Flu and Fire: Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Well, I don’t have Malaria. For the last two days, I’d felt flu-like symptoms including headache, chills, fever, soreness, weakness, foot loss, spastic sphincter, halitosis, cantankerousness of the attitude, vaginal discharge, and thirst. India has Malaria of course, especially Goa where we visited last. All the guidebooks tell the traveler to play it safe and see a doctor if they have flu-like symptoms up to a year after visiting a risky country. So I played it safe.

The Malaria Clinic was off the moat road between Suthep and Huay Kaew roads. For some reason it’s on the same grounds as a temple. When we arrived, there was no one in the clinic but a family of cats. Eventually, a friendly man walked in and told us that the technician was out to lunch. He picked up his phone and called her back. “Two foreigners” were here, he said in Thai. Somehow this implied a greater urgency.

The technician came back within half an hour and took small blood samples from J. and I. The blood was dried on slides and examined under a microscope. No parasites were found. The test was free. One test isn’t conclusive however, but it’s a step in the right direction. In the back of my mind, I wonder if I’m the unlucky sap that has parasites lying low in his liver.

I apologized to the lady for her having to come back from lunch early, but I could see it didn’t really matter. Her average work day was in the relaxed Thai style: sit around doing nothing, watch some TV, eat some food, test some blood.

Unfortunately, my flu came at the wrong time. This week was the Loy Krathong Festival in Chiang Mai. For three nights, chaos and fire rule the town, especially by the Ping River. Constant fireworks booming around the neighborhood don’t promote healing sleep and taking J. to see the insanity by the river was like putting my body through sound and light torture.

Both banks between Iron Bridge and Nakorn Ping plus the bridges and roads were packed with people. Some of the roads were supposed to be closed, but they weren’t or it wasn’t being enforced. Traffic backed up for kilometers, and the unlucky cars stuck on the bridges had to inch through the human cattle. The epicenter of festivities by the river was near Nawarat Bridge. People were launching khom fai lanterns into the sky and into trees and power lines as others shot fireworks. Various stages had traditional discordant Thai music and dance blaring at level eleven. There was a carnival and food area that was relatively safe from stray fireworks and fireballs, but the rest of the town was in chaos. Huge booms and sparkling explosions happened under foot. Bomb-like booms reverberated under the bridges, bottle rockets were hitting heads, sluggish lanterns dripped flaming wax. It was crazy. While the festivities at Mae Jo were peaceful and spiritual, Chiang Mai was in the middle of a war.

Small neon ferris wheel.

It was controlled by this guy.

Kid and gun.

Family pondering worthless crap.

LSD grade kid bounce.

Marzipan like deserts. 1bht each.

Fish balls! Come get your fish ball!

Dodging street sparkles.

Fireworks from the bridge.

Lighting the lantern.

A jumbo sized lantern.

Crowds at the epicenter.

Ping river flowing with krathong. Lanterns above.

Bridge people.

Non floating lanterns at Tapae Gate.

I love the smell of loy krathong in the morning!


yikes malaria! whatever you have, feel better soon. that last shot is niiiice.

Every time I get body aches and chills, I always think I have dengue fever. Unfortunately, it always turns out to be just the flu. -X

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November 13th, 2008. Categories / Chiang Mai, Thailand

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