Mae Hong Son : Lanterns by the lake.

Mae Hong Son Travel Blog

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The cosy ramshackle confines of the lakeside Rimnong Guest House

“Phew!” It’s nice to have escaped from the chaos of Pai bus station! Less of a bus station than an oversize baseball mound upon which buses of all varying sizes and conditions attempt to practically balance on top of one another. A chrome, glass and beaten up leather seat crush. There’s so little room! Parking is an abstract concept here.

I am peculiarly tired today. I drift in and out of sleep all the way on the bus ride to Mae Hong Son the capital and administrative centre of this self-same named north-westerly province of Thailand. When my weary, sun-drugged eyes do from time to time open they are rewarded with beautiful views, glimpsed like a scenic zoetrope animation, the flickering glances of beautiful rolling hills seen through the gaps in roadside trees.

The lake (large pond really) that sits picturequely in the heart of MHS.
The hills undulate away into the distance as far away as the eye can see, every last inch of them covered in a deep green arboreal cloak. It’s as if a sea had been frozen; petrified in the stormy mid-tumble and toss of a gale. As the sun throws the shadows of the clouds upon and over the scene, and the shadows move bidden by the winds, it’s as if the waves now were rolling still.

Mae Hong Son is a very neatly presented little town. Surrounded, as with Pai, on all sides by the northern Thai hills. A small, postcard-perfect lake (manmade I assume?) sits at its heart to offset and reflect the beautiful scenery. Finding accommodation here (after a longish, sweaty stroll from the outta town bus station) proves testing again as the Thai New Years crowds are still holidaying in force.

The beautifully kept and golden-banded chedi spires of Wat Jong Klang
I manage eventually to be directed to some clapped out shack (The Rimnong Guesthouse), a river of sweat in my wake, and get a room for 200 Baht. Not bad. Just relieved. It’s perfectly positioned right on the lakeside so no complaints.

I have managed to lose my crummy Casio watch. My list of mislaid items on The Trail is becoming very troubling to me indeed but I try not to let anger at myself harm my travel calm too much. Most of the irritation is born of the fact that having to possess a watch at all annoys the p*ss outta me! The Casio had been a once in 15 years concession to travel necessity purchased begrudgingly in Cyprus. The thought of having to fork out for another time-keeper; life-counter; soul-snarer; fun-apportionator just gets me down.

For such a compact town there is a wealth of very appealing, decorative and well kept Buddhist wats in Mae Hong Son.

Wat Jong Kam ( I think?)
Whilst I’m quite “watted out” as the travel parlance goes by this time in my Thai adventure, I have to say the myriad permutations of human ceremony, ritual, superstition and behaviour to be observed at these sites always makes them interesting places to visit for me. Wat Jong Kam and Wat Jong Klang are both very elegant Burmese style Buddhist structures and once the sun goes down and their chedi spires are later illuminated they look extremely pretty reflected in the lake waters. Inside - shoes off and step to the wooden boards - there’s the usual incongruous higgledy-piggledy piling up of Buddha statues, icons, vases, fabrics, candles and neon-lights upon the upper platform where ‘No Women Allowed!’. “What evs!” Young Thai boys and girls kneel and violently shake pots containing a large number of inscribed wooden sticks.
The idea clearly to shake and shake with increasing vigour until one of the sticks flies out and presumably casts your fate or guides your path for the days to come horoscope style. But I could be wrong. One little girl is so enthusiastic that a splurge of a good dozen or so sticks spring forth and clatter to the floorboards. I guess you’re gonna be a havin’ a busy few days chuck!

As evening comes on, a large vibrant market has bloomed along the side streets that line the approaches to the lake and around its westerly shore. A thousand different dishes, barely a tenth of them recognisable to my eyes are being cooked over coals, charcoal braziers, naked flames or large skillet woks. It all smells wonderful! I have a great time just strolling up and down and back again and picking the next ‘mystery dish’ to try.

Market stalls and kings
At between 5 - 20 Baht each (10 - 40p) you can just keep on chomping with zero regard for your wallet… if not your waistline! Your belt will give way in Thailand looong before your bank balance does provided you avoid the sh*tty, overpriced bars ‘n’ restaurants with English menus selling poor renditions of (already uninspiring) Western dishes to lazy, paranoid, unadventurous and culinarily lobotomized farang.

I sit on a bench staring at the waters of the lake and practising some Thai vocabulary. To my right a constant stream of large paper lanterns are being released into the night skies of Mae Hong Son from the grounds of Wats Jong Kam and Jong Klang. I could watch those things float heavenward all night long. Strolling closer to the wats you can watch people as they light their many lanterns.

Temple wats chedis with two lighted lanterns escaping upwards into the night sky. New stars born.
These much larger than the ones seen in Pai. The people stand in circles pinching the tissue paper into better shape, clutching the balsa wood frame-ring on all sides whilst the burning O-ring below starts to fill their delicate vessels with hot air.

A girl stands fervently praying besides her lighted lantern, palms pressed firm together before her face, her lips a-blur whilst her male companions hold on to the lantern. I love this as a gesture. As an act of faith, ceremony or even if it’s just plain old hope and enjoyment. It’s something sweetly serene and beautiful. As I guess all prayer is maybe? I like the idea that they fill these New Years lanterns not only with heat and light, but also with their hopes; their prayers; a stream of words to lift them into the skies; a flow of thoughts and love that will propel them all the way to the stars.

Lanterns being lit besides Wat Jong Klang.
Less to do with heat and physics; more to do with magic and joy. And they really do burn high. Far, far, up and away into the starry vault. Beyond the reach of mans eyes they continue to burn. As far as your hopes ‘n’ prayers; your imagination can reach to take ‘em.

And that’s kinda wonderful even for a cynic and (so far) unbeliever like me. I know that these lanterns are destined to run outta heat; outta gas; outta juice in the end. It’s cold up there! I suppose sometime, someplace they must all start a silent descent again like so many scorched feathers cascading back down to earth. And the cynic in me wants to smirk and declare that this is an apt enough image for the trajectory; the fate of all prayers but you should not listen to me ‘cos I’m still young(ish), capricious in mind and belief, undecided and often insensitive with my thoughts and I can be cynical b**tard to boot.

Clinging on to light and heat... nearly ready for release!
Keep on lighting those lanterns of the heart people and release something bright, something beautiful into the universe whenever you can in this life. Such acts will continue to burn as long as you want them to. And it’s all beautiful!

hummingbird50 says:
Your brave with those mystery dish things! :) I am not that brave:)
Posted on: Feb 18, 2009
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The cosy ramshackle confines of th…
The cosy ramshackle confines of t…
The lake (large pond really) that …
The lake (large pond really) that…
The beautifully kept and golden-ba…
The beautifully kept and golden-b…
Wat Jong Kam ( I think?)
Wat Jong Kam ( I think?)
Market stalls and kings
Market stalls and kings
Temple wats chedis with two lighte…
Temple wats chedis with two light…
Lanterns being lit besides Wat Jon…
Lanterns being lit besides Wat Jo…
Clinging on to light and heat... n…
Clinging on to light and heat... …
Wats Jong Kam and Klang
Wats Jong Kam and Klang
PURPLE DOG!!! I think this has som…
PURPLE DOG!!! I think this has so…
Fabulous community life and spirit…
Fabulous community life and spiri…
Mae Hong Sons beautiful temples re…
Mae Hong Sons beautiful temples r…
Part of my dinner being cooked up …
Part of my dinner being cooked up…
Mae Hong Son
photo by: Stevie_Wes