Sunday, January 18, 2015

The mystery and allure of the Naga Light festival - my 2006 adventure on the Mekong


Here are 6 video extracts of my Naga Light adventure on the Mekong back in October 2006 - my experience of the Thai Naga Light festival:
Video 1:
I went to Nong Khai and Phon Phisai where the spectacular Naga light fireball festival was in full swing on the Mekong river looking towards Laos. I was in Phon Phisai on Saturday night October 7 for the anticipated fireball display. The human part of the light show - fireworks, rockets, large fire balloons, fireboats etc - was in great evidence, but when the Naga fireballs started emerging, they were strikingly different to the easily discernible human displays - very straight vertical flights out of river to a great height and then disappearing after a few seconds. Each appearance was greeted with a huge roar from the thousands of people lining the river at every vantage point along the Mekong.
This phenomenon has a tremendous social and human dimension and while it is tempting to try to explain the lights, however correctly or incorrectly- planted "rockets", "submarine" firings, Naga Dragon speaking - they all seem to fall short of entirely convincing explanations. The UFO researcher in me calls for an explanation, and I have to wonder about the presence of the manned fireboats plying the river prior to the appearance of the Naga lights, but from my observations it seems difficult to see how they do it and what kind of item is utilised, given nothing seemed to be at the localities around the various exit points in the river for some time either side of each Naga light appearance. The emotional response to these lights on site is to inevitably get caught up in the chaotic flow of the evening events. It is easy to get caught up in the moment and loose objectivity. Perhaps thats why they write books like "Mad about the Mekong". It is a great area full of extraordinary sights and experience, not the least of them being the Naga Light show during the full moon glow over the river.
I saw the lights about 8 times coming out of the river. It was a great day and night.

Video 2:

My guides Noi and Jiap  and I describe the fascinating light festival. If you get to Udon Thani try tracking down Jiap via your hotel - a great guide.
Video 3:
With darkness increasing the fireworks begin, the idea being among the locals is that the more fireworks the more likely the Naga lights will appear 
Video 4:
This focuses on the fireboats that go up the river and return to Nong Khai. I tried to video in closely to see if there was evidence of placement of "light ball" devices to initiate later fireworks. With the strength of the river flow on the Mekong that would be a real achievement. I did detect some of "fireboat" operators dropping stuff into the water, but these seemed no more that the spent bits of lighting the fireworks that would go up from the boats as a prelude or encouragement for the Naga "dragons" to expel their famous "naga lights." The "naga lights" that would appear later in the night appeared to have no connection to the "fireboats". No hidden floating platforms could be seen.
Video 5:
I thought it was going to difficult to pickup on the Naga Lights, but there was a great roar from the delighted local people - thousand along about a 10 to 20 kilometre corridor on both sides of the Mekong - that would highlight the "Naga lights" - these would rise directly up each time, never in a haphazard way like with the fireworks, and always in the middle of the river and away from any boats. The videos don'y capture the excitement and magnitude of the evenings events.
Video 6:
The 6th video (final) of my Mekong Naga light adventures - more "Naga lights", my guide Noi confirmed how many she had seen and my night vision videoing confirmed that nothing was evident in the areas where the Naga lights rose from the river. I was left puzzled and frustrated that my "fireboat" hypothesis was not borne out my the night's Naga Light show. The answers were not obvious and the Laos side were not the source of ones we witnessed. It had been an amazing, exciting and entertaining night. No wonder they write books like "Mad about the Mekong." I would return again given the opportunity - the mystery magic and the allure of the Naga Lights was potent and powerful. My videoing efforts did record the unusual lights, but nowhere near the clarity of what we saw before us with our own eyes. Fascinating and fun. The locals were happy that their Naga legendary lights had returned, my guides were amazed and so was I, particularly with the intoxicating power and fun of the festival. My Fortean friend Paul Cropper went a couple years running more recently viewing the events from both sides of the Mekong. He to was frustrated and puzzled. Both of us were not able to answer the mystery of the Naga Lights with any certainty. If it was a man made show it was a great achievement as the mystery and allure of the lights continues. I bow to the power of the Naga lights whose erratic appearances don't seem suited to maintaining certainty of reappearances each year. In fact their number and location varies a lot. A tourist mediated affair would need a much greater reliability in the appearance of the lights. Instead some years and locations often leave tourists and locals with a no show, hardly consistent with the logic of putting on a good man made show.
Video Copyright Bill Chalker


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