Day 167: Chiang Mai, Thailand. Chiang Mai is packed full of wats (Buddhist temples) – over 300 of them to be precise(ish). After a fairly lazy start to the day, we headed out early afternoon to check out just a few of them.
There was a noticeable level of excitement building around the town, in anticipation of one of the main Loy Krathong and Yi Peng festival events tonight – launching thousands of night lanterns into the sky, and floating (loy) banana leaf flower and candle boats (krathong) down the river Ping.
Hundreds of stalls around the town have been selling all sorts of krathong, from small simple flower collections to highly creative and elaborate arrangements in all sorts of shapes. Prices mostly range from 50c to about five dollars.
We visited a few different wats; Wat Phantao and Wat Chedi Luang being the oldest and largest, dating from around 1400 – all decorated with lanterns and ribbons for the festival.
At Wat Muen Tum people were buying lanterns, which the monks constructed and lit for them, before hanging them in nearby trees and around the monastery.
The town is very walkable, with decent pavements and roads, and before long we found ourselves right on the other side of town. We turned back to retrace our steps and headed back to the guesthouse for a rest. Even there, there were nightlights being placed on the railings and stairwells of the guesthouse, for lighting later in the evening.
Around 6pm we headed back into town, taking care not to ignite our trouser legs or hair as we walked down the stairs.
Our big plan tonight was a weekly blues jam at a venue above the night bazaar, called Boy Blues Bar. We’ve been starved of live music of late, so were pretty excited at the prospect of some good blues music.
As we walked across to the night bazaar, the streets were filling up with people clutching flat pack lanterns and krathong, making their way to the parks on the banks of the Ping River to set them off.
We had dinner at the night bazaar first – pretty decent pad thai, spicy minced pork and a pork, egg and rice dish – then wandered back out to take a look at the thousands of lanterns starting to be launched into the sky.
Boy Blues Bar opens at 8pm, and eager beavers that we are, we were first to arrive, keen to grab some good seats. A great band played from 8.15 to 9.45pm (a pretty diverse range of blues and rock), then the jam started.
The music venue gets excellent reviews, and the weekly jam is billed as attended with great musicians, and a lot of fun. It deserves the praise. We had a superb evening, with musicians changing every two songs and some really fun guys too. Interestingly, a lot of the musicians were either American or German, and lots must live in the town as they were well known to each other.
Boy (the owner of the place) is a huge ball of energy – he sings and plays guitar excellently, is a wise crack and a really lovely guy. He opened Boy Blues Bar in 2010, as the first venue to feature blues music in Chiang Mai.
The venue is covered with a large tin roof, with open sides, so we were able to keep an eye on the lantern launching while the evening went on. The jam finished after midnight, and we wandered back to our guesthouse, a 30 minute walk.
What goes up, must come down of course, and the streets were liberally littered with fallen deflated night lanterns. Thousands of people were still out roaming the streets, launching lanterns and fireworks, eating and drinking, and enjoying the party atmosphere.
We were impressed to see teams of cleaners out starting to clear up the mess – we suspect by tomorrow morning it will look like nothing had happened.
We reached home close to 1am, had a quick sandwich (hungry again and on a mission to try and control our already reduced weight levels), then headed to bed for a good night’s sleep.
We’d originally planned to go on a hike tomorrow, but given the late night, it’s unlikely we’ll be up and about early enough to make it worthwhile. Which is fine, as we have another 5 days in Chiang Mai. So we’ll likely head out and explore some more of the town. And we may even find some more live music later – we’re determined to pack it in while we can.