From the vibrant fireworks displays to the brightly lit waterways, many people are already familiar with Thailand’s Loy Krathong. The three-day festival is celebrated on the full moon of the 12th lunar month of every year. Locals gather around canals, rivers, lakes, and ponds to release krathongs – beautifully decorated rafts made from banana tree bark – into the water. For Thais, this symbolic gesture is a way to apologise to the goddess of water, Phra Mae Khongkha, for all the pollution they’ve caused. They also believe it will bring good luck and prosperity throughout the year.
The candlelit waters all over Thailand during this time of year are truly a magical sight to behold.
The north, however, celebrates this time of year a little differently. They call it Yee Peng. And it’s the most spectacular lantern festival in Thailand.
Similar to Loy Krathong, Yee Peng features an amazing display of krathong-filled waterways and brilliant fireworks. However, there’s one noticeable difference: thousands of lanterns in the night sky.
The lanterns are known as khom loy. The Lanna people of northern Thailand believe releasing them into the sky awards them with Buddhist merit and good luck, as it is a symbolic gesture of letting go of their problems and worries.
The khom loy are usually made from thin rice paper and they function just like hot air balloons: The candle at the bottom releases warm air that carries the lantern upward into the sky.
The lanterns are sold everywhere during this festival, but the best place to find one is at a temple, as you’ll be sure to get a good quality khom loy at a fair price – usually around 100 THB (about 3 USD).
It is customary to write messages of goodwill and your wishes on the lantern before releasing it into the sky. It can be fairly difficult to launch a lantern on your own, so if you’re travelling solo, this is a great opportunity to make new friends as locals will volunteer to help you.
Where should you go?
Yee Peng is celebrated all over the northern region, but the epicentre of Thailand’s Lanna culture is Chiang Mai.
The city is widely known as the ‘Rose of the North’. While it has many of the modern conveniences of a major city, it still holds a rich sense of traditional culture, which can be seen in both the Lanna-style outfits of the people and the well-preserved ancient architecture.
The friendly people, pleasant climate, rich culture, and affordable cost of living have all made Chiang Mai one of Thailand’s top tourist destinations. And, there’s no better place to experience the Yee Peng festival in all its majesty.
The Tha Phae Gate, the Nawarat Bridge, Maejo University, and the banks of the famous Ping River are some of the best spots to enjoy the festivities. If you’re not a fan of crowded places, not to worry. The night sky will be alighted with thousands of lanterns that can be seen from almost anywhere in the city – even your own balcony.
This year, the festival will fall between October 31st and November 2nd. For an unforgettable cultural experience, book yourself some comfortable accommodations in Chiang Mai, and prepare to be filled with wonder during Yee Peng – the most enchanting lantern festival in Thailand.