CHIANG RAI – The romantic sensation of hot air balloons rising serenely into the morning skies, fresh air caressing the skin, creating a tingling sense of adventure; this isÂ the spirit, the magic and the sense of freedom that drawsÂ visitors toÂ Singha Park International Balloon Fiesta, held on Valentines Day in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
Singha Park, just 12 kilometers from Chiang Rai, draws some one million visitors each year; bicycle trails, exotic animals and restaurants add to the attractions of one of Thailand’s largest agro-tourism destinations.
The spectacular hot air balloon event is a fun-loving festival held over four days, combining daily balloon competitions and sensational nightlyÂ Balloon Magic Night Glow, a show createdÂ by dozens of balloons.
Capturing the romance and beauty of the International Balloon Fiesta is at the heart of the photo contest that was held at the 2016 edition of the event, as seen in the winning images in the various prize camera categories:
DSLR category (winner:Â Natnakorn Pattanapaiboonpon), Mirrorless category (winner:Â PanyaÂ Apinyanurak), Smartphone category (winner:Â Korkiat Jumpa) and Drone category (winner:Â Phudinan Singkhamfu).
No matter the type of camera, they all captured the excitement and beauty of the 2016 event, which saw some 30 brightly decorated hot air balloons ascending into the clear blue sky, casting shadows across the 3,000 acre Singha Park’s rolling hills, and tea and fruit plantations.
Among festivities are food and drinkÂ stalls, booths offering games and prizes, andÂ romantic music concertsÂ that appeal toÂ the young and the young-at-heart.
“The event here is extremely well organized,” said David Griffiths, 67, a commercial hot air balloonÂ pilot from Nottingham, U.K. “I was drawn to the 2016 event by the chance to fly in Thailand and this beautiful place. Everything goes like clockwork, everything works all the time.”
The balloon event is considered one of the largest in South East Asia, with participants from 14 countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Switzerland, Brazil, China and Japan.
French tourist, Ines Vasseur, 27,Â commented how much she enjoyed the festival. “The park, the view, the balloons, everything is so beautiful and I’m happy to be here.”
At the event on Valentines’ Day in 2016, some 20 couples were invited to attend a special wedding ceremony sponsored by the Park, to fly in a balloon, celebrating their special and memorable moments.
For 30-year old newlywed Rattana Chaichana, theÂ experience of flying in a balloon on her wedding day will be with her forever. “I was thrilled by this once-in-a-life time opportunity,” Rattana said excitedly. “It was my first time to be so high above the ground and so close to the sky with the love of my life. It is one of the most precious moments that I will proudly tell my children and grandchildren about.”
To find out more about the 2017 Chiang Rai Valentine’s Day Singha Park International Balloon Fiesta, visit www.facebook.com/SinghaparkChiangrai.