“Wow! You went to Lantern festival in Thailand?!” “No, this is actually in America.”
I hope to see Loy Krathong (also known as Lantern Festival) in Thailand one day, but I figured that I won’t able to visit Thailand again anytime soon, so I decided to check out the RiSe Lantern Festival nearby Las Vegas, Nevada (I was only about 4 hours away).
If one of your dreams is to visit Thailand for the Lantern Festival to see the night sky lit up like fireflies but can’t make it, then you may have your luck when being in America (or even in other countries).
Since 2014, Rise Lantern Festival is annually hosted twice a year during October. They say that,
“RiSE elevates hope, ignites dreams, and creates moments you will never forget.”
RiSe is where you can explore your dreams, hopes and create moments with your loved ones. It is also a place where you reflect on your life, all the good times and struggles that you’ve faced throughout your life. This could be a place where you realize what you need to let go and begin anew. A new chapter.
When I attended RiSe Festival last year, I went through my spiritual journey where I explored my feelings, hopes, dreams and what I’ve been struggling with. I can’t even explain the feeling as I watched my lanterns – that contained a piece of my story, a piece of my message – to the universe. It is like as if I had awakened.
To watch the sky lit on fire, it was magical. The music was soothing as everyone lit their lantern, waiting to be freed and fade away into the night. Watching strangers doing their own spiritual journey was beautiful – from one who was struggling to free his/her lantern to a child’s staring at the sky in awe. This was one of the nights that I will never forget. Since RiSe is still practically young, there were some positive and difficult experiences. Not everything is rainbow and butterfly, right? So, here are
What you need to know before visiting RiSe Lantern Festival
Your wallet may be crying
You probably will find your jaw dropping to the floor when you see the price, especially when you want to budget. Regular tickets this year currently cost $109 for adults (it was about $80 last year). The purchase does not include the parking pass, which costs an extra $25. What includes in the purchase is a bamboo ground mat, 2 markers, and 2 lanterns. Although it is not budget friendly, you may find it worthwhile when having your own spiritual journey at the event.
Take advantage of early tickets which typically go on sale during April.
Otherwise, if you would like to take advantage of making bonus points with your credit card and try to make your credit score look good, purchase the ticket with your credit card – although be aware that you may face interest charges from your credit company if you don’t pay in full within a month (check with that)!
Additionally, check Craigslist if anyone is selling their tickets at the last-minute. Another friend of mine, who joined with us at the last minute, did not purchase until the day of. Luckily, she found someone selling a RiSe ticket on Craigslist for a CHEAPER price! She saved about $35. However, since the popularity of this festival is now on the RiSe (no pun intended), it is at your own risk to seek tickets on Craigslist – it may now cost more than the original price itself.
Say hello to the desert: it's the middle of nowhere
This year, it will be on October 7th and 8th on the Moapa River Reservation, near I-15 freeway (approximately 32 miles northeast of Las Vegas). The location is such a great spot where you can have fun being stuck in traffic for hours (although it is understandable that it is located there).
If you noticed on the Google map, there is only ONE freeway to get there: I-15. Trust me, my friends and I were stuck in traffic for about 2 hours from Las Vegas. The event started at 3PM, and we didn’t leave from Las Vegas till around 5:45PM.
People, please learn from us: IT’S A BAD IDEA. We barely made it before the first launch of the lantern (which occurred at 8:00 PM), finally arrived at assigned seating section around 7:45 PM. The traffic was insane, from north and south! We were freaking out, fearing that we’d miss the launch and see our wallets cry harder. I had to take deep breaths and take a short nap to try to relax and think positive that we would make it (fortunately we did!).
Advice: If you want to arrive there smoothly as possible, headache-free and help out your heart: please leave at an earlier time, at least around 1:30-3:00PM (make sure to look at the traffic on Google Maps or Waze app). Gates open at 3:00PM, and there will be live music and vendors where you can relax until the launch. You can also bring a book or other entertainment to pass the time. If you prefer shuttles, there are shuttle services available from The Rio, The Downtown Grand and Paris Las Vegas for $39 per person. These shuttles will take you to the venue from 3PM to 7PM. Please contact these hotels for more information.
