson-Gill