There comes a time every year when the Chiang Mai Lantern Festival – or Yi Peng (or Yee Peng [the local name for it]) takes place in the north of Thailand. The festival takes place to show respect for Buddha and it usually is held to coincide with the festival of Krathong. This is a separate festival which takes place in Thailand where people celebrate with lights floating on water. In Chiang Mai – which is in the north of Thailand – the festival is celebrated with lanterns which float up into the sky. Sounds pretty magical, doesn’t it? If you’re keen to head along and check it out – this is a short guide for you which covers what you need to know to get the most out of it. Oh, and be sure to take a look at how you can travel there with Travezl’s packages for Chiang Mai.
About the festival
Yi Peng means second month, and the festival itself is held on the full moon of the 2nd month of the Lanna calendar. Though the dates do change around a bit, it’s usually held in mid to late November. So why the lanterns? Well, it’s believed that when you release a lantern that you are ending the bad luck or misfortune held by a person, and if the lantern disappears from view before the fire goes out, it definitely works as a good omen. No wonder so many people flock to the festival to take part!
There are two main shows – a free one and one for people who pay – the tourists. The dates are pretty different, so be aware of this when booking if you want to see the festival and the lantern release which is the undisputed highlight of the whole event.
So when does it happen?
The biggest one of the lantern releases takes place in Chiang Mai in a spot known as the Lanna Dhutanka grounds. After this one, there is a second release for tourists but this actually takes place about a week after the official ceremony. Lanterns are released all throughout the festival time – and several thousand people attend the main release at the Lanna Dhutanka grounds in Chiang Mai. While it’s free, you need to be aware of the following:
- As with much of Thailand’s special ceremonies, you need to make sure that your shoulders are covered up and that you’re not rocking a mini skirt.
- Alcohol is forbidden as is bringing along your own lantern – but you can buy one inside.
- Make sure you arrive early to get a good spot – around 3pm arrival should put you there in plenty of time.
- Bring a small mat to sit on – trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
- You can buy food and drinks inside the grounds and there are toilet facilities available
- The ceremony kicks off in the late afternoon and you can expect a lot of praying.
When the signal happens, everyone releases their lanterns at once. There is a very clear signal – and if everyone releases at the same time it’s a visual and very moving spectacle to enjoy. You are here to take part in a ceremony and as such it’s important that you’re on your best behaviour. This is a very important event for many people and it’s to be taken seriously.
Why not take the time, plan a trip and enjoy this incredible festival? The city of Chiang Mai has so much more to see as well, so once you’re here you can head out and enjoy some of the other sights. Have fun and stay safe!