Posted in Exploring Thailand

Exploring Thailand’s highest peak

Tefl Travels Abroad

The highest peak of Thailand is high up in the mountains of Doi Inthanon. The peak  is situated 2,565m above sea level and is home to two chedis, for the King and Queen of Thailand. Driving to the peak in the Doi Inthanon mountain is a popular destination for expats living in Chiang Mai. It is often missed by tourists being around 2 hour’s drive from the city. Despite the drive, it was a must-see on our sightseeing list being the highest mountain in Thailand. So we ventured to the mountain at the weekend, driving through some of the most spectacular scenery we’ve seen!

Starting off in the centre of Chiang Mai, you head towards Hang Dong and onto the small Thai village of Sanpatong, where there’s a huge locals market to explore. It’s around an hour until you hit those incredible scenic views but well worth the wait. Paddy…

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Posted in Exploring Chiang Mai, Exploring Thailand

Thailand’s International balloon festival!

Hot air balloons are fascinating aren’t they? I loved growing up as a child and gazing at hot air balloons in the sky. I’d always dreamt of going on one but being terrified of heights, never thought I would. My parents surprised me on my 16th birthday with a balloon flight and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had! Strangely, looking down out of the hot air balloon didn’t feel like we were high, it was picturesque to say the least!

When I heard about the International balloon festival arriving in Chiang Mai where I live, we just had to go and take a look!  Getting up really early, we drove in the dark to Payap University where the two day event was taking place. Arriving at 6am, we were amazed to see around a dozen hot air balloons being blown up, it was lovely and hot surrounded by the flames from the balloons. Expats, locals and tourists gathered for the mass balloon release at sunrise. It was an amazing thing to see!

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Preparing for the mass launch at 6am
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Mass balloon launch

After the launch, it was time for the kids to have some fun. Hot air balloons with all different shapes and sizes started to arrive, one shaped as an elephant, another as a fox and a tiny rainbow coloured one too! The owner of the fox balloon was playing with all the kids at the event, chasing them with the fox. It was lovely to see!

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Character balloons!

The event continued throughout the day, but we decided to go home and return in the evening. Arriving at 8 o’clock we gazed around the numerous food stalls set up by different hotels in Chiang Mai. Sampling the food and taking a walk, we were soon surrounded by kids we teach. Chiang Mai is relatively small so at any event in the city, your bound to see some of the kids and other teachers too! It’s lovely to be spotted out and parents can’t wait to take a photo of their children and their teachers together!

At the end of the night, it was time for the Lanna orchestra to perform with the huge hot air balloons joining in with the performance. Positioning ourselves on the floor in the centre of the action, surrounded by mosquitoes, we watched an amazing performance. Some of the musicians were playing along inside the various hot air balloons and the balloons lit up in time to the music. Lee, my boyfriend, even managed to skype his brother in England and show him how amazing it was! There were even fireworks at the end to add an extra surprise to the night. It was an experience I will never forget and definitely worth attending if you’re ever in Chiang Mai when the International balloon festival arrives.

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Posted in Exploring Thailand

Songkran water festival in Chiang Mai!

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Songkran is awesome! A 3 day water fight across the whole of Thailand. A unique way to see in the new year. A month before, you’ll see shops full of water guns, buckets and flowery shirts too. All in preparation for the craziest festival of the year. Thai’s and tourists look forward to it every year, fishing out their water guns from the year before and putting on their flowery clothes ready to stand out on the streets and soak everyone that passes by.

It was awesome to be in Chiang Mai for Songkran last year as a tourist. I was based in a guesthouse in Thapae gate, right in the heart of the old town’s celebrations. Stalls were set up for free giveaway’s and swimming pools were inflated and filled with water on the side of the road. There were people selling water guns, pistols, buckets, waterproof bags, anything you could want for the occasion. Our guesthouse filled a dustbin with water and ice outside, ready for the tourist’s to flock in their hundreds. It was incredible.

The celebration of New year starts on the 13th April every year and lasts until the 15th. Although as we were staying in the backpacker area, tourists were out the day before. My boyfriend and I took a bamboo rafting trip on the 12th April. Cruising down the river on the raft, we sailed past rows and rows of bamboo huts filled with Thai families. After spotting us, it took around 30 seconds before we were splashed with water and a huge water fight broke out. Kids were jumping in the river with their water guns and their parents got involved soaking us too. It was hilariously fun and lovely seeing the whole family joining in.

