Thursday, January 30, 2014

Flying Lantern Ritual at Chiang Mai Thailand

The flying lamps were a tourist attraction in Chiang Mai's Khum Khantoke Restaurant [Reviewed earlier here]. Also known as flying lanterns or sky lanterns, fire lanterns or Chinese lamps, these lamps are made of a waxy paper enclosure, open only in bottom and mounted on a steel wire. A source of fire, such as camphor is housed on a thin steel wire which is connected to the circular frame.

As the wax or camphor burns, the gases make the lantern like a mini balloon and it begins floating in the air. It is released in a ceremonious way. It is believed to take your sins and difficulties away.

100s of such lamps are let up into the sky each evening. Once up in air, we saw it going higher and higher as long as we could see. Eventually the wax paper cover would melt/burn off and self deteriorate while the steel frame is bound to fall down somewhere. Probably locals don't mind collecting and disposing these steel wire rings that fall from the sky. Hope they don't harm animals or people.

In case of heavy winds these lamps can be dangerous- wind can tilt the lamp, making wax paper catch fire much earlier and wind taking the lamp to somewhere else, to set something else (like crops or trees) ablaze is a theoretical possibility. But doesn't look like these have caused any harm, looking at the rate they are being enthusiastically used.

Apparently there're some bio degradable variants of these lanterns- made of Bamboo and other materials which are eco friendly.

There're many places in Thailand where this ritual is followed or tourists are allowed to light a lamp and send it skywards. I saw this display at a temple few days later, which seem to suggest that smaller ones cost 50 baht, medium ones 80 and big lanterns cost 100 baht.

If you're buying in 100s, these lamps are available 4 units a dollar...

Wikipedia article on sky lamps