Komloy Festival – The One I’d Been Waiting to See

Komloy Festival

It’s October 29th and again, the 15 days on my visa are up. I need to head to the border to renew my visa for another 15 days…again. Yesterday, before heading to Wat Doi Suthep with the Panyaden staff, I stopped by Kavil Guesthouse to buy my ticket for the minibus to the border – this time at Mae Sai, Thailand and Tachiliek, Myanmar. I was told to be there on Saturday morning by 6:45 am.

I was barely awake when I arrived and cute Noi, who works there said, “This man, he ask about Panyaden School.” His name was Armando. He was from Puerto Rico and traveling through Thailand and Laos with his 6 year-old daughter named Iroko. She was still sleeping while Armando and I talked. My minibus was super late, and I can honestly say I was rather pleased because I spent about 90 minutes in an interesting conversation with Armando. What an interesting person!

I opted for a seat further back in the minibus when my front row window got a bit scary with the driving. Otherwise, the border crossing was uneventful.

I arrived back at Kavil at about 6pm. I saw Iroko and asked where her dad was. I invited them both to go see the Komloy festival at Mae Jo University, but that we’d need to leave…like now. Just then, Armando appeared and we were off to go find a songthaew, and next thing we knew the 3 of us were headed to Mae Jo University. Perfect timing.

Komloy are giant floating lanterns lit off for good luck. They are flat like a hula hoop and made of a bamboo circle and covered in paper that inflates with hot air. On the bottom is a waxy wick the size of a hockey puck, this is lit and then you need to wait until enough hot air fills the lantern and it floats gracefully into the sky.

I lit one of these off at Wat Chedi Luang to ring in my 30th birthday years ago. It was impressive with just one. My birthday is in March, and I heard that on Loi Krathong, in November, thousands of these get lit off at once. Tonight, at Mae Jo University, was that night: 10,000 fiery lanterns aloft at once.

Armando and me

Lighting the komloy

The first floating komloy of the evening…but definitely not the last

Iroko and Elizabeth lighting the komloy

Making a wish and letting it go

…Iroko’s wish…

…Armando’s wish

Armando y Iroko

In this case the pictures and videos do the talking. I was delighted to be there with Armando and Iroko. It was a positively magical experience and my companions made it even better. These videos do better than words to capture the experience. Please watch on full screen mode. Sorry about the sideways action. Enjoy!

The pictures, while interesting, cannot begin show how absolutely stunning the evening was. Finally, I got to be a part of this amazing festival. Pure magic!

Thank you Mae Jo University, Armando, Iroko, all of you who let go of lanterns, and big thank you Thai people for having this festival. It is a sight that was more spectacular than anything I’ve see in a long time. No words can express my feelings here. Armando said something along these lines, “In other parts of the world people are celebrating death this time of year (Oct. 29), here they are celebrating life.” Iroko rode elephants in the morning and was here in the evening, it was one of her favorite days of her life. Although we are a lot older than her 6 years, Armando and I agreed that they were some of our favorite moments too. ¡Que maravilla! One is never too old to experience wonder. Lots of love!


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