loy krathong yee peng thailand

A Little Festival… Spirit, Beauty, and Religion Meet During Loy Krathong

Cheerful, poppy Thai music suffusing the expansive temple yard, the music at odds with the swelling solemn energy in the crowd as thousands of amber lanterns were held in firm grips. Groups of friends shared a last moment amidst the frenzy making urgent, unspoken wishes for their new year.

I watched in wonder as our plain white rice paper lantern, a khom loi in Thai, filled with hot air. I looked around me and my breath caught. We collectively waited for the signal to release our lanterns into the night; a sea of open-faced hope surrounded me.

Loy krathong lantern release
Jenny studies the flame as we light the lantern during Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai, Thailand
lighting a khom loi lantern
Lighting the center of a paper lantern so it will fill with heat during Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Ana, M and Lee all prepare the lantern for release during Loy Krathong in Mae Jo, Thailand

Expressions indelibly etched on each person’s face showed hope and the lure of infinite possibilities, the promise of a clean slate. It was no doubt written clearly on my face too. I took those last moments to tune out the cheery music and quickly take stock of the previous year, and to look forward with my hopes for the coming year. I filled my mind my wishes, hopes, dreams and fears and propelled each one into our group lantern. As I yearned to fill the lantern with that hope, the go-signal gently swept across the huge crowd.

On a pulse of energy, the lanterns slipped from our fingertips. Ours took one unsteady lurch before jolting upward, the cool nighttime breeze collected our orange orb and swept it away from us, into the dark sky. As more joined ours, each illumination shifted the night sky from an impossibly dense black to a deep blue. The sheer number of hopes and wishes seemingly overpowered the night’s ability to stay dark.

I looked down at Ana as the blanket of lanterns floated higher. The distant pinpoints of light painted slow-moving constellations across the night sky, and I saw the light sheen of tears echoed in her eyes as well.

A sea of amber colored lanterns during Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai, Thailand A wave of lanterns swiftly float into the air during Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Ana does her part to light the lantern during Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai, Thailand Ana and me as the lanterns float away during Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Lantern release at Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai, Thailand
A wave of lanterns swell into the sky during the first lantern release for Loy Krathong and Yee Peng festivities

The release lit a spark of sweet hope for this coming trip with Ana. The collective energy swelled around us, filling me with enough giddy anticipation to do a little dance to the cheery Loy Krathong song still pumping from the speakers.

The lantern release takes place a bit outside of Chiang Mai, at a temple complex near Mae Jo University and the evening event jump-started an entire week of Yee Peng festivities. Yee Peng and Loy Krathong coincide on the Lanna Thai calendar and the joint celebrations make for one massive maze of lantern parades and krathong ceremonies throughout the week.

In the months leading up to Yee Peng and Loy Krathong, the most predominate imagery on the internet associates this week with the lantern release — and while the group lantern release lit wonder in hope in me as I watched them all float away, the festival traditions are more fully rooted in the krathong release, with the paper lanterns a more modern accent to the handmade and carefully crafted banana-leaf krathongs.

A delicate pink lantern hanging for Loy Krathong and Yee Peng in Chiang Mai, Thailand Pretty lanterns during Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai, Thailand

handmade krathong
My candlelit, handmade krathong during Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Loy Krathong occurs at the end of Thailand’s rainy season, a period of time when water nourishes the rice for a productive harvest season and the rivers flow, full and swift, toward the Gulf of Thailand. The ceremonial releasing of these small lotus-shaped rafts takes on a dual role, it serves as an offering of gratitude–a symbol of appreciation for the rains, as well as a releasing of the bad habits, grudges, anger and negativity in ones own life.

Earlier in the day, Ana and I joined two friends for a late morning craft party as the crisp sunshine filled the room with clean light. The sounds of the motorbikes weaving through Chiang Mai’s streets created a distant hum nine floors below as my friend Naomi proffered the supplies she purchased at the nearby market: banana stem bases, deep green banana leaves, and an array of fresh flowers, candles, incense and sparklers. Next week I’ll share more about the process of making a krathong, suffice to say we worked diligently for several hours until we fully decorated each base and prepared them for release that evening.

how to make krathongs for the thai holiday loy krathong and yee ping

making our own krathongs Making handmade Krathongs with supplies from Warorot market.

