There isn’t a lot of information on the WWW, so I asked as many friends as I could, since I reside in this great city. I also learned a lot from attempting to go the year before. So here is my list. Please add yours!
1. Go early. 6pm does appear to be the cut off and that is shaving it Gillette close. The VIP section is closest to the stage and ceremonies, but anywhere in this area is ideal as the outer area has trees.
2. There is another way to get there! We wanted to be there by 5pm but my friend thought I knew where I was going and I thought he knew where he was going, so we discovered an alternative route. Most folks take Hwy 1001, and we took 107 and had to cut across, but it all worked out in the end and hey, we avoided traffic.
3. Traffic is bad, depending on what you are used to. There are many ways to get to Maejo University, vans, cars, red trucks but I think motorbiking is best. Motorbikes can zip around cars, park virtually anywhere but you must be comfortable driving in traffic and going the distance. That said…
4. Bring rain gear. For the past 2 years, after the event, it has down poured. Last year we got caught in it and it was miserable. It cools off quick and the ride home will seem even longer if you are stuck in traffic, soggy and shivering. This year we brought fleeces and a raincoat…much more comfortable.
5. There’s a dress code! I had no idea but duh, it is a Buddhist holiday and ceremony. A lot of women brought shawls to cover their spaghetti strap dresses but I wore leggings and a collared shirt, along with comfortable covered waterproof shoes.
And I’m glad, because while it got hot with all the lanterns being lit and the flames and the massive amounts of bodies around, going to the water logged toilets wasn’t a problem (bring your own TP, but you knew that right?) or sitting on the ground (we bought a mat) or getting attacked by mosquitoes.
6. Don’t bring your own lanterns. The good folks at Maejo try to control what is coming in. The khom loys are mostly biodegradable (just a bit of thin wire is not) and they cost 100 baht and were huge. You also do not need to bring a lighter or matches. Staff is placed throughout the grounds to light the ground torches.
7. It’s an international affair. Loy Kratong or Yee Ping draws a lot of tourists, even Thais from Bangkok as Chiang Mai is one of the premiere places to celebrate. So make your plans in advance.
8. Bring a snack. Yes, there is food and water located just outside of the event. But we brought cheese, crackers and apples and offering apples to the Japanese tourists around me was a nice way to make friends. And the snacks were yummy while I waited for my friends to return from the food stalls.
9. Don’t go, if you don’t like crowds or are concerned about your safety. We joked about how if there was a fire, how we would be stampeded. Thais aren’t known for their safety. Last New Year’s Eve at Thae Phae Gate, parked TV vans created a bottleneck so folks trying to get out of the area were slowed to a standstill causing impatient folks to push. I was a little frightened and even my friend later told me he was thinking of grabbing me and pushing me into the moat if things got worst.
At Maejo the year before, I heard a foot bridge collapsed under the weight of all the people trying to cross. This year I noticed, a couple of guys guiding folks across with torches or flashlights, a few at a time. So, you’ve been warned, but I enjoyed my experience and I hope to go next year.
Be safe and have fun! Cheers!