Posted by: facetothewind | January 1, 2014

Once in a lifetime

As this small town swelled to unimaginable proportions with tourists bringing endless amounts of fireworks, I found myself completely overwhelmed by the exploding everything. I crawled into my friend Derrick’s bungalow and we were hanging out listening to the explosions ramping up toward the stroke of midnight. I would have stayed inside and not gone out but he stepped outside and yelled, “Come quick, this is amazing!” I grudgingly went out into the field by his cabin to behold a sight I’d never seen…


Hundreds if not, a thousand khom loi (flying wish lanterns) taking flight into the dark sky. They looked like orange stars but all moving in a gentle upward direction. Some near, some far creating ever-changing constellations, each one bearing someone’s new year’s wish.


It really was a spectacle…until they come slowly down from the sky and land in places you’d really rather not have a burning object. Here’s someone’s fallen wish caught on the power lines which could explain why there was no Internet this morning…


And in the duck pond. Someone’s wish made a water landing…


I hope someone here wished for fire insurance for their thatched roof. Fire insurance? Hah, this is Thailand (TIT). Each year dozens of houses are burned to the ground when a lantern lands on someone’s roof. Seems insane to do this but hey, TIT.


Earlier in the evening…


Ing Doi Guesthouse owner Mink is mistress of ceremonies for a gift exchange that involved popping a balloon and getting a number that corresponded with a gift. Hey, it’s a chance to make more noise and blow things up. I got a frog filled with candy.


This is La and her son whose name I can’t pronounce. It’s something like Bert, but not really. They’re Burmese and La is the one and only assistant at Ing Doi. She tirelessly washes dishes, makes meals for guests and does all the laundry and housekeeping. She’s a lovely woman and her son is adorably gracious and gentle. She’s raising him by herself here and very likely making less than $10 a day. Bert (or whatever his full Burmese name is) popped his balloon and got his gift and opened it up to find a small bottle of coconut oil. He tried to smile but somehow this didn’t seem like much of a gift for a 12 year old. He wrapped it back up and gripped it tightly watching the rest of us open our gifts. I could relate to his undisguisable disappointment for twice having gotten a pair of black socks when I was his age (read earlier in my blog). I felt so sorry for him that I gave him my frog full of candy for the sheer pleasure of watching his face light up. And then my other friend David gave him his gift of a notepad as well. He went home with 3 gifts smiling with me choking back the tears. I don’t know — does anyone else notice these poignant moments or is it just me?


My new best friends for a week: David and Jane from the southern coast of England. David and I played guitar and clarinet and sang Auld Lang Syne together at the New Year’s party. Jane is a very soulful and kindhearted person. I liked them immediately when I met them. D&J, thanks for being my buddies for the week. And thanks to David for insisting I play the clarinet at the party. It turned out to be much better than I thought it would be. Of course we were accompanied by huge explosions in the background.

Most of the madness has left Pai. The campers are all gone leaving heaps of trash, fallen dream balloons and firework detritus everywhere. The crowds are back to normal and a sweetness has returned and my blood pressure is back to normal.

KABOOOOOOM!!! Ok, well some moronic low life has discovered a hidden stash of fireworks just up the field and of course at midnight had the indecency to set it off. Looks like one more night of Xanax before returning to civilization. And so on that note I leave Pai for Chiang Mai, ironically, for a little peace and quiet. Remind me to never ever come to Thailand for the holidays again. Seeing the lanterns all flying up was a once in a lifetime experience. I’ll leave it at that!

Next stop: Chiang Mai and then Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on January 9.



  1. Well, at least they weren’t shooting off guns left and right like they do in the U.S. Nothing says “Yee-haw, it’s New Year’s and I’m a moron!” quite like firing bullets into the night air — and, of course, every year people get killed by projectiles gone astray. Last year it was a 14-year-old girl standing on her porch watching the fireworks — and that was just locally — her killer has never been found. Can’t keep up with all the idiots elsewhere in the country.

    Here’s hoping your journey continues in peace and quiet.

  2. Nice. Funny. Unusual. Good. Glad you’re back to your usual good humor and kind observations on that gorgeous, funny, amazing place. I miss you.

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