As the sun sunk low over Doi Suthep, a nearby mountain peak, we bagged our krathongs, wove through the light crowds. Our group started with drinks at Brasserie, a restaurant on the Ping River, where we chatted until full darkness settled over the city — well, as full darkness as expected on a full moon night.

We allowed several hours to pass with easy conversation. The river began to fill with candlelit rafts. The sky lightened once again as thousands of lanterns from all over the city danced like fireflies in the night.

Several hours later, the crowds swelled across the river. Our small group of four gathered our handmade krathongs and stepped down to the quiet river’s edge on the restaurant’s peaceful private dock. We re-positioned misplaced flowers and jostled incense sticks before lighting the candles, making one last wish and hope. Then we released them one-by-one into the water.

Ana lights her krathong for release during Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai, Thailand Lighting the sparklers and incense during Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai, Thailand Catherine prepares her krathong for release during Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai, Thailand

krathongs on ping river
Ana splashes the water to push her krathong into current of the Ping River during the Loy Krathong and Yee Peng celebrations on the full moon in Chiang Mai, Thailand

I watched my handmade krathong join Ana’s meticulously decorated raft near the shore-line; we stared at the river, captivated by the flickering candlelight and stream of fragrant incense creating patterns in the dark night. We gently splashed the water until our krathongs caught the swift current on the Ping River and became indistinguishable from the herd of floating krathongs, each one an offering hope, a chance for atonement, gratitude and thanks.

The group lantern release was an inspiring event — in fact, it tops the charts as one of the most beautiful festivals I’ve attended. Thailand is my adopted home, and I’ve also traveled around Thailand a good deal too. And beyond the beautiful, there’s something magical about learning about the culture through these festivals. For that reason, releasing our handmade krathongs alongside the Thai, was magical. Our rafts of hopes and wishes joined thousands of others, meeting on a river and moving beyond the realm of language, culture, or religion. We used that raft and the river’s water to cleanse the mind and spirit and start this new year fresh and open to the possibilities.

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Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland

A Little Memory … I Planned Travels to Attend the Fringe Festival

On my bucket list when I planned my route for my round the world trip in position numero uno was the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, the largest arts festival in the world. The Fringe was one of the few non-negotiables because if I was going to traverse the planet, by god I was going to see some good theatre in the process!

And so that’s how I set my route around the world; it’s that simple really. Pick something you’re most passionate about and just do it!

A Little Celebration…And The World’s Largest Water Fight

Like a warrior prepping for battle, I cranked the faucet on the sink of my apartment in Chiang Mai, Thailand and listened impatiently to the glugging sounds as tap water slowly filled my water gun’s reservoir. Day one of Songkran festivities were ramping up, (and a day ahead of schedule I might add!) and celebratory shouts for the Thai New Year bounced into my apartment from nearby streets.

I’ll admit, I was psyched!

Every year, Thailand and the rest of the region, including Laos, Cambodia, Burma, and nearby parts of China, welcome in their New Year with water, prayer and rituals.

A Little Wonderment…A Child’s Journey Through Chinese New Year

Last month’s Chinese New Year celebrations embraced Chiang Mai’s small Chinatown section with wholehearted enthusiasm. The signature red Chinese lanterns adorned every doorway.

Red Chinese lantern at the Chinese New Year festivities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Every shop entrance strung crimson bulbs from end to end. And the effect, as evening settled over Little China, was faintly magical. The tinted light tinkling out of the lanterns warred with the harsh street lights for ambient command of the Chinese New Year festivities.

Food stall preparations at the Chinese New Year festivities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Crowds thronged the main-stage hours before the performances and the long row of stop-light red food stalls offered up mounds of fresh, steaming food for the hungry masses gathering nearby. The mysterious preparations on stage included huge dragon heads, odd without their accompanying long dragon bodies, being unceremoniously hefted into place.