Wherever you are in Thailand during Songkran, it would be awesome I’m sure. Chiang Mai was great. People dancing on tables outside guesthouses, firing water at literally everyone they saw. You can hire a tuk-tuk for 200 bht and set yourself up for a very cool experience. Everyone attacked the tuk-tuk’s with ice cold water. It was mental but awesome at the same time. A giant water fight with thousands of people, your inner child definitely comes out again. Don’t miss Songkran this year, just make sure you get a water gun early! Watch my experience of Songkran in this 1 minute video.

 

 

Posted in Exploring Chiang Mai, Exploring Thailand

The hidden wonders of Mae Wang national park.

Hidden within Mae Wang national park lies the old river ruins of Pha Chor. Believed to be the old course of the Ping river, after movement from tectonic plates and erosion, it has now become a small tourist destination. When I say small, I mean you’ll struggle to find much information about it. Don’t let that deter you from going though, because it’s another one of those scenic drives around Chiang Mai and it’s a natural beauty worth checking out.

The erosion has over time, left soil pillars and cliffs standing at around 30 meters high. It has become a quiet tourist destination, mainly visited by Thai nationals. In fact, when we visited, we were the only foreign people around.

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Pha Chor

Lee and I decided we wanted to see more of Chiang Mai having ticked off most of the destinations Chiang Mai has to offer in a year of living here. I came across Pha Chor only from another blogger. I found basic instructions on how to get there, a map that took us to the wrong place and just a couple of road numbers (108 and 1013). So off we went, towards Mae Wang National park. Located around an hours drive South from Chiang Mai, you reach the entrance to the park. Although if you’re anything like me, you’ll miss the turning and continue driving for a further 40 minutes in the wrong direction! Although it wasn’t completely my fault, the map we had was wrong too! Thankfully the route we took was stunning, heading into the mountains and driving past rows and rows of stunning paddy fields. So don’t be too disheartened if you miss the turn, as the views your met with through the countryside are worth it anyway!

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Desert like roads in the Mae Wang national park.
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Make sure you turn LEFT here towards the national park!

 

Finally locating the correct turn off, and heading into the park, you pay 100bht to get in plus 20bht for a motorbike. Spotting the turn for Pha Chor, we had to wait for a herd of cows walking freely to cross in front of us which was a lovely sight! The turn takes you off the nice, flat roads and onto a very bumpy dirt track!

Arriving, there’s a place to park up, go to the loo and grab a coffee before embarking on a short 10 minute walk to get to the cliffs. I think we were a rare sight for all of the Thai tourists walking past, kind of got the feeling we were being stared at.

We decided to start at the top and work our way down, admiring all the details on the structures and catching a photo opportunity whenever we could. You can walk all around the cliffs, on the way out following the actual route of the river, which can get very narrow. Tip: wear long trousers to stop the cliffs from cutting your legs. 

Pha Chor was a great find, and the drive leading up to the park was just as stunning as the cliffs too. I say it’s a tourist destination but there were only a handful of people there. Making it a quiet and relaxing place, a hidden find within Mae Wang national park. 

If you have time, take a drive past the car park of Pha Chor and follow the signs for Pha Daeng. Similar to Pha Chor with huge cliffs but on a higher level and you’re met with an incredible view across the stunning mountain range. Be aware that the roads leading up to it are full of gravel and rocks. We ended up pulling over and walking the last 200 meters as it was difficult on the bike.

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Pha Daeng cliffs.

Another point of interest before you get to Pha Chor, is to continue driving straight. You’re met with a river and in the dry season, its completely dry so you can drive along the course of the river. Deciding to take a walk, you stumble across a stream of water and a bamboo hut hidden within the trees. A very scenic walk with no one around, hearing only the sounds of nature and the trickling stream. It was probably my favourite part of the day!

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Walking along the river. 
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The river in Thailand’s dry season. 
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Bamboo hut hidden in the park/
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Here’s a more reliable map to get to Mae Wang national park.
Posted in Exploring Thailand

Terracotta gardens 

Northern Thailand and Chiang Mai in particular, is well known for having coffee shops everywhere you turn. Looking for something a bit different, my boyfriend came across Terracotta gardens. A coffee shop right in the centre of the old town in Chiang Mai.

Hidden down a small soi, we found the clay house as it is also known as. Terracotta gardens is a unique coffee shop, surrounded by Terracotta ornaments and old Buddhist shrines.

Take a walk around and you’ll find numerous ornaments of all differnet shapes and sizes. Including loads of statues with only their heads on display!




Have a nice coffee in their coffee shop, buy a handmade card or two or relax with a book in the lovely garden surroundings. Just don’t forget to take some mosquito spray with you, those things can bite!

