Watch the skies light up at the Chiang Mai Lantern Festival
It's not the same as Loy Krathong, not really.
· 3 min read
Chiang Mai, Thailand, is known for its vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and rich traditions. The Chiang Mai Lantern Festival, also known as Yi Peng, is one of the most enchanting and spiritual celebrations in the region. Witness thousands of lanterns floating into the sky against the full moon, and brace yourself for a magical experience that you won't want to miss.
Yi Peng and Loy Krathong
Yi Peng and Loy Krathong both take place simultaneously at the same time, and both are related to lanterns and lights, but they're not the same festival!
The Yi Peng Lantern Festival is an annual event that takes place in Chiang Mai, and symbolises the beauty of the full moon. The Yi Peng Lantern Festival is best known for its sky lanterns where the sky lanterns are released as a form of worship to Ket Kaew Chulamaneed, a relic of Lord Buddha. It is also believed that the release of sky lanterns will convey your wishes to the heavenly gods.
On the other hand, Loy Krathong is more widely celebrated, and is best known for the floating lanterns on water. The Loy Krathong is also known as the Festival of Lights, and is primarily celebrated to the pay respects to the Goddess of Water. Releasing a lantern in the water symbolises the act of letting your sins and bad luck be washed away by the water, and is also a way of thanking the Goddess of Water.
If you will be visiting Chiang Mai this November, definitely try catching both festivals!
When is Yi Peng?
The Yi Peng Lantern Festival takes place every year on the full moon night of the 2nd month of the Thai Lanna Calendar. This typically falls in November but as with dates that rely on the phase of the moon, the dates vary every year.
The festival typically runs for a few days, starting from an opening ceremony before the full moon, followed by 2 days of festivities. It is during these two days that you will get to witness the release of lanterns.
This year, the festival will be held on November 27-28, 2023. (And if you are wondering, yes, Loy Krathong takes place at the same time). It is expected that the opening ceremony will take place of November 26, but further details have yet to be released. Details are usually announced about a month before the festival, so we should be able to expect more information by the end of October.
What to Expect
The program for Yi Peng changes every year, but the highlight of the festival definitely is the release of the lanterns into the night sky. Watch the awe-inspiring sight as thousands of sky lanterns are released into the night sky.
Mass Release of Lanterns
There is a main event for the mass release of lanterns (on both nights), organised by the Chiang Mai Culture Art and Design. In addition to the release of lanterns, you will also get to enjoy cultural performances before the mass release of the lanterns. The event is ticketed, and tickets include dinner and transfers to the venue. If you want to experience Loy Krathong, get the tickets for the second night.
However, if you do not want to pay for the event, or if you are unable to get tickets, you'd be glad to know that the release of lanterns is actually done all over the city! That's to say that you can actually see hundreds of lanterns being released into the sky from almost anywhere within the city — all for free! In fact, if you wanted to avoid something *overly( commercialised, then maybe staying in the city might be a better option.
Parades and cultural performances
Aside from the mass release of lanterns, another highlight of the festival is definitely the parades and performances that take place during the opening ceremony. Watch the streets of Chiang Mai come alive with vibrant parades featuring ornately decorated floats, traditional dances, and mesmerising music performances.
Be sure to also take the chance to visit the temples and observe how the temples are decorated to celebrate this festival. As you might have guessed, yes - it'll be decorated with lanterns.
Tips for Visitors
- You can get your lanterns there: You don't have to worry about preparing your lanterns in advance, as it is easy to get your lanterns on site!
- Book Accommodation in Advance: As the festival attracts a considerable number of visitors, it's essential to book your accommodation well in advance to secure a comfortable stay.
- Respect Local Customs: The Chiang Mai Lantern Festival is deeply rooted in Thai traditions and spirituality. Although it has definitely become increasingly commercialised, you should still definitely respect the customs and be mindful of local culture throughout your visit.
- Dress Appropriately: While the festival has a festive atmosphere, dress modestly and respectfully, especially when visiting temples and religious sites.
- Stay Safe: Follow safety guidelines when releasing lanterns. Do not release lanterns in windy conditions, and be cautious of fire hazards. It will also be very crowded, so keep your personal belongings and valuables safe!