Constructing the stage at the Chinese New Year festivities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.Crowds make use of foodstalls before the Chinese New Year festivities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

And that’s in that moment I wished I could spend the next hour through the eyes of a child…

The little boy is rapt with attention on the empty stage at the Chinese New Year festivities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.Little girl on her dad's shoulders at the Chinese New Year festivities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

…the little boy dutifully minds his helicopter parents as food is pushed between his parted lips. Mechanical chewing as the child eats his food but refuses to move his glance from the on-stage preparations; he’s fearful of missing a single moment of the performance, which in his mind will jump-start into life the very moment he loses focus.

A jumble of balloons briefly obscures the stage and the child is distracted; the shininess arrests his attention from the stage just as the next mouthful of food is shoved into his gaping mouth. He manages to utter a muffled grunt and point, an obvious and instantaneous request for the newest object of his fascination.

Huge bouquet of balloons at the Chinese New Year festivities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.Cotton candy! Chinese New Year festivities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The parents confer while the child already begins to plot out which balloon is the best decoration for his petite wrist; he knows that today is a celebration. And that means balloons.

And cotton candy.

The vendors pick their targets well and even a few adults (including a tall, farang red-head) are captivated by the thought of sticky-sweet, colorful cotton candy.

The vendors pass, the chink and jingle of a few extra Thai baht audibly weighs down their pockets as they scan the crowds for more easy targets.

Then the murmur and sudden silence of the crowd confirms the child’s suspicions. The moment he was thoroughly engrossed in his cotton candy and balloons he missed the opening beats of the performance.

Dragon performers leap between posts at the Chinese New Year festivities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.Standing tall and proud, the dragon show at the Chinese New Year festivities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.Dragon show and fireworks at the Chinese New Year festivities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

A dragon leaps onto the stage. The legs underneath the dragon look awfully human-like but the child’s eyes are invariably drawn, instead, to the enormous dragon head bobbing across the stage. The dragon’s blue eyes light up with a flash and the child knows: this performance is for him alone.

In fact, he’s so engrossed in the jumping, jiggling, gyrating dragon he scarcely notices as his mom gently pries the cotton candy out of his fingertips and his dad lifts him overhead and settles him firmly into place. Dad’s shoulders feel so natural so he rests his hands on his dad’s forehead and settles in for the rest of the show.

Amazed by the dragon performance at the Chinese New Year festivities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.Ladyboys dancing on stage at the Chinese New Year festivities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The dragons give way to the giggle-inducing ladyboys who dance and prance around the stage with umbrellas and balls. Their antics are meant in jest and the crowd can’t help but chuckle right alongside the child.

Dancers, no older than the child, delicately walk onto the stage. The heavy makeup, applied with absolute precision, cannot hide the fact that they’re just children. The boy, still hunkered down on his dad’s shoulders, imagines that one day his little sister might dance on a stage like this too.

Child dancer rapt with attention at the Chinese New Year festivities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.Dancers watch and wait their turn on stage at the Chinese New Year festivities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.Dancer's ornate hair designs at the Chinese New Year festivities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The music changes and just as his attention starts to drift, the dragon is back. Except, this dragon is different. The dragon’s rainbow of colors trigger a different part of the child’s imagination and instead of asking to get off of dad’s shoulders, he imagines himself a dragon slayer. He is up on stage and everyone is cheering him on, chanting his name, and relying on him to save the day.

Lite up dragons at the Chinese New Year festivities in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The dragon show is abruptly over; the boy lost track of time and didn’t even notice the minutes tick by as the dragon show progressed. His baby sister is getting tired and mom and dad insist it’s time to leave. More dancers are up on stage but his dad has already started to weave through the crowd. The child throws one last thirsty glance back at the stage.

The Chinese New Year festivities will continue throughout the night, but every cotton candy sugar coma has to wear off at some point. The child lets out a plaintive whine, he doesn’t want to miss a second of the shows, but already his parents have turned the corner.

The festival is over for him. But tonight?

Tonight he’ll dream of dragons.

_______________________________________________________

A big thanks to my friend Claire Balgemann, she was with me for the festivities and several of these are her photos  :-)

Bali fruit offering

A Little Anecdote… Getting Lost On My Travels Has Only Made them Richer

Now that I’ve been on the road for a few years, I find that I rarely share travel stories with friends unless they ask. But there are times when travel memories sneak right into the conversation because some misadventure leads to another and I find myself out to dinner with friends saying,”Hah! That reminds me of this one time when I got totally lost, but found something really cool!”