Posted in Exploring Thailand

I’ve been nominated for a Liebster award! 

I hadn’t heard of the Liebster award until a couple of weeks ago. I saw bloggers being nominated and was curious to know what it was all about. 

The Liebster award is a way of discovering and recognising new bloggers. A way to showcase the hard work others are doing when writing about things they love. 

TEFL Teaching Abroad has been nominated for the Liebster award by Frank Priegue over at I’m not grandpa. Thank you Frank! 

I’m not grandpa is all about Frank, who became a Dad at 50 something years of age. He writes about his adventures and challenges of being a stay at home dad! His blog is both interesting and inspiring, take a read!

I started this blog as a way of sharing my experiences as a newly qualified TEFL Teacher. Since then, it has developed into a TEFL travel blog, where I write about exploring Thailand and its surrounding countries.

Here’s what I’m not grandpa said about Tefl Teaching Abroad:

Kirstie is a qualified TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Teacher from Leicester England currently living and teaching in Chiang Mai Thailand. She writes about her experiences living in a new land and traveling through and exploring neighboring countries.

I am so grateful to receive this nomination. I now have to nominate other bloggers and these rules apply: 

  • Nominate 10 other bloggers for the Liebster award
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and post a link to their page
  • Answer questions about yourself, chosen by the person who nominated you.
  • Create a list of questions for your nominees. 
  • List these rules on your own blog site. 

Here are the 10 questions I’ve been asked to answer:

  1. What inspired you to start your blog?

Reading other travel blogs and looking for information about TEFL teaching. The two of those didn’t come together, so I thought I’d make my own! 

2. What blogging goal are you currently striving for? 

Trying to create a consistent schedule for posting blogs and having regular readers. 

3. What activities do you enjoy outside of blogging? 

I love exploring new places. Nothing makes me happier than booking a trip somewhere or deciding to go somewhere last minute and getting lost exploring the area. I enjoy reading and swimming. Can’t beat relaxing by my pool reading a book in 32 degrees heat! 

4. What tactics do you employ on those days when blogging is hard & frustrating? 

I create a new blog post and think of a catchy title. Then I bullet point everything I want to include in my post. Then il leave it and go back to it when I’m in the right mindset. This way I’ve already started. I find nothing worse than having writers block! The other thing I do, is scroll through photos to refresh my memory, depending on what my post is about. 

5. If you could have lunch with any famous person, who would you choose? 

This is a tough one! It would probably be Leonardo DiCaprio. He would have so many stories and experiences to share and he’d be a great laugh too! 

6. What are your 3 favourite blogs to follow? 

Tieland to Thailand, One modern couple and Getting Stamped.

7. What piece of blogging advice have you found to be most useful? 

Write about what you love! Who’s going to read something that doesn’t show your passion or enthusiasm? If your passionate, readers will see it and will continue to visit your blog regularly. 

8. Are you a full time blogger or do you hold down a day job? 

No, I blog part time although I’m working on it eventually becoming full time. I am Grade 1 Teacher, currently living and teaching in Chiang Mai, Thailand. 

9. What is your favourite post on your blog thus far? 

Off the beaten track – It is one of my first posts where I write about my experiences exploring my new home of Chiang Mai! 

10. What social media platforms do you use and which one is most effective for you? 

I use both Facebook and Twitter however I concentrate more on Twitter at the minute. I find Twitter great for writing instant thoughts and connecting with other travel bloggers. 

Here are my nominees for the Liebster award:

  • Shrey and Ash @ The logical traveler. They are a couple who love to travel and write about their adventures. They provide top tips on how to travel economically! Worth a read! 
  • Lianne @ Liasian. Lianne is a Korean American who grew up in America. She had a longing to meet her birth family so embarked on an adventure of a lifetime to Korea to meet them. She blogs about travelling Asia and teaching in Korea
  • Katelyn @ Wanderlustseries Katelyn is a Canadian born traveler who writes about her adventures exploring the world. She wants to inspire others to live their ideal lives. 
  • Shannon @Livesabroad Shannon is a travel blogger and nomad currently traveling New Zealand. She writes about her experience travelling and unique opportunities in each place she visits. I met Shannon when we were both Teachers in the same school. Her blog is what inspired me to create mine. 
  • Pedro and Paulina @Moments of yugen This inspiring couple write about their travel adventures. They met through travel and are now traveling around South East Asia for 101 days! A very interesting read! 
  • Genevieve @ Waygook cikgu travels  This inspiring traveler writes and vlogs  about her adventures travelling Thailand and other South East Asian countries. 
  • Amanda @ Sunshine in the cities This interesting blog is all about Amanda’s travels, exploring cities only known to most people by name. Writing about life exploring new places and about the inspiring people she meets along the way. 
  • Katya @ Tozhe-ya A keen traveler exploring South East Asia. Currently traveling though Myanmar and recently in Thailand. Writing about collecting different moments throughout the journey. 
  • Phill @ My Lanna life Phill is an up and coming blogger who writes about his experiences as a Teacher in Chiang Mai. It’s great to read these stories from other perspectives. Take a read.
  • Scott @ Jetsetting now Scott loves to travel. He writes about top tips to help you when travelling. A much needed blog to get you started on your travel adventures. 