If you are planning to use a GPS, search: Moapa Travel Plaza.
The Parking lot is a nightmare
As you exit 75 toward Valley of Fire E/Lake Mead from I-15 freeway, you probably will think the traffic is better.
Haha, no – it really wasn’t. There’s only one highway to access the site, so there are several cars honking and trying to get in and out from the parking lot. You’d see a lot of frustrated faces, even middle fingers. The parking is one of the major issues here, completely chaotic, unorganized and ineffective.
Some of the parking lot staff was completely dumbfounded and just stood there, looking as if they weren’t sure what to do nor was trained how to handle the traffic. When I arrived there, they did not even bother to check our $20 parking pass (now $25). If I knew, I could have saved that money. However, I do not know whether the parking procedure this year will improve, therefore it is at your own risk whether you’d purchase the parking pass.
You’ll also need to remember where you parked because there are no signs of parking sections (such as “lot 1” or “lot C”). Believe me, you do not want to forget unless you want to get lost in an ocean of hundreds of car.
Ah, another thing you need to know: because we were freaking out to get there on time before the launch and immersed ourselves as we watch the lanterns float in the dark sky, we didn’t think about fighting the traffic back home. After the event (which ended around 10:15PM), we realized that we had to face another nightmare. We were pretty exhausted and decided to wait it out in the car for almost two hours till the traffic calm down. We didn’t leave the parking lot until past midnight.
if you want to fight the traffic, leave earlier than 9:30PM. But of course, this doesn’t give you enough time to be in the moment with the lanterns. Otherwise, if you feel that RiSe was worth it, you’ll have to be patient when leaving the site or wait it out in the parking lot until there is less traffic. We didn’t get home until around 1 or 2 AM. Another option is to use Uber or Lyft when available! When carpooling with a group, you may split the cost together.
Walking through the desert in the dark
Walking from the parking lot to the venue doesn’t help when you are running late, especially when you’ll need to be in line for bag checks and admission. Being in the middle of nowhere, you’ll be walking through the dirt for about 10 to 20 minutes (approximately 0.62 mile walk) from the parking lot to the venue.
It was also dark when walking to the venue – mind you, I don’t really have good eyes. I hope that they will add the lights this year for those who make their way to and from the venue. For those with Americans with Disabilities (ADA) needs, RiSe provide a shuttle from the parking lot to the venue! When purchasing the tickets online, please indicate the ADA needs – which is free of charge. When I was purchasing the tickets online, I didn’t pay attention to ADA service. When I arrived at the site, I saw the shuttle for ADA and quickly gestured whether my Deaf friends and I can get on, and fortunately, we still received shuttle service on site despite not indicating it online.
arrive early, have I empathized this enough??
Do wear comfortable footwear since you’ll be walking through the desert. Bring a flashlight (or use your phone’s flashlight) to walk through the night to get to and from the venue. For ADA, we suggest you take advantage of this free shuttle service from the parking lot to the venue.
You will live like it is 1995
It’s 2016; a lot of people are on their phones – snapchatting, instagramming, twittering and the likes. At this event, you’ll find a really poor reception or even nothing at all. You’ll be living like it is 1995 (and earlier, for that matter). Just for one night, you may be disconnected from the world. Although it may be tough for some people, you perhaps will find it spiritual and relaxing when listening to music, chatting with friends and releasing your lantern.
Plan everything accordingly. If you plan to meet up with someone at the site, it is recommended to discuss where to meet prior arriving the event. You can either agree to meet at the ticketing booth or at the front stage where the live music is. Most importantly, relax and immerse yourself in this beautiful moment when all lanterns fly in unison. Live in the moment.
You will have an assigned seating section
You’ll see the venue map here. There are eight seating sections (A to H), and depending on the availability when making your purchase online, you pick a section and you’ll have to stick to that section when arriving. After picking up your package of a mat, lanterns, and markers, you’ll see a field of torches. In the assigned section, you can claim any torch you’d like. However, the torches are first to come and first serve – you’ll not be able to reserve a specific seating in the section.
advice: If you would like to sit closer to the stage, it’s best to arrive early to claim your torch.
