As the full moon crests the horizon, ruby orbs of light begin to rise out of the Mekong River. As if by magic, they float silently into the air and then evaporate in the inky blackness, a phenomenon that awes and delights observers privileged to have seen them.
For centuries, their existence was a closely-held secret among villagers living near the northeastern town of Nong Khai. Then, the miraculous event was discovered by outsiders who now flock to the riverbanks each October full moon night in enormous numbers—400,000, at last count.
The silence of the fireballs’ ascent is emblematic of the mystery of their origins beneath the murky Mekong. Villagers claim that they are created by nak, mythical serpents as central to Thai belief and as enigmatic as the fireballs themselves.