Most stories start with this refrain, and it’s mostly because I get widely, unequivocally lost in every place I visit. I’ve been lost right in the middle of a new city. I feared I’d never return to civilization when I was lost hiking in the Blue Mountains of Sydney and the cow pastures of England’s Lake District. Even with a clear map and detailed instructions, I still get lost.

Balinese Fruit Offerings for Festival
The elaborate fruit offerings at a Balinese temple ceremony outside of Ubud

The other day, I found myself sharing a misadventure that I hadn’t shared on the site. This little anecdote and unexpected side trip was one of my favorite parts visiting Bali. One day, I was riding a motorbike ride through a dusty Balinese town outside of Ubud. My friend navigated the bike while I rubber necked from the back. And though I’d certainly rubberneck for the chance to see the beautiful terraced rice paddies, I was actually searching for signs indicating that we were en route to Gunung Kawi. Gunung Kawi is a gorgeous temple complex carved out from the rock walls. At least, that’s what the guide book said. I never made it that far.

My friend and I searched for an hour for the correct turn-off. We stopped and asked for directions. We conferred with our map and scratched our heads. Then, instead of Gunung Kawi, we slowed down at a nondescript temple smack dab in the middle of this sun-bleached town. The temple wasn’t on our map. And it definitely wasn’t Gunung Kawi. But we heard the call to adventure and followed the steady line of worshipers filing into the temple. On the other side of the doors, Balinese women in the center courtyard delicately balanced large bowls of fruit on their heads.

We had gotten hopelessly lost, but we found a celebration anyhow. I was happy to stretch my legs and even more willing to deviate from our plan. We parked the scooter and joined the snaking line of Balinese locals climbing the temple steps. Inside, the festival ceremony was in full swing. Traditional dancers, music, children, food, and dogs intermingled haphazardly in the inner courtyard. Long tables lined the adjacent courtyard, they held the exquisite, intricate devotional offerings like the one above. After just a week in Bali, I had come to love the Balinese superstitions, beliefs, and spiritual practices. They have a complex set of beliefs that are hard to grasp as a foreigner, but beautiful to take part in and learn about.

I never did make it to Gunung Kawi, not that day nor any other since I left Bali a mere two days later, because I instead found a shady spot in the corner and spent a solid two hours as the sole tourist quietly observing a Balinese ceremony and enjoying the curious smiles from locals.

If you’re keen to read more, I highly recommend picking up Bali: Sekala & Niskala or Island of Bali for a fascinating look at the complex rituals and beliefs of the Balinese people.

A Little Festival…Thailand’s Northern Rose

If you’ve ever wondered what Chiang Mai, Thailand will feel like during the zombie apocalypse then hit the streets of the old city, inside the moat, around 9:00am on the Saturday of the city’s Flower Festival Parade. The parade starts at 8:00am just outside of the moat, near Warorot Market, and the rapid exodus of city inhabitants leaves the streets inside the moat uncommonly quiet.

Early morning food prep at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand
Food vendors set up for crowds in the early morning hours of the Flower Festival

As the Rose of the North, Chiang Mai’s sweet nickname is never more applicable than the first week of February, when the city is flooded with colors and sweet scents for the Chiang Mai Flower Festival. The Flower Festival is an annual event – which is really no surprise because Chiang Mai likes festivals (cue the montage music for the Bo Sang Umbrella Festival last month).

Women in traditional Thai dress at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, ThailandPretty women parade at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand

I can’t help but love these local Chiang Mai festivals; it’s as though the locals are vying for the title of  “most enthusiastic city in the world.” Each fesitval is celebrated with varying amounts of gusto and the Flower Festival tips the scales on the high end of gusto-y-ness.

Flower floats at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, ThailandFlower dragon at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand

The three day festival permeates every aspect of the city for the weekend—even the Chinese New Year was rolled right into flower festivities and the joint celebration double the city’s number even . Plant vendors plant their stands on the roadsides around the moat for three days and city’s large east entrance, Tha Pae Gate, is overrun with a stage, food stalls, flower showcases, beauty pageants and people.

