Yee Peng Lantern Festival In Chiang Mai – Complete Guide With Tips
How often is it that there is something on your "to do wish list" that you don't even know where or when it takes place, but you know you need to be there? Well, the Yee Peng - Thai: ยี่เป็ง - (coinciding also with Loy Krathong), or sometimes just referred to as The Lantern Festival, that takes place every year in Chiang Mai was that "thing we had to experience." I knew I wanted to be a part of this one day after seeing the photos. Hundreds of lanterns floating up into the dark night sky.
If you're in Chiang Mai during Yee Peng and Loy Krathong, we've got all the info and traveler tips you will need to help you make the best of attending the Lantern Festival Specs of light creating the most enchanting and mesmerizing scene before slowly getting taken in by the darkness. This was the dream festival to attend for us! Although it was initially cancelled this year (for the first time ever and for the first year we were able to actually attend), we had the good fortune to experience it, nevertheless.
Yee Peng Festival Dates for 2018
Each year the Yee Peng Festival occurs on different dates. It is dependent on the full moon of the twelfth month in the Thai Lunar Calendar. Yee Peng is the full moon of the second month, as it would fall on the calendar of the ancient Lanna Kingdon.
The dates of the festival this year fall between November 21 and 24, 2018. With Loy Krothong starting on Friday, the 23rd.
Whichever date the full moon falls on, the celebrations are started a day before and go on a day after as well. The year that we attended, the full moon fell on November 15th, so festivities in the Old City and Tha Phae gate started on the 14th and lanterns were also released well into the night of November 16th.
We were on the lookout for the official dates starting from the beginning of the month. It was uncertain if the event would even be allowed. It was announced as being cancelled completely and then it was reinstated.
We are unsure of how far in advance the dates were announced in previous years or how well organized the details and flow of information was. For us, it proved to be a bit difficult to figure out initially. It was more about asking around with different locals, checking websites like ChiangMaiBest.com, and just going with the flow.
Where The Festival Takes Place
The two main options for tourists and travelers are attending the Mae Jo University private event or the public event that takes place. The event that is open to the public, and also enjoyed by locals, is spread out over areas from Tha Phae gate eastward and up to the Mae Ping River.
Our favorite two spots are the entrance to the Old city at Tha Phae Gate and the Nawarat Bridge. The Nawarat Bridge is closed to traffic and a very good open area for lots of people to gather and fly their lanterns. This is also a wonderful observation point. Visitors can just watch as others light their lanterns, make a wish, and let them go up into the air. The sky fills up with hundreds of lanterns between 8 in the evening and 10pm, but it can continue well into the night.
What Happens During The Festival
Chiang Mai is the heart of the most elaborate celebrations of Loy Krathong and Yee Peng. It makes sense since this area is the ancient capital of the former Lanna Kingdon from which these festivals originate. Lights can be seen floating on the waters, hanging from trees and buildings, as well as flying high into the sky (khom loi - Thai: โคมลอย).
Considering that this year's activities for the floating lanterns festival were much more "toned down," there were quite a lot of people that participated on all three days.
The opening ceremonies at Tha Phae Gate happen to coincide with Sunday Night Market. Since the Walking Street starts at this location, the crowds were almost unbearable, but everyone seemed well-behaved and orderly.
The private event that takes place at the Mae Jo University was held on the second day. This is a paid event to which guests should purchase tickets for well in advance. From what we heard, this event is expensive (about $100 USD per person) but it includes food. The simultaneous release of lanterns is also another unique characteristic that draws so many to this event.
It's perfect for photographers!
We attended the festivities of the third day. The road starting from Tha Phae Gate and leading to Nawarat Bridge was completely closed off to all vehicles.
Several food vendors and shops were open on this road as well as vendors selling hand made krathongs (made from banana tree trunk and banana leaves held together with pins, and decorated with flower, incense, and candles). These are what people send down the river in what is referred to by foreigners as the floating lanterns festival of Thailand.
The tourists along with locals were all lined up along the sidewalks as a parade of floats dedicate to King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed for all to pay their respects and remembrance. There were also children and youngsters playing instruments as part of this parade.
Once the parade was finished, everyone made their way to the bridge and the lantern floating and flying began. The floating and flying lanterns cost about 40 THB ($1 USD), so people were buying several and releasing them throughout the night. It seemed a bit chaotic at times because some were inexperienced with the timing and release of the lanterns. Below are some tips and suggestions we have from our experience.
After our lantern release into the sky, we also made sure to partake in releasing a floating Krathong down the Ping River. It was beautiful watching others' pray and make a wish as they sent negativity and all that is bad along down the river.
If it's your first time traveling to Chiang Mai, here are some things you should know before your visit.
Here are some fun activities we recommend in the area:
How To Fly A Lantern
The flying lanterns (those shown in photos of this festival) are called Khom loi. They are usually made from a thin fabric, such as rice paper, stretched over wire frame, to which a candle or fuel cell is attached. When the fuel cell is lit the small fire causes hot air to get trapped inside the lantern. This creates enough lift for the khom loi to float up into the sky. It's important to make sure the time is right for the release. Follow these simple steps to make sure you have a successful flying lantern:
- purchase a large lantern (the small ones are actually a bit harder to deal with)
- Stretch your lanterns paper out carefully. Make sure to open all the folds and that there are no closed areas so that the hot air has a place to get trapped.
- Stand in a spot where the flight path will be clear of trees and power lines. Try not to stand too close to other people. Create an open circle around yourself if possible.
- Try to get another person to hold the lantern as upright and open as possible while you light the fuel cell.
- once the entire fuel cell is burning, hold the lantern by it's wire edge. It will take 2-3 minutes.
- You will notice a bit of smoke from the fuel cell, this is usually a signal that it might be ready to fly.
- Release the lantern slightly by allowing it to go up between your thumb and index finger. If this flight seems strong, you can make your wish and let go full!
Watch this video (under 2 minutes) to see how it's done!
A side note: There may be some controversy on participating in this festival, mainly due to the litter that it causes. Some may feel that the floating lanterns in the river are a better way to partake in with this kind of activity. The floating lanterns are made mostly of flowers and plant material so there is less of a harm to the environment when compared to the paper and wire lanterns.
The material from the lantern that is released into the sky can potentially end up in the sea and cause harmful damage to the wildlife. (it is a bit unsafe for people as well if the happen to fall down on them!).
So, please keep these things in mind when deciding what to do for yourself. I know that I will no longer float them into the air unless an alternative type of lantern was offered that would not cause any environmental harm.
If you are in the northern part of Thailand, be sure to take a couple of days and visit Chiang Rai. There are some fantastic things to do and see there that you don't want to miss!
Looking for accommodations? Here's a good place to find them!
About the Author
Hi! I'm just a California girl addicted to travel and adventure with a passion for art and dance on the side. Born in Iran, but I consider myself a citizen of Earth, adhering to the belief that "The world is but one country and mankind its citizen." I strive to make a positive impact on everyone I meet and learn as much as possible from them. My degree out of college is in Marketing. However, I entered the hospitality business at an early age and worked my way up to hotel management. After about 13 years in that industry (5 of which I was a hotel assistant manager), I made the decision to move to Thailand and leave the 9 to 5 grind behind. My husband and I set off for a life of living abroad and hopes to continue traveling the world, just 3 months after our wedding. It all started with the two of us, along with our cat, together in Thailand. Can't wait to see where life takes us next!