One of Thailand’s most beautiful celebrations is in Chiang Mai during the Loy Krathong and Yi Peng festivals.
People often confuse Loy Krathong with Yi Peng. We always thought they were the same, but Loy Krathong and Yi Peng are different festivals. The two festivals occur at the same time over four days in November. Each year the date changes to coincide with the full moon of the Thai Lunar calendar.
Loy Krathong And Yi Peng Festivals Of Chiang Mai
Thanks to social media, people flock to Northern Thailand yearly to take photos of paper lanterns floating on rivers and being released in the sky. But there is more to Yi Peng and Loy Krathong than a photo opportunity.
Loy Krathong Festival Thailand
Loy Krathong is the festival where candles are placed in banana leaf boats and set on fire as they sail down the Ping River to thank the Goddess of water for a good harvest. It is also a time to let go of negative thoughts and ask for forgiveness of your sins.
People also make a wish as they release the lanterns into the river. In English, Loy Krathong means float (Loy) in a small container (Krathong); incense, flowers and trinkets are also placed inside the banana boats. Some Krathongs are very elaborate.
There is even a competition for the best Krathong, so many people go all out! Vendors line the road to the Ping River, and you can also purchase your own Krathong to light and set free into the water.
Foreigners are welcome to participate in the events, and you can even join in the lighting celebration on the streets to light your candle as you make a wish.
We highly recommend participating in the celebrations and entering the temple grounds to see the lanterns. Beauty pageants, contents, and temples are bustling with activity as monks pay respect to Lord Buddha. The most significant ceremonies of Loy Krathong take place at the Ping River, where the Krathongs are released.
About Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai
The Yi Peng festival (also spelled Yee Peng) is where lanterns are released into the air, setting the night sky with a golden hue. This is the one that attracts all the people hoping for that perfect Instagram shot.
Candles are placed inside the lanterns, and as people light their crafts, they make a wish. The flame heats the air within the lantern, causing it to rise, where it floats into the sky until the fire goes out. It is an incredible sight to see thousands of lights sparkle like shining stars in the night sky.
Be Kind to the Environment – Eco-Friendly Yi Peng
Important Note: Be wary of cheap lanterns made of metal; this is not good for the environment. Too many tourists released lanterns made out of wires that significantly impact nature. Be responsible and only buy biodegradable bamboo framed lanterns before you go to Thailand. You can purchase biodegradable floating lanterns on Amazon – a Set of 5 Large for $23.99
We Chose Not to Release our Lanterns
Unfortunately, we didn’t release our lanterns because when we opened them, we saw that the frames were made of metal. We didn’t want to end up strangling a poor dolphin or have our metal hoop wrap around a turtle, so instead, we took photos and videos of the event crossing our fingers that others in the crowd chose wisely.
We learned a valuable lesson to buy our lanterns days in advance to make sure we get an environmentally friendly craft in advance.
Choose Wire-Free, Biodegradable Lanterns
We suggest bringing your Wirefree lanterns to set free in Thailand, so you don’t hurt the environment or fragile wildlife. You can purchase them on Amazon. Finding lanterns around Chiang Mai leading up to the event was impossible. We looked everywhere but found only one vendor the night of the release. Thailand should work on creating stricter rules.
If they let shops sell lanterns in advance, they wouldn’t have black-market vendors selling wireframes on the street (like we unwittingly ended up getting.)
We suggest booking tickets for the mass release (which we hear offers environmentally friendly lanterns) to purchase biodegradable environmentally friendly lanterns on Amazon before your trip to Thailand.
Paid Yi Peng Festival Mass Release
If you are keen to see lanterns released in Chiang Mai, you are wise to book a spot for one of the mass releases in advance. There are several types of tickets available offering VIP access to general admittance.
We sent an email to YeePeng Lantern Festival (as far as we can tell, this is the place to book). Our request was last minute, but they did respond (albeit no tickets were available), so it is an excellent site to book. And I have seen others post saying that they booked here too.
Yi Peng Festival – The Details
- The festival starts with lanterns released by monks at the Lanna Dhutanka Buddhist Centre beside Mae Jo University.
- Since we attended, a new venue has been added at the Cowboy Army Riding Club.
- Both venues are out of town. The Buddhist Centre is 18 km (an hour’s tuk-tuk ride), and the Riding Club is 10km out of town.
- Only a limited number of tickets are released each year, and they sell for $100 to USD 300 per person. It’s getting more expensive each year.
- You are too late if you plan on purchasing tickets for the year’s event.
- Tickets go on sale on September 1 for the university location and June 1 for the riding club. And they sell out fast!
Our Loy Krathong Yi Peng Experience
We were in Chiang Mai working on an assignment, but it happened to be the Loy Krathong festival when we arrived. We didn’t plan very well before arriving.
We needed a clearer idea of what the Loy Krathong or Yi Peng festivals were all about. All we knew was that we wanted to be a part of it. So, we took an Uber (very cheap in Chiang Mai) from our hotel, the Rati Lanna Riverside Resort, to the Old City.
It’s also straightforward to get around Chiang Mai by tuk-tuk and songthaew. Once you are in the old city, you can walk anywhere you like to the celebrations.
Free Yi Peng Celebrations on Narwarat Bridge
Finding the Loy Krathong celebrations around Chiang Mai was easy, but the Yi Peng festival needed to be more apparent.
Since we were too late to purchase tickets, we celebrated in Chiang Mai. The locals have to celebrate Yi Peng somewhere, right?
After much digging, we learned there might be a lantern release at the Nawarat Bridge. We kept our eyes peeled for lanterns for sale on our way to the bridge, excited with anticipation that we’d finally be witnessing a lantern release. But we had yet to find a way to go.
There were vendors around the river and road leading to the bridge, but they were selling boats, candles, flowers, and decorations; nobody sold the lanterns that floated into the sky.
The sun was setting, and the crowd was forming on the bridge, but I barely saw anyone with a lantern in their hand. Did we go to the wrong place?
Finally, people arrived with paper lanterns, and I asked everyone where they got them. Each person had a different answer.
I decided to find some lanterns and left Dave to hold our place. Running frantically through the streets of the old city, I finally found a vendor tucked into a corner with a crowd around him. I shoved through the people, purchased four lanterns, and returned to the bridge before dark.
The crowd was thick with people, and I had a hard time finding Dave, but sure enough, he had a great spot at the side overlooking the river. We had about 10 minutes to spare before people lit their lanterns and released them into the sky! It was wonderful.
Chiang Mai’s Sparkling Festival
We had been to Chiang Mai before, but seeing the temples lit with thousands of candles created an entirely different atmosphere. We marveled at the work put into lighting up the temples and spent the evening going around to each wat and pagoda to see how they were lit.
Loy Krathong and Yi Peng’s Dates
The 2019 Loy Krathong festival takes place from November 11 – November 13 in Thailand.
Loy Krathong takes place over four days, whereas the Yi Peng mass release happens only once, on the night of November 23.
Loy Krathong is celebrated throughout Thailand, but it is only in Northern Thailand that Yi Peng is celebrated simultaneously. Chiang Mai is by far the busiest and most attended by foreigners.
Other Places to Celebrate Loi Krathong in Thailand
Tourists are most attracted to Yi Peng as it is a visually stunning festival. But Loy Krathong is visually beautiful as well. Loi Krathong continues over several days, allowing you to delve into the celebrations.