Oh, lordy, the people.

Both breeds of tourists descend on Chiang Mai for the three day festival, foreigners and Thais, and the clogged streets are a stark contrast to that zombie-apocolypse I mentioned earlier.  Locals on motorbikes mazing through the city, going about their business and artfully weaving through instant road blocks and darting around slow-moving tourists.

At the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand
Prettily dressed woman carry signs and flowers in the parade

The morning of day two though starts with an early morning mad dash (and that’s a dawn dash to anyone hoping for a seat in the risers) to the stage outside Wororat Market for an hour and a half of enormous flower floats and pretty performers.

Orchids at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand
Famous Chiang Mai orchids

The shining glory of the weekend are the orchids, healthy, beautiful, and deeply hued Chaing Mai orchids; the city is world renowned for their breeds of orchids the climate .

Beauty pageant contestants at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, ThailandThai man in the festival parade at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand

My friend Claire was visiting for the weekend and we were both surprised by the school bands parading through the streets – they added a nice element of pep and enthusiasm to the festivities but I had no idea Thai schools had traditional high school style bands as well!

Thai Ladyboy at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, ThailandSchool band at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand

What parade is complete without some lady boy action and dancers?

Dancer smiling at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, ThailandUmbrellas and sunlight at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand

The city swells in size like a puffer fish for the annual Flower Festival and the freshly planted flowers and artful arrangements are a testament to how a city can transform itself in just a matter of days with the right impetus. Chiang Mai is a decent sized city (and that means a fair bit of smog, traffic and garbage to accompany it) so I fell in love a bit more when I saw her gussied up and outfitted to the nines with fresh flowers in the city’s gardens,  streets cleaned of garbage, and dressed up in first-date attire.

More photos and a thanks to Claire for allowing me to use some of her shots!

Bo Sang Umbrella Festival, Thailand

A Little Craftsmanship… How to Visit the Town of a Thousand Umbrellas

How to Visit Chiang Mai's Umbrella FestivalHot mid-day sunshine baked the streets and cast a white glare over everything. With the sun high overhead, the umbrellas popped in full color. A riot of rich reds and lush purples spilled into the streets. Unlike some Thai festivals, where the crush of bodies becomes unbearable, Bo Sang’s annual Umbrella Festival is an intimate, gorgeous, and quaint occasion. Located just a bit outside of Chiang Mai—a tourist hotspot and my temporary home—Bo Sang it’s unexpectedly cute.

The town is small enough that I paused when leaving the songthaew, a local form of transportation. At first glance, I wasn’t sure the driver had dropped me in the right spot! Although it was surprisingly quiet, the extensive parasol decorations brightly lit my way into town, which develops a bit as you walk further from the highway and into the center of Bo Sang.

Once I looked closely, it was silly to have missed that this is clearly the home to northern Thailand’s annual umbrella festival. The parasols covering the entrance indicate that hand-crafted parasols are a deep part of this town’s identity. They serve as both a resume and testament to the skill of these artisans. Within seconds of passing under the gates, it’s glaringly apparent that handcrafted parasols and umbrellas have put this town on the map.

While not an ancient traditional skill, Bo Sang’s history of umbrella craftsmanship dates back about hundred years—maybe even two hundred, according to some.

Bo Sang Umbrella Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Hand painted umbrellas, Bo Sang Umbrella Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand Beautiful hand crafted umbrellas, Bo Sang Umbrella Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Colorful wares, Bo Sang Umbrella Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand Old bicycle at the Bo Sang Umbrella Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand

History of Bo Sang as an Umbrella Village

These gorgeous umbrellas pose an intriguing question for the curious. In a land of rice paddies and a culture long emphasizing agriculture for survival, how did Bo Sang develop into this anomaly? There is a beautiful craftsmanship and artistic flare in the umbrellas, showing a range of skills and creativity that indicate that this entire town has embraced the art form. What’s more, from my research this is the only town like it in Thailand.

There are certainly other towns where the locals retain a specific craft. But if you want a handcrafted parasol with delicately painted floral patterns and landscapes, you go to Bo Sang, Thailand.

