We planned our trip to Chiang Mai this time to coincide with the Yi Peng and Loy Krathong festival. The gorgeous images of floating lanterns and colorful lights were so dreamy. It’s no wonder that these two festivals are on everyone’s bucket lists. The festival dates change every year based on the lunar calendar but usually take place some time in November. The 2018 dates just so happen to land during the Thanksgiving holidays and we jumped on this chance to visit.
What is Yi Peng and Loy Krathong?
The Yi Peng festival usually overlaps with Loy Krathong festival but the two are actually separate events. Yi Peng is the lantern release and Loy Krathong involves floating ornately decorated flower baskets down the river. Both are meant as an opportunity to get rid of all the negativity and wish for successes, good health and a brighter future.
What happens during the festival?
There are a lot of events happening throughout the evening from parades to concerts and beauty pageants. All the temples are decorated for the occasion. The highlights for most people are the lantern release (Yi Peng) and the flower basket release (Loy Krathong), which are done throughout the evening once it gets dark.
Upon doing research on the festivals, it was difficult finding an event schedule until about a month or so prior to the festival date. We thought we were going to fit in all of the parades and concerts etc. in, but we were only able to catch an evening parade. A lot of the events were pretty spread out throughout the old town, and it was also super crowded, making getting around just a little bit harder. The most fun was just walking through old town, embracing the festival energy and crowds, and looking up every so often to see pockets of lanterns being released into the sky.
The Lantern Release (Yi Peng)
For the famous lantern release, there are two versions: one for the tourists and one for the locals. The event for the tourists takes place at the Mae Jo University and costs about $100 per person. The one advantage of forking out $100 per person is the photo opportunity of hundreds of lanterns being released at the same time, which was certainly enticing.
We decided to do as the locals do and released near the Nawarat Bridge and temples. The bridge was so packed, which we felt wasn’t safe for Aidan, so we released lanterns on the temple grounds instead (sometimes, they’ll charge a small fee to release lanterns in the temple). We preferred the temples along Thapae road because it was less crowded and the monks were kind enough to help us light the lanterns (there’s a trick to releasing the lantern correctly).
The Flower Basket Release (Loy Krathong)
As for the flower baskets, you can find them throughout the city being sold along the river or moats or close to launch points. Each basket has a candle, which you would light before you released your basket into the river.
Where should you stay?
We stayed at the Le Meridien in Chiang Mai and it was the perfect place to stay for the festival. It was right along the Ping River and walking distance to most of the festival events. In the evening, we were also able to see hundreds of lanterns in the night sky from our bedroom window. Most people also like to stay near Tha Pae gate as that seems to be central to a lot of the events.
Most of the events happened in the evening, so during the day, we were exploring Chiang Mai (check out our itinerary here). Here are some of the highlights from the Yi Peng and Loy Krathong festivals!
If you get the chance to go to Chiang Mai during the Yi Peng and Loy Krathong festivals, definitely go! It’s a bucket list experience!