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Chiang Mai Lantern Festival (Yi Peng) (Yee Peng)

The famous Chiang Mai Lantern Festival, otherwise known as ‘Yi Peng’ or ‘Yee Peng’ Festival is the festival of lights  celebrated every year across northern Thailand. It’s a religious celebration that pays respect to Buddha. The famous pictures on the internet, of masses of fire lanterns floating in the night sky are pictures of Yi Peng celebrations. This festival is sometimes confused with Loi Krathong (or Loy Krathong). Although both festivals are celebrated at the same time, they are actually different things

Loi Krathong Festival

Loi Krathong is a festival celebrated throughout all of Thailand. Its origin lies in offering worship to the water spirits, and thanking them for the rainy season before the dry season commences. Thai people celebrate this by floating ‘krathongs’ (lotus flower shaped floats, which hold a candle and other offerings such as incense and a coin), down a river or open body of water such as a stream or lake. They believe this sends away bad luck and worships the goddess of water.

In northern Thailand however, they also celebrate ‘Yee Peng’ (held at the same time as Loi Kratong). Traditionally it was to celebrate the start of winter, and locals decorate their houses with colourful lanterns and launch khom lois (fire lanterns) into the sky for good luck.

What is the difference between Yi Peng and Loi Krathong ?

The main difference between these festivals is that Loi Krathong is celebrated throughout Thailand, with the floating of khom lois on water. Whereas Yi Peng is a festival specific to northern Thailand, with the releasing of fire lanterns into the sky. However both festivals are celebrated at the same time, on the 12th full moon of the Thai lunar calendar. The festivities are mainly held over three days, with the last two days being the most active. Various events such as parades, dancing, launching of lanterns and the floating of khom lois on rivers and open waters across the region take place.

As Chiang Mai was the former capital of the Lanna Kingdom (which is the equivalent of northern Thailand today), the biggest Yi Peng celebrations are held in Chiang Mai.  They also go huge on Loi Krathong, culminating in the biggest celebrations in the country. This draws thousands of international and Thai tourists to Chiang Mai each year. Hundreds of photography enthusiasts flock to Chiang Mai especially to catch these events. Just see the pics below – and you’ll see why.

Unfortunately, every year there’s a lot of confusion and mystery surrounding the exact dates of Loi Krathong and Yi Peng festivals in Chiang Mai. Both festivals fall on the 2nd full moon of the lunar month, as such it makes it a bit of a conundrum to figure out when those dates will fall according to the western calendar.

On top of that, Chiang Mai municipality and official event organisers, only confirm specific dates of the festival a couple of months prior.  This makes travel planning for tourists who want to catch this special event, very difficult.

Yi Peng Festival Dates in Chiang Mai (and Loi Krathong too)

For 2019, the official dates of Yi Peng in Chiang Mai have not been confirmed yet, and will probably only be released about a month before the festival. However the dates of Loi Krathong festival in 2019 are 11-13 November 2019. Based on this, Yi Peng will most likely be celebrated at this time too. If you plan your trip to Chiang Mai so that it falls over the 3 days festival (in 2019 it will be 11-13 November), then you’ll be certain to catch these celebrations. From wherever you are in Chiang Mai, you’ll be sure to see the lanterns in the night sky

Where to see  Yi Peng in Chiang Mai

There used to be a massively popular, free event at Lanna Dhutanka temple where thousands of fire lanterns were simultaneously released into the night sky. There are lots of pictures of this event floating around on the internet (see below). Unfortunately, this event ceased operating around 4 years ago. Due to complaints from locals about the commotion and crowds around the temple, and controversy over what was traditionally a religious event that had become highly commercialised.

The organisers of this event, thus decided to set up the Yee Peng Lanna International event. In 2017 there were 4,000 attendees and 4,000 lanterns. A standard package ticket was 5,500bt (ticket prices include transfer to/from the city, 1 lantern and 1 dinner).

Due to the overwhelming demand for this event, another event called  ‘Yee Peng Doi Saket’ was set up. Tickets include transportation to/from the city, a lantern, a Krathong, and a small souvenir.

Ticketed events 

There are several ticketed events in Chiang Mai where tourists can pay to celebrate and witness the mass lantern release. The benefits of paying for these events, are that they allow tourists to witness Yi Peng and the release of fire lanterns in a more structured, less haphazard way. The dates and times are also guaranteed early on in the year.