Now for my nominees, firstly, congratulations and secondly, here’s a series of ten questions for you to answer all about your blog. 

1. What inspired you to start your blog? 

2. What is your favourite blog post so far? 

3. If you could choose to live in one place only, where would it be? 

4. What is next on your bucket list? 

5. Are you a full time blogger or do you hold down a day job? 

6. What piece of blogging advice have you found to be most useful? 

7. What social media platforms do you use and which one is most effective for you? 

8. What activities do you enjoy outside of blogging? 

9. What has been your most memorable traveling moment? 

10. What are your 3 favourite blogs to follow? 

Enjoy! 

Posted in Exploring Thailand

A foot massage from a Thai ex-inmate!

 

 


I’ve had a Thai massage before, I swore to myself NEVER AGAIN! But here I was about to go into a Thai massage parlour for the second time. OK so never again doesn’t rule out a Thai foot massage does it? My ‘never again’ promise was from an agonising experience, I don’t think I’ll ever forget. But after 6 months, it’s safe to say I’ve just about gotten over the physical pain, but mentally, not a chance!

Deciding a foot massage would be much more relaxing and hopefully a lot less pain, I decided to have a massage by a Thai ex-inmate. That’s a sentence I never thought I’d hear myself say!

I’d heard about Lila massage from another blogger, and was keen to try something different. The masseuses were once convicted of a crime and as part of serving their time in prison, they were professionally trained to learn how to become a Thai masseuse. Outside the prison grounds, they found it difficult gain employment having a criminal background, so Lila massage was set up to give employment to all those who have professionally trained inside.

You’re assigned a masseuse subject to the type of massage you have chosen. Inside, you’re immediately taken care of, feet washed and cleaned, you take a seat in a very comfortable massage chair and are given a cup of delicious complementary Thai tea.

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feet washed and ready to go!

I don’t remember much about the next hour, all I know is that my feet have never felt better, honestly. I do remember the embarrassment on my face when certain parts of my feet were ticklish and my reflexes were pulling away. I also remember the Chinese guy next to me, flat out asleep and partially snoring.

I caught a glimpse into the room opposite, where I saw someone having a full Thai body massage. His legs were being pushed and pulled in directions I didn’t even know were possible, in fact I don’t think they were! It looked terrifyingly painful and I was immediately very happy with my decision of a foot massage instead.

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An incredible foot massage
My 1 hour time slot soon came to an end; I just wish it could have gone on for longer. Stepping up from the comfort of the massage chair, my feet felt so smooth and putting on my new sandals from Zalora, just felt incredible. There’s nothing like putting on new shoes after having a foot massage! My feet continued to feel great for the next few days. I’ve now made myself a promise to go for a Thai foot massage once a month, why not? You should try it, if you’re ever in Chiang Mai, I’d definitely recommend Lila massage, they have five branches throughout the old town too! Well worth a visit!

Posted in Exploring Chiang Mai, Exploring Thailand

An Elephant stomped on my toe!

Living in Thailand, home to the Asian Elephant, I just had to spend a day caring for these amazing creatures. With a special occasion on the horizon, my boyfriend and I booked an afternoon at Patara Elephant Farm in Chiang Mai, where we would become Elephant Mahouts for the day, caring, washing, feeding and walking them through their daily routine. Turns out it was one of the best days I’ve ever had!

Being picked up from our Condo at 1pm, we were driven to the site an hour away from Chiang Mai hidden within the mountains. We joined our party and wandered over to meet the first elephants of the day. If you’ve ever seen a baby elephant, you’ll know just how adorable these little creatures are! At just 2 months old, we got to meet Poof, who was no taller than my knees. He was the most loveable character. The sanctuary had even made him a step to reach his mother’s milk as he wasn’t quite tall enough.

