Photo Essay: Loy Krathong / Yi Peng Festival in Thailand

Young Monks at Yi Peng in Chiang Mai, Thailand

For the past few years, I have lived many extraordinary moments that would be engraved in my mind forever. Last weekend, I experienced one of these moments here in Chiang Mai during the long awaited Loy Krathong/Yi Peng holiday.

Loy Krathong takes place on the night of the full moon of the 12th month in the Thai lunar calendar and is celebrated all over Thailand. Loy means to float and Krathongs are small rafts made of bread and banana leaves that Thais offer the the river spirits.

Loy Krathong also coincides with the Northern Thailand Lanna festival called Yi Peng. It is during this festival that thousands of flying lanterns are released in the sky.

I have tried to document the event as much as I can, and I hope this Photo Essay will help you experience the beauty of this festival for just a bit.

Red lanterns in Chiang Mai for Loy Krathong and Yi Peng festival in 2010, Thailand.

Many different types of lanterns are found everywhere in gardens, shops and temples. From intricately shaped paper lanterns (khom fai), hanging lanterns (khom khwaen), small lanterns carried on a stick (khom thue) and of course the flying lanterns (khom loi).

Loy Krathong festival with lantern release in Mae Jo near Chiang Mai Thailand

The most impressive Yi Peng celebration is the huge lantern release near the Mae Jo University a few kilometers North of Chiang Mai. Thousands of people gather that day to celebrate and release khom loi lanterns together.

Buddhist Monks waiting to start the Loy Krathong 2010 ceremony by chanting and praying.

The ceremony starts with blessings, chants and prayers from Buddhist monks as well as a guided meditation in both Thai and English. The ceremony lasts a few hours until dark.

A family lighting their lanterns in Mae Jo for the Lantern Release Ceremony of Loy Krathong 2010

When the moment comes, the crowd unfolds their lanterns and starts lighting up the fuel cell attached to fill the khom loi with hot air. Excitement is felt everywhere.

Lanterns released at the same time for the Loy Krathong festival in Mae Jo near Chiang Mai, Thailand

After a short prayer and a blessing from the monks, the crowd release the lanterns at the same time. It was one of the most beautiful moments I have lived. The sky quickly fills with thousands of khom loi lighting up all the place. No words can describe the feeling experienced.

Yi Peng lanterns in the sky in Chiang Mai, Thailand

The lanterns flying high appearing like a shiny Milky Way across the night sky.

Fireworks in Chiang Mai in front of Doi Suthep during Loy Krathong 2010 in Thailand

The Loy Krathong and Yi Peng festival still continues on for 2 days all around Thailand. In the city of Chiang Mai, giant pagoda parades, beauty contests and fireworks are displayed until late at night. Here fireworks are launched from the streets in front of Doi Suthep mountain.

You can also watch a short video of the second release in Mae Jo.


Here are additional shots taken during 2011 and 2014.

Lantern Release at Yi Peng festival 2011 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Long exposure at Yee Peng festival in Chiang Mai 2012
A Young Monk Meditating during Visakha Bucha festival in Chiang Mai - Thailand

Monks lighting lanterns during Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai, Thailand