Lit Lantern Festival (YEE PENG FESTIVAL) ! | Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand

Yee Peng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai is celebrated on the full moon of the twelfth lunar month ever year, which is usually mid November (+- a week).

Those incredible photos of thousands of brightly lit lanterns rising into the night’s sky is already an iconic image of Chiang Mai– but on the spot I found out that so called ‘mass release’ is not only just a part of lantern festival Yee Peng – but Yee Peng itself is a part of the wider Loy Krathong* celebrations! Locals believe that during this special time of the year the rivers are filled to their fullest and the moon is at its brightest. Apparently this makes it a perfect time to ‘make merit’ and literally let go of all your past misfortunes in a form of  symbolic krathong floating off on the Ping River, and releasing your lantern into the night sky. 

* “Loy” means “float”, and a “krathong” is a special Thai floating sculpture particular to the holiday. The traditional krathong is made from a cross-section of a banana tree trunk, which is then elaborately decorated with folded banana leaves and flowers in intricate towering designs (see below!).

::: Releasing the lantern and observing how it rises higher and higher into the sky to finally join the mass of orange dots was a great experience! :::

::: When releasing your lantern you are suppose to wish for good fortune in the new year :::

We decided not to participate in the mass release- mainly because it involves mass of people (surprise!:P) and takes place outside of the city.  Also- it is not a traditional way of celebrating this holiday but rather a spectacular tourist attraction. Instead, we stayed in the town with the locals. Most of them were coming throughout the night to lit their lanterns by the small river surrounding the Old Town. The nearby trees made it a bit difficult, so I released mine from the bridge:

More lanterns [Gallery]: 

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The whole town is decorated with a variety of colorful lanterns, lamps and candles, which gives an amazingly magical atmosphere:

::: These small dots behind the temple are not stars but lanterns released into the sky non-stop for several hours ::::


More or less in the center of the walled city, in the district where the former rulers of Chiang Mai built their palaces, stands a monument to the “Three Kings” – King Mengrai of the Lanna kingdom*, founder of Chiang Mai in the center, flanked by his good friend, King Ramkamhaeng of Sukothai and King Ngam Muang of Payao. According to the legend, the three worked together to lay out the city of Chiang Mai. The monument is a shrine for local residents, who swing by after work to leave offerings.

*Chiang Mai was the centre of the Lanna kingdom until the area was colonised by Burma in 1558, and then gradually incorporated into a greater Thailand from 1774

::: Touristic side of Chiang Mai – English sings, pizzas and even the branch of famous ‘Friends ‘cafe- Central Perk … :::

The Festival holds a series of events that takes place during this special three days – including a beauty contest (?), traditional Thai dance shows, the official “Yee Peng Parade” around the gate of the Old Town and Tha Phae Street, live music and handicrafts sessions.


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::: My Krathong 🙂 – a traditional basket of banana leaves, flowers, incense and candles, that I made myself.  It is supposed to be released onto the river, symbolizing letting go of all ills and misfortunes in the previous year. What you can not see in the picture however, are cockroaches and huge rats roistering around the canal which made the task a bit difficult. As a result, I rather threw mine away than released, but I hope that it still counts :::

::: Picturesque Krathongs floating on a small river, illuminated by colorful lanterns – a fairy tale! :::

Making our own Krathong: 

Krathong can be bought at one of the many street stalls.  But we were so fascinated when we saw the hostel owner making her own Krathongs that she agreed to teach us. Look how proud we are after 2hrs of pinning banana leaves in a special pattern:

Making our own Krathongs [ gallery]:

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::: Krathongs in a more ‘modern’ version :::


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