Do you like the flame of a candle, the light of a lantern, or the glittery sparks of fireworks? If your answer is yes, then you will love Yi Peng and Loy Kratong in Chiang Mai.
How about hundreds or thousands of people around you, bang snaps constantly exploding on the streets, commercial stalls at every corner and being constantly in the middle of fights to get the best spot for the best photo?
If you are able to stand all this, then you should definitely visit these two major Thai lantern festivals and be part of magnificent events full of joy, lights and smiles.
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Yi Peng and Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai
Both festivals collide to be held on the same day – the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the Thai lunar calendar.
Yi Peng is celebrated by releasing a hot-air lantern, which is usually made from rice paper, into the sky. According to Thai belief, it is supposed to take away all the sorrow, anxiety or other troubles you have suffered from.
At Loy Krathong you either craft your own krathong (a floating offering made of banana tree wood, banana leaves, flowers, candle, incense) or you buy it from dozens of street sellers. You can launch it on the river which will, similarly to Yi Peng tradition, take away all the bad you wish to remove.
The origin of Loy Krathong comes from Brahmism and the Thai people adapted this ceremony just after they started practicing Buddhism. In Chiang Mai, people gather mainly near the river Ping or at the main gates of the old city, especially at the Tae Phae Gate.
Heading to Thailand? Read these articles to get inspired:
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Where to experience Yi Peng in Chiang Mai?
- Maejo University
The most famous and the oldest venue of lantern releasing of Yi Peng festival is 20 km north of Chiang Mai at Maejo University. Here you experience a spectacular night of Buddhist tradition at the Lanna Dhutanka’s temple ground.
To visit the place, you’ll need to buy a ticket. When we attended the ceremony in 2013, the entrance was free. Nowadays the entrance for Yi Peng festival at Mae jo university starts from $300 USD.
2. Chiang Mai CAD (Culture, Art and Design) Khoy Sky Lantern Festival
This is a younger (started in 2016) and cheaper version of Maejo University ceremony. The ticket price starts at $155 USD, including dinner and 2 lanterns). The venue is outdoors, it can held up to 4000 seats.
Check out the best tours in Chiang Mai:
- From Chiang Mai: Full-Day Doi Suthep Trekking Tour
- Chiang Mai: Authentic Thai Cooking Class & Local Market Tour
- From Chiang Mai: Chiang Dao Cave Trekking Full-Day Tour
- From Chiang Mai: Chiang Rai Famous Temples Small Group Tour
The event at the CAD center includes also some cultural performances, although the major ceremony follows the Buddhist tradition similarly to the one at Maejo university.
The ceremonies are held in Thai and they last about an hour before the launch of lanterns begins. There is certain dress code and you’ll be given some instructions on how to sit, towards which side you should turn, how to bow and also what’s forbidden (smoking, drinking alcohol).
After the monks’ chanting, they instruct you in English on how to light the lantern. Then you just wait patiently for the voice in the microphone to allow you to release thousands of lanterns in unison.
The moment you let your lantern fly is magic. The sky is shining, people smiling happily and all of this wrapped in a mutual feeling of joy and harmony. get ready for some fireworks in the middle of the field where the ceremony happens at Maejo university.
If you want to attend the Loy Krathong ritual afterwards, you’ll need to head to the Iron Bridge. The place might be full of Thai teenagers playing with bang snaps and you might have to run through a smoky crowd to arrive to riverbank. There you can launch the krathongs (small baskets made of banana leaves decorated with flowers and a candle) onto the Ping River from a small wooden deck.
Celebrating Loy Krathong in the city is definitely less intimate than Yi Peng with all thousands of people gathered at one field, but both experiences can charm you with their genuine atmosphere.
Thousands of lanterns floating in the sky at Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
There is also a ceremony happening at the Wat Phan Tao in Chiang Mai, at the yard of the Buddhist temple performed by monks. Again, candles and lanterns hung on the trees, a statue of Buddha in front of a tree with massive roots creates a peaceful and respectful atmosphere.
Mind you, the place tends to be overcrowded with hundreds of people hunting the best position for the best photo of the night… a photo similar to hundred other photos. The chanting of the monks will be most probably disturbingly mingled with hundreds and hundreds of camera clicks, leaving you feeling confused for such a peaceful ceremony.
Nevertheless, the image of young monks praying in their orange robes with colourful lanterns hanging on the tree is very precious and memorable.
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