The town is dwarfed in size by nearby Chiang Mai. Bo Sang’s big brother is perched a mere six miles away, but Bo Sang holds a very different personality. None of the wares are marked with a “made in china” sticker. Instead, I walked up to an umbrella artisan and could ask their story, learn their history. As I walked through the town’s main street, I saw dozens and dozens of artisans concentrating on the delicate work it takes to create these beautiful designs.

These traditional umbrellas are made from Saa paper, which is processed from mulberry bark. Beyond that, historical information is scarce. According to the best history I could find on how umbrella crafts came to Bo Sang, a wandering Thai monk brought the process back from Burma. Bo Sang was his hometown and when he returned with this process, the locals embraced the art, turning to the craftsmanship needed to make these umbrellas every autumn, once their field work was done for the season.

Decorations adorn everything, Bo Sang Umbrella Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Dancers prepare, Bo Sang Umbrella Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand Umbrella cultural dance, Bo Sang Umbrella Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand

crepes in bo sang, chiang mai, thailand performers at the bo sang umbrella festival

Entrant in the Beauty Pageant, Bo Sang Umbrella Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Travelers most often purchase an umbrella as a souvenir, but locals use them as parasols in the sun, or even as traditional umbrellas in light rain since the delicate paper is coated with special water-repellant oils.

One unexpected highlight is the Bo Sang Beauty Pageant Bike Parade. It gave me a giggle to see these beautiful Thai women ride through the streets with their stop-light red parasols, their bikes so new the wrapping was still on them! Each woman smiled big as she passed through the streets. There is also festival food, dancing and performances, and a host of other activities that make for an entertaining day.

The festival is quaint and cute and a surprising slice of sunshine, color, and craftsmanship. If you’re in town, it’s an easy way to pass a couple of hours and to escape the noisiness of Chiang Mai!

Quick Tips: How to Visit Bo Sang near Chiang Mai, Thailand

Where: Bo Sang; a solid 20 minutes outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand by songthaew or motorbike. You can view it on the map here.

When: Annually, the third week of January.

How: Take a white songthaew out of Chiang Mai (easily done from Warorot Market) and ask for the price to Bo Sang (about 20 baht). Some songthaew won’t be traveling in that direction, so you might have ask a few! Tuk-tuks will charge a bit more, but they can will also easily drive you out there! Alternatively, rent a scooter and drive yourself! The songthaew will drop you at the corner and you will then need to walk a bit to get into the heart of town. If you don’t know how to use the songthaew system, I have a thorough guide to transportation in Thailand here.

Tips: You can buy very small umbrellas, which make beautiful souvenirs. Catty-corner to the festival street is an array of food stalls with cheap, fresh local food (35-60 baht a meal). Bring sunscreen and a water-bottle as it’s hot and there is not a lot of shade in Bo Sang. The official parade takes place on the evening of day one (Friday). Other than that, you just need a couple hours to explore.

What to Do in Thailand: I wrote a full guide to Traveling Thailand with suggestions and tips from my years living and traveling the country. And if you’re hanging around Chiang Mai, I also wrote an insider’s guide to my favorite spots in the city. If you’re visiting whole of Thailand, the Lonely Planet Thailand is actually solid—it has valuable transport information that will make your backpacking trip easier!

Fireworks Washington DC monument

A Little Greeting … Happy Fourth of July from Washington!

Happy Fourth of July from the Washington Monument in DC! An old friend of mine from middle school lives in DC while she undergoes training with the government, so I made a pitstop into the city to see her after staying in New York for a week. Being my first Fourth in the city, she gathered up a group of friends and we camped out all day enjoying the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the lawn. As evening approached we hunkered down with thousands of others to watch the 20 minutes of huge fireworks blossoming around the Washington monument.

It was beautiful to see the patriotism of red, white, and blue blankets, shirts, towels and chairs spread all across the lawns around the reflection pond and monument. Although I love traveling outside of the US, there’s just something to be said about singing the National Anthem on the lawns of our capital with other Americans.  :-)

Fourth of July in Washington DC

Fireworks Over the Washington Monument

Fireworks in Washington DC

I hope you had a fantastic Fourth of July, or a lovely weekend for non-Americans!