Watching the sky lanterns float in the daytime sky, from my apartment window, reminds me of the first time I experienced a khom loy or khom fai.

In 2007, I returned to Thailand after being away for 18 years. It was a pretty big deal made even grander by the fact that my mom said we would be returning for an open house ceremony, and for a temple opening. Apparently my mom had been sending money back home to Lamphun to have her house re-built for her sister and father.

I didn’t know what to expect, but I was certainly surprised when we drove down (a once dirt road) to our new house blocked by a massive stage being set up. My then-boyfriend had traveled with my mom and me, and I can only imagine the shock he must have felt regarding his new surroundings – especially when he met my frail grandfather who had a tendency to drool. (Hey so do !)

It seems like nothing now, as both of us have acclimated into Thai culture in our own separate ways. But country life in Thailand is different than city life. While you may forget you are in a foreign country in the city, you are less likely to in a place like Lamphun.

Of course, if you drive though Lamphun or visit sites around town, you might not see the side I’m talking about. This side is tucked away from main roads, in what feels like a confusing labyrinth of back roads, and nondescript landmarks. But my ex grew up in the country where this kind of landscape is familiar, and easy to maneuver through.

All of this makes me think, folks who grew up in the country or away from city life, have more in common with people in other countries that live in similar settings, regardless of language barriers and cultures.

I was certainly taken back by how much Chiang Mai and Lamphun had changed. It wasn’t the hazy expanse that I remembered from childhood. Yet, for the competition of the house(the temple opening would come later), there was a party.

Parties back in the States feel tame compared to what I witnessed the following night, but maybe it’s safer to say parties here are just different. Besides the dancing girls in fou-fou costumes moving to the beat, a touch off-sync, there were tables upon tables laden with food and alcohol, and what appeared to be everyone in the neighborhood this north side of the moat.

Ah, but back to the khom fais as my mom called them, or khom loys to the city-folk. They started to light them during the day and when I asked my mom what were they for, she said, “to let people know where the party is.”

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