The Amazing Floating Lights of Thailand

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A year ago, the Disney movie Tangled landed in theaters and stole the hearts of little girls and their weepy, misty-eyed dads. The old folk tale of Rapunzel and her locks shouldn't be too foreign to you. The most famous version, before Disney's, was likely the one that's found in Grimms' Fairy Tales, the compilation of German folk tales assembled by the Brothers Grimm in the 19th Century. As you can expect it's not quite the same as the movie, but the nuts-n-bolts are the same. A girl with unusually long hair lives in a tower against her will and is rescued by her love. In Disney's telling, the girl witnesses the flight of thousands of candle lanterns every eve of her birthday and desperately wants to see the source and find out why they always fly right before her birthday. Finally, on her 18th birthday she escapes with the help of a handsome (er, smoldering) suitor who promises to take her to see the floating lights. It's a turning point in the movie.

What you may not be familiar with is that there's a real floating lantern ceremony that occurs in a Thailand during the full moon in November called Yi Peng. Thousands of participants fashion a lantern out of a rice paper, some wire, and a candle or small fuel cell. They gather, light, and let fly their own floating lanterns after the sun sets and the result is nothing short of stunning and amazing. It's not CG animated like in Tangled, so the soft, silent glow of yellow-red flame cast against the ink of a winter's night sky certainly carries some genuine enchantment. You'll get a taste of it in the time lapse video above. Hang on through 0:51 at least, as that's when it really gets interesting. Depending on your taste, you may or may not like the Buddhist chant track that it's set to. I suppose you could say the same about Mandy Moore, Rapunzel's voice, singing "I See The Light."

Traditions and folk tales alike originate somewhere and they transition and evolve as they pass through time, cultures, and borders. The story of Rapunzel or our modern Christmas traditions are no exceptions. However one thing does remain. Over the course of human history, all cultures apparently value the magic of casting a little bit of light into a lot of darkness. There's something special about it.

The video comes by way of the inspiring blog with stunning photography, Almost Fearless:


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