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After capturing a great photo opportunity and having a briefing about the day, we set off for the camp. Arriving, we were greeted by at least 2 dozen elephants, all of different ages and sizes wandering around happily, without a chain in sight! There were mahouts chopping bamboo and male elephants drinking from a hose pipe, a very surreal sight I have to admit.

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We finally got to meet our own elephants for the day. A little apprehensive of the size of them, up close and personal with an elephant 3 times the size of you is pretty overwhelming I have to say. Regardless, I met my elephant, Chompoo and was thankful when I saw she was smaller than the rest. At five years old, she was still huge but the perfect size for me. We were given baskets of bananas and bamboo and I jumped straight in feeding Chompoo, although she was a fussy elephant and only wanted to eat bamboo that was sliced in half so rejected any that weren’t!

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Next on our agenda was their daily cleaning process, starting with using a collection of leaves bound together to get all of the dirt off their backs. Next was my favourite part of the day, walking down to bathe the elephants. Sitting on an elephant’s back with a brush in your hand, gently cleaning them from head to toe was so surreal, such an incredible experience!

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After being completely soaked by an elephant spraying water all over us, it was time to walk and ride our elephants. Now I know there is a lot of controversy over riding elephants here in Thailand, but there is no way I would have done so if I knew or saw that the sanctuary was unethical and treated their elephants with cruelty. With a credible reputation at Patara, I climbed onto Chompoo’s bare back, not a seat or any danger in sight and guided Chompoo through the walk, patting her and saying Dee Dee (Thai for good) along the way.

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Again riding an elephant was an amazing experience and one I’ll never forget and actually I won’t have to for a while either. After thanking my Mahout and posing for the last few shots, I screamed out in pain only to realise that Chompoo had stood on my toe! In excruciating pain, I can tell you for a 5 year old, she is very heavy! She must have heard my scream because she leapt off me, complete with pink nail varnish still attached to her foot! So, as I told you, it’s an experience I won’t be able to forget for a while, with a shining purple bruise on my toe! Despite that, I would highly recommend anyone to spend a day playing and caring for an elephant, it’s highly rewarding and incredibly exciting too! IMG_20160123_165642.jpg

 

Posted in Exploring Chiang Mai, Exploring Thailand

Visiting a Hmong hill tribe for New Year!

Visiting a hill tribe has been high on my list of new experiences since I became an Expat in Thailand. So discovering an organised donation trip was right up my street. Joining the party, we followed in convoy up into the stunning mountains of Chiang Mai. We (my boyfriend and I) asked our school for donations and the kids went crazy! We had bags and bags full of clothes, stationery, toys and food, it was so generous! The hard part was trying to fit it all onto a moped!

The drive itself was very scenic, driving past farms, rice fields and tiny little villages hidden in the mountain.That was until disaster struck, our moped caught something and we had an instant flat tyre! Deciding to leave our bike hidden under a tree, we jumped in the back of a songtao. Literally clinging onto the back due to the lack of room, it was an experience I have to admit, not one I’d like to try again though!

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Scenic mountain views!

A Hmong hill tribe New Year is not what was expected at all, in fact the hill tribe village itself wasn’t. It was a tiny village but they had a huge stage and electricity, where Hmong children were showing off well-rehearsed dances in their traditional dress. It was lovely to see and the kids were adorable, it was just not quite what I had in mind.

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Hill tribe dances!

We organised an area for all the party’s donations, I half expected children to be running around choosing their favourite toys from our selection, or taking full advantage of the hundreds of snacks that had just been donated. What I failed to realise until the end of the day was that they had their very own shop, where they sold most of these snacks anyway.

There were some games organised for the children including face painting with the additional use of flour and water. My boyfriend was covered in this flour paste head to toe by the time the kids had been let loose on him. There was a lot of free time to wander around the village. Watching the kids play football with an old used tyre, Lee (my boyfriend) even got involved for a game too!

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Wandering around, the strong smell of farms led me to a small family of pigs and piglets feeding from their mother.

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Adorable family of pigs!

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the children’s entertainment, hand-made wooden go-karts which looked like so much fun; I definitely would have had a go if no one was looking!

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Go-karting fun!

 

All in all, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting a hill tribe to be. But that maybe because I was a little naïve of the reality, although I don’t think anyone would expect to see expensive motorbikes all around a Hmong village or teenagers on their iPhone’s. Maybe they would, I don’t know. It was a good experience and I’d like to do it again, but maybe next time it won’t be with an organised trip and I’d like to venture a little further out to see if that makes a difference.

Have you visited a hill tribe in Northern Thailand?

I’d love to hear if your experience is any different to mine!

 

Posted in Exploring Chiang Mai, Exploring Thailand

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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