New Years 2015: Lanterns and Banana Pancakes in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Celebrating the new year in Thailand is a wonderful thing! The weather, humidity, attitude, and atmosphere are perfect. In Chiang Mai it seemed like the entire city was engaged in launching khom loi (floating lanterns) into the night sky. Looking up, it seems as though the sky is filled with incredibly bright, orange stars, that drift along at the mercy of the air currents in the darkness. These lanterns are constructed of rice paper and some wire (or fire-retardant rope) framing to which a tightly coiled, treated paper roll is affixed. The coil is then set alight heating the air which creates a mini-hot air balloon of sorts that sends the lantern sailing skyward.

For those who were wondering, I tied one to my waist, and no, it does not seem as though a single lantern will prove to be a practical solution for personal air travel. I did manage to lift off about 2 feet off of the ground, but that was mainly due to my two feet lifting me off the ground by thrusting against it. That having been said, the efficacy of multiple lanterns tied to a person has yet to be tested. I will start trials with kittens next year to test the theory.

No one actually knows what happens to the lanterns once their flame runs out. There are two main schools of thought that dominate scientific discussion. The first of which is that once the fuel is expired, the lanterns fall, mostly harmlessly, back to the earth. The second theory contends that once the lanterns reach the stratosphere they are sucked up out of the atmosphere and are then propelled towards the edge of our solar system by solar winds generated by the sun. The Voyager probes that were launched by NASA in the 1970's have spotted several unidentified objects on their journeys through space that many believe to be floating lanterns, but due to technical limitations of the probe's optical telescopes we are not absolutely certain that what they have spotted were, in fact, khom loi deployed from earth.

Nadia and I sent a couple lanterns sailing towards the heavens to join the hundreds of others already floating in the sky. After this, we stopped to grab some dinner and then went to "Zoe in Yellow" for the New Year's count down. Finally, for the first meal of the new year, we went to a street vendor to get some Nutella Roti (banana pancake), which is pretty much bliss. Bliss in the form of banana, egg, condensed milk, sugar, and, of course, Nutella. These vendors can be found all over Thailand and make the Roti on little mobile hot plate cooking stations that can be moved around by a small motorcycle. The Roti didn't come with a printed out nutritional guide, but I assume it was extremely healthy and covered all the major food groups. All in all, this was a fantastic evening and a great way to ring in the New Year!

FUN FACT: The Lanna people of Thailand traditionally release hom loi for celebrations and special occasions. The releasing of the lantern is representative of releasing oneself from worries or troubles that may be weighing a person down. Sending off a lantern is symbolic of the troubles floating away and is meant to bring good luck. When the spent lanterns return to earth (usually after their fuel source has been extinguished, so as not to have flaming fireballs raining down from above) their grey husks will often remain on the ground for a day as it is considered bad luck to pick them up to dispose of too soon, as the person touching it may acquire the bad fortune and trouble that the sender was ridding themselves of in the first place!