On the second night in Phuket, I noticed some glowing red lights in the sky, slowly creeping through the upper atmosphere. I wondered if they were UFOs, or even satellites that could be seen from earth since the sky was so clear. They were neither. They are khom fai, or fire lanterns, that people in Phuket lit and send off to carry their troubles and bad luck away. The Thai release the khom fai into the night sky to mark special occasions (this one for Chinese New Year). We noticed them for two nights and on the third night saw a family selling them on the sidewalk near the beach. How could we not participate in this beautiful traditional Thai practice especially when we were ready to get rid of the bad luck that has surrounded our Vietnamese adoption and that of the 19 other children?
We paid the darling child who was helping her parents sell them, and followed the family down to the beach. The mom helped Nick get it ready for launch. It was made of tissue paper and a little bamboo as support with a ring of what looked like condensed newspaper. Nick took a lighter and lit the ring in several places. Much like a hot air balloon, as the fire intensified, the lantern filled with hot carbon monoxide, making it expand and ready for take off.
We bowed our heads and prayed before Nick let go of the lantern, and off went our troubles and bad luck into the tropical Thai night. A light breeze made it take off quickly. We watched it for probably 10-15 minutes, and I'm sure it was several hundred feet in the air and traveled a few miles before the orange glow flickered out, disintegrating the entire lantern. Ironically, the wind carried it southeast of us - in the direction of Vietnam.