Thailand lights up the night sky with lantern festival

By Paula Newton, CNNUpdated 12th November 2014
The Loi Krathong festival has been celebrated throughout Thailand for centuries, usually to mark the end of the rainy season.
Each year, thousands of paper lanterns are released into the night sky to symbolically ward off bad luck, while rivers are covered by floating flower lanterns, adorned with candles and joss sticks, cast into waterways to wish for good luck.
With flower and flame, the city of Chiang Mai in particular comes alive during these festive days each November.
The event has been transformed over the years from a reverent temple ritual to a rowdy street party that lasts for days.
"The real meaning of the festival is to worship Buddha and the goddess of the river," says Sarah Wahtong a native of Chiang Mai.
CNN's Paula Newton visits the city in northern Thailand to discover its architectural treasures.
Elephants are synonymous with Thailand, but beyond rides for tourists, some are being used to help autistic children.
But now it's a magnet for foreign and local tourists with dozens of events and parades taking place throughout the city each day and night.
While the carefully crafted floating flower lanterns don't disrupt the city with anything more than banana leaves and blooms, the flying lanterns have a potentially more hazardous impact.
During this year's festival, like years gone by, dozens of flights from the local airport had to be diverted or canceled the moment thousands of lanterns took to the air.
It seems that despite threats of fines and prosecution, Chiang Mai residents and visitors alike chose to respect the ancient traditions rather than modern laws. Legal or not, it did create a dazzling spectacle in the night sky.