Protect your items!
Do not leave your valuable items nor lanterns unattended! There are some selfish thieves that would like to take your lantern and valuable items. I personally had no experience getting my stuff stolen but heard stories that some of their lanterns and other items were stolen; some even reported that they had a difficulty to seek help from employees. As much you want to use your GoPro for time-lapse, make sure you keep an eye on it!
advice: Stay within your seating at all times. If you must leave for a bit, ask your family or friends that you’ll need their help to watch over your stuff.
The struggle is real
When I watch some scenes in the media where people were lighting their sky lanterns, it looks like a piece of cake, or common sense – if you will. Man, I was wrong! It was a struggle, especially when you’re not familiar with lighting the lanterns. It took me about 15 minutes to finally let it go into the sky – and the wind wasn’t helping either. It wasn’t very windy but it sometimes makes the lanterns descend back to the ground, so I have to lightly push lantern upward. Sometimes my friends and I were running across the field of dirt like a manic.
From Deaf perspective (if you didn’t know, I’m Deaf), I was unsure whether the staff had given an instruction how to light the lantern before the launch. When I came across different reviews, some people claimed that they did not and other claimed that it was brief and vague. If they have explained, then this isn’t Deaf-friendly* (the term’s meaning is at the end of About Me page) since we cannot hear the instructions nor did they visually show us on stage how to do it.
advice: You’ll need a team of 2-3 people to help you release your lantern. My friends and I worked together to hold the lantern and you’ll need to wait for at least 10 minutes. You don’t want to rush it! If you rush it, it might not smoothly float up in the air. If you are attending alone or find that 2-3 isn’t enough, ask the other people nearby to help you. Make sure don’t let the fire touch the lantern because I pretty much almost caught mine on fire. Watch this video that I found to get an idea how to light your sky lantern. Otherwise, do ask around to help you out!
This girl is on fire
Just because this event is happening, it doesn’t mean that these lanterns aren’t dangerous. It is the fire that you’ll need to watch out for. Since it can be a struggle for many people and may face a windy night, the lantern will descend to the ground, attack people or their stuff. It can be pretty dangerous! You’ll need to chase after it to ensure that it will not lit someone’s hair on fire. While I was minding my own business, you know – having an emotional moment as I write on my lantern, I felt a strange heat behind my head. The heat became stronger and stronger, and I immediately reacted by grabbing the lantern and threw it forward (unintentionally! I freaked out). My friend was laughing so much how I reacted everything so fast and nearly destroyed someone else’s lantern (and their spiritual journey).
advice: It isn’t surprising that we all would be occupied with lighting the lanterns and be lost in thought but make sure to be aware of your surrounding. Try to look for a spot that is less crowded or have a better space between others.
You cannot take your lanterns home
no, people, you can’t take the lanterns with you. As much I would like to sneak one of the two lanterns home, they prohibited people taking the lantern home. The security will check on you prior exiting the event. Furthermore, if you’re thinking about bringing your own lantern to the event, you also can’t do that.
Advice: go light up your lanterns.
You may be obsessed with photography
I’m not going to lie, but I became obsessed to take good photographs of the lanterns with my DSLR camera. I realized that I spent more time adjusting my camera setting to capture the beautiful scenery. I also noticed several other people being occupied with taking photos instead of actually enjoying the moment. Especially in this generation, that’s something that we often find ourselves in.
advice: Make sure you research ahead of time what settings to use in very low-light setting, which was certainly one of my mistakes here. Do know what setting to use, whether it is for your digital camera, GoPro or cell phone. And most importantly? Don’t forget to live in the moment, don’t just live it from the camera lens.
Another advice I have for you, my lovelies, is to make sure to eat prior attending the event. You can also bring your own food – if you want to save money. Bring your own water & make sure to bring a jacket! It can be pretty chilly at night.
Lastly and most importantly, enjoy the magical night.
Have you to been to Rise Lantern Festival?
or any other lantern festivals? How was your experience? If you have not yet, are excited are you for this?! Share your thoughts/feelings in the comment below!