Yi Peng – The Festival Of Lanterns – Chiang Mai
Festival Of Light
The Festival Of Lights, also known as the Yee Peng festival is celebrated in Chiang Mai with great aplomb. A cultural blast, with a much sought after lantern lighting ceremony, it is an amazing experience. The city comes alive, with lights and fireworks, locals and tourists, food and alcohol, contests and parades making it an extremely festive time in Thailand. It is something one must experience at least once in a lifetime!
About the festival
Standing hand in hand with the ones you love, looking up at a sky full of stars with the lit up horizon taking your breath away and bringing you even closer in unison. Hasn’t each person dreamt of doing this? Or seen it in a movie and sighed at the thought of it? Well, we’ll tell you where to go to see it with your own eyes! Thailand can make this wish of yours come true! Enter – Chiang Mai with its famous Festival Of Lights.
The festival of lights, specifically known as Lee Peng in Chiang Mai see’s thousands throng to this part of the world to participate in its fascinating experience. History has it that it was celebrated to pay one’s respect to Buddha. Over the years this tradition has expanded immensely and has become almost a week long celebration in all, with locals and tourists all participating actively. Here is all the information you need for this glorious gala.
Keep in mind that the dates of the Festival change every year, owing to the changing dates of the full moon of the 12th Thai month. Make sure you book in accordance with the same – the rough approximate of which can be determined around a month in advance. It is suggested that you reach in advance, as the festivity begins early, and there isn’t much to see after the festival is over! [The lights don’t stay up so long, obviously!]
There are 2 lantern releases. The first one is the free traditional and local celebration in the Thai language. The second one happens generally after a week of actual festival which is for tourists with the celebration in the English language for a fee which includes lanterns, seating mat, shuttle, krathong, dinner). Contact Travstore for the tickets.
The Festival Begins
A week before the ceremony, a lot of the Wats, homes & public buildings begin hanging lanterns. There is a grand opening ceremony of the whole festival. There are also bustling night bazaars, with food and alcohol vendors all around. There are many interesting activities that happen apart from the lighting as well. There are boat races, hot air balloon races, processions and contests and much more!
The Lighting Ceremony
Carrying on and coming to the spectacle people come to witness. There are 2 aspects of the main light ceremony. There are lanterns and floating lights – of multiple kinds. The idea is that setting off a lantern or letting a floating light go is sending away all your misfortune! Some also ask for forgiveness. Don’t forget to pray before you do!
Thousands of these floating lights drift down the river making it look nothing short of a spectacle. To supplement this, at the same time, innumerable Khom Loy (lanterns) will be drifting across the sky. People also place some coins and money in both of these. The water mirrors the night sky making the sight almost unbelievable. There are constant firework displays, and the splashes of small boys diving in to collect the coins in the Krathongs (floating Lights). It is an unforgettable experience indeed.
There is a multiplicity of other events which take place during this festive week as well. There is a vibrant parade with people dressed in fancy traditional attire. Also, Thai festivals are incomplete without a beauty contest! There are also Krathong making contests, in terms of who can make the prettiest Krathong. There are also handicraft sessions and dance shows. It is a wholesome and exhilarating cultural experience indeed.
Dress code to follow
Remember, that even though the environment is buzzing with a party vibe, you must respect the Thai dress code for this ceremony. Avoid skimpy and short clothes altogether. Covering your knees and shoulders are seen as a sign of respect, so carry gear accordingly.
The main celebration in Chiang Mai happens around the Saphan Nawarat Bridge that connects Tha Pae Road on the western side of the river with Charoen Muang Road on the other side. If you want a bustling party like atmosphere, this is your place to be. On the other hand, if you are looking for a quieter more spiritual space head to the temple of Wat Chai Mongkol, which is about two kilometres south of the bridge along Charoen Phratet Road. The back of Mae Joe university is also a great destination!
Traveling on the day of Festival
Expect there to be jam packed roads and choked traffic. You might want to come in early to reserve a spot or even make it in time. Also, if you aren’t really keen on being amidst the crowd and setting a lantern off, make your reservations on a rooftop bar at Chiang Mai! The view will be stunning, and you won’t have to battle the crowd!
Lanterns & Floating Lights
Also, don’t waste time making or getting your lantern from home. In order to maintain a certain standard, all the lanterns have to be the same, thereby are to be purchased from where the ceremony is taking place. If possible, try to buy a Krothung which is biodegradable in order to not pollute the river.
A Separate Tourist Event
For those who want to come from a very touristy point of view, a ceremony is held a week after the real festival, just for tourists. This is priced and includes meals and transfers depending upon different packages. There are plenty of photography opportunities here as well, but this comes sans some of the other cultural aspects.
All in all, the – festival of Chiang Mai is a must have experience!