Some tourists ask why they should pay for tickets, when you can celebrate Yi Peng for free. The reality is, that although you could join in with the locals release khom lois (fire lanterns), it will be done on a much smaller scale. There aren’t any places where you could witness the simultaneous release of thousands of lanterns on such a mass scale, as at these paid events. Therefore, aesthetically and if you’re after a great photograph, you’ll get more of a ‘wow’ factor at these paid events.

There are several paid events held across Chiang Mai , observing a similar schedule and activities for the evening.

1. Yi Peng by CAD – Held on 11 & 12th November 2019

The CAD festival (Chiang Mai Culture Art & Design) is located at the Cowboy Army Riding Club in Mae Rim, just 10km from town.  Tickets currently available for booking. Premium (6,300THB), VIP (5,800THB), Standard (4,500THB).  Price includes unlimited food and drink, in the theme of a Lanna local market, 2 lanterns and hotel transfer. Please contact us if you would like to book.

2. Yee Peng Doi Saket – Held on 11th November 2019

Held at Doi Saket Hot Springs, 30km from Chiang Mai city. Tickets currently available for booking (4,200THB).  Includes Thai set dinner, 1 lantern and hotel transfer. Please contact us if you would like to book.

3. Yee Peng Lanna International (Mae Jo) – Provisional date 11th November 2019 (to be confirmed in August 2019)

Tickets currently not available for booking yet – as the event has not been approved by local authorities yet

Free Events

Every year there are free events held across Chiang Mai city to celebrate Loi Krathong/ Yi Peng. The main ones held in Chiang Mai city are organised by Chiang Mai municipality, and they typically do not publish an official calendar of events until a couple of months prior. Festivities include fireworks, parades and the mass floating of khom lois from Nawarat bridge on the Mae Ping river. This is a free event, and thousands of locals flock to the bridge to release their khom lois for good luck. As such the area becomes extremely congested, and traffic is almost gridlock all night.

Here you’ll get the vibe of how locals really celebrate Loi Krathong.  Locals stand by the bridge, and individually launch their fire lanterns, so over the course of the night there’s a steady and gradual stream of these lanterns drifting into the night sky.  Thi is unlike the paid events where there are thousands released simultaneously like the paid event. So whether you attend a paid or free event, it really depends on what kind of experience you’re after. If you’re after a more local vibe, and to join in the spirit of celebrations, then the free festivities in town are great. If you’re after a ‘wow’ photograph then you might want to opt for a paid event.

Every year there are parades through Chiang Mai city, normally huge floats elaborately decorated pass through the streets of the city. The city comes alive and is beautifully decorated with colourful Lanna decorations and lanterns.

Yi Peng Festival at Wat Phan Tao, Chiang Mai

Yi Peng Festival at Wat Phan Tao, Chiang Mai

Wat Phan Tao

Probably one the most magical moment of Loi Krathong, can be experienced at Wat Phan Tao (next to Wat Chedi Luang) in the heart of the old city.  This is a beautiful 14th century teak Buddhist temple. On the night of the full moon, the temple is beautifully decorated with Lanna style lanterns and candles which illuminate the temple grounds at night. The centerpiece scene is a small island where monks sit benevolently under a beautifully lit Bodhi tree. It is beautifully ethereal

The ceremony usually starts around 7.30pm but the temple starts filling up early in  the afternoon. The orange-robed monks perform a ceremony, which includes chants and blessings, culminating in the the final ritual  – where they stand beautifully illuminated under the tree and set off their lanterns.

Tips:

  • Remember that this is an important traditional and religious festival for locals. As such you should follow the local demeanour and etiquette for this, which is typically quiet and reverent
  • If you’re in a temple, then modesty and modest dress should be observed. Shoulders and knees should be covered
  • Chiang Mai city becomes very congested at this time, so allow extra travel time. November is also tourism high season in northern Thailand. Hotels and guesthoues are often fully booked, so its best to book accommodation and tours in advance
  • If you’re interested in a customised photography tour of Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai, then please contact us

Useful Links:

https://yeepenglanternfestival.com/

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g293917-i9325-k7875125-Yee_Ping_Loi_Krathong_Mae_Jo_Balloon_Launches-Chiang_Mai.html

 

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