Last year I planned my trip Thailand so that I could cross off a point in my bucket list: The Yi Peng. This festival, happens once a year and it is mostly important in Chiang Mai. It occurs during the same dates that the Loy Krathong, another nation-wide celebration. Even thought the occur simultaneously, they are not the same.
The Loy Krathong
The Loy Krathong occurs every year in the 12th full moon of the lunar calendar, which translates into late October or early November. During this festival, thousands of people from all around the world gather around the rivers of Thailand to float their Krathong. These “Krathongs” are small boats made of palm tree and are decorated with candles, incense and flowers. There are many versions of them, ranging from very simple to extremely complex designs. And that is from where the name comes from: Loy — to float, and Krathong — the small flower-candle basket.
In Chiang Mai, the Loy Krathong goes on the night of the full moon. The location on the city is by the biggest bridge. You can there buy any of the thousands of Krathongs for sale, or buy the day before. In any case, you just need to get downstairs next to the river when a small child will come and ask you for the krathong and a couple of coins. He will make the trip down to the river and he will release the small basket for you. It is said that when you release your Krathong to the water you can make a wish. (Between us) I did it and it turn out pretty well, you should try it too!
Ok, now about the Yi Peng
So the the Yi Peng or Yi Peng, is a festival that is traditional from the north of Thailand. It’s most known location is Chiang Mai. When I was there last year the day that it started (the same as the Loy Krathong), but it was also happening the following day. During this festival, people gather together and light lanterns. They let them fill with hot air like balloons, and then, they release them into the sky. It is beautiful.
In Chiang Mai, there are two main locations for the release of the lanterns, one in the city, one in a university 30min away. The first one is the real Yi Peng, where people gather and light up their candles and through them to the sky. This event takes place in many different locations in the city althoug most of the people gather in the bridge and release their lanterns at 9pm. Even from afar, seeing all those lanterns is beautiful.
The second event occurs in Mae Jo University. Even though it takes place the same night, this is just a tourist attraction. There is no tradition to it, but it really doesn’t matter because it is magnificent. Thousands of people are picked up on town by buses and dropped at the university. They are given two big lanterns and they explain to them about the mechanism on how to light them and send them to the sky. This is usually a synchronized event to get a more photogenic effect. And of course, it is not free. I don’t know how much it is to actually get there, but I know that is not cheap and the tickets sold out months before the actual date.
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A second location in the city for the Yi Peng
When I was doing my research before going there, I found some pictures that really got my attention. In them, there were some monks sitting by a pond, lighting some candles and lanterns. The day that the Yi Peng started I walked a little bit through the city and completly out of luck, I found myself just on the spot I was after. This was Wat Pan Tao, a small but very cute temple were the monks would gather and “perform” a ceremony for the audience. For a couple of hours, the monks sat by the pond praying. In the meantime, a monk was giving an explanation on what is Bhuddism and what it stands for. I am not religious at al, but they said some things that really touched me.
At the end of the ceremony, some novice monks would gather and light the lanters to release.
Other aspects of the city during this festival and the end of the festival
During these days of celebration, not only the lanterns are released. The city garnishes with flowers and very complicated paper lanterns. These lanterns can decorate the streets or the temples, even though some people just carry them around hanging from sticks. It is a magical time to visit Chiang Mai.
The end of the festival, usually a day or two after the last Yi Peng, there is a parade through the streets and the canals as closure. Many institutions have their own car and the visuals are quite amazing.
A comment on this guide
Ok, this is what I lived through last year in Chiang Mai and the info I gathered before going. Last year was 2017 and the Loy Krathong and the Yi Peng took place barely a month after the death of their king. Out of respect, fireworks were forbidden and the tone of the celebrations was more relaxed than other years. In my opinion, if the year I was there the celebrations were not on full mode, I cannot imagine how magnificent they must be on a normal year. I really cannot recommend enough visiting this festival. You will not regret it!
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