Each year, the Yi Peng and Loy Krathong festivals in Chiang Mai are major events coinciding at the same time and drawing tourist crowds across the globe. For years, it’s been on my travel bucket list as two of the top festivals in Thailand to experience. Due to the fact that I seldom travel during peak travel seasons, I didn’t think I’d ever get to experience them.
Jump to today. Bucket list dreams have a way of occasionally working out.
Guide to Yi Peng and Loy Krathong Festivals in Chiang Mai
When is Yi Peng and Loy Krathong ?
Yi Peng and Loy Krathong dates coincide. Loy (translation: floating) Krathong is a festival which takes place on the twelfth lunar month of each year.
To make things easy however, Loy Krathong and Yee Ping Festival coincide at the same time. Yi Peng (translated as two full moon) occurs on a full moon in the twelfth lunar month.
What’s the difference between Loi Krathong/Loy Krathong and Yi Peng/ Yee Peng?
It’s easy to get the two confused betweeen the teo festivals as they’re both festivals where you float things and the premise is that you’re releasing all your bad karma with your object. However, the difference is great.
Loy Krathong is a traditional festival of Thailand and you’ll find people celebrating it where ever there is a river, lake or body of water. Yi Peng is celebrated only in Northern Thailand and specifically, Chiang Mai.
Where to see Yi Peng in Chiang Mai?
There’s two main ways I know of – Mae Jo University and Chiang Mai city.
The Mae Jo University mass lantern release costs $100 for an entry ticket. The program is organized up to the release time. Tickets do get sold out nearing the date, so make reservations in advance. Mae Jo University is located outside of Chiang Mai and expect traffic jams heading out to this location on the festival day, so book your transportation ahead of time and start out early. I’d arrive around 3P to be safe. A dress code might be enforced, so dress appropriately and respectfully.
If you can’t afford the costly ticket, fear not. I was worried I wouldn’t have a good experience if I didn’t buy the Mae Jo ticket and fortunately I was wrong. I think I had an even better time in Chiang Mai for the simple reason that I had freedom to walk around the city at my own pace, get food/snacks and I didn’t have to battle traffic.
Chiang Mai City (from the Thae Pae gate to Ping River) still goes off and you won’t feel like you missed out.
Days leading up to the event there’s a program at Thae Pae Gate, and a parade passing the gate going down to the Ping River. When I went, the central street of the parade is like a mini street fair (but not to the extent of a Walking Street fairs). It also intersects with the street lined with souvenir and clothing stalls, leading to the Anusarn Night Market.
On the night of Yee Ping, the main Buddhist event and one that’s striking for photography (and similar to Mae Jo’s Buddhist orientation), is a ceremony of monks lighting candles under a lantern decorated tree. The program started at 6:30p this year but double-check the schedule. The area fills fast and if you’re not at the front then you’re competing with every goPro, cellphone camera and DSLR in the crowd. It’s photography heavy event. When the program ends, head down to Thae Pae gate or just follow the direction of the lantern releases that you’ll see in the sky.
The closer to Ping River you get, the more you might find tourists releasing lanterns in the streets or in nearby temple areas. As I said, just follow the trail of lantern lights in the sky.
Buying Krathongs and Khom Fai
Krathongs are circular floats made of banana leaves, flowers, incense and candles) and you float them in water. Khom Fai are the rice paper lanterns, hold a candle and you can float them in the sky. Both generally start anywhere from 30 Baht to an average of 60 Baht. But I’ve seen them go into 100+ Baht based on size and design quality. The majority of tourists seem to like the large khom tai as they can be impressive when they float upwards.
Nearing festival time, you’ll find many shop vendors take to the streets to sell floating lanterns. Krathongs are available at almost every temple or close to Ping River.
Where to stay during Yi Peng and Loy Krathong
There’s a wealth of accommodations in Chiang Mai for every budget. Booking accommodations in the Old City gives you walking access to temples, restaurants and cafes. You won’t find big hotel chains in the Old City area. Just outside the walls at the southern part of Thae Pae Gate, you’ll find just as many guesthouses, restaurant/cafes, massage shops, shopping, and eventually the Night Bazaar. Accommodations near the Night Bazzaar can range from guesthouse to hotel.
Accommodations can book out pretty fast on the days leading up to the festival so it’s always best to book ahead if you know your dates. Check out these deals on accommodations for Chiang Mai.
I was lucky and found availability at Eagle House (www.eaglehouse.com), a good hostel with a prime location, not far from Thae Pae Gate, just opposite of the old city. Dorms in hostels can start from 150 Baht and single rooms start roughly at 250Baht. Around festival time, expect hostels, hotels and guesthouse prices to rise or spots to be booked out.
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