Yi Peng: The festival of lights in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Yi Peng lantern release - Thailand

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Once again, for the third time since I’ve been living in Chiang Mai, I had the pleasure to attend to one of the most beautiful and photogenic festivals in the world: Yi Peng and Loy Krathong.

Yi Peng (or Yee Peng) is a festival of light that coincides with Loy Krathong in Thailand. It’s a Lanna festival so it is mainly celebrated in the northern part of the country. The festival takes place during the 2nd lunar month of the Lanna calendar (Yi means ’2nd’ and Peng means ‘month’) which usually falls on a November.

The main attraction during this beautiful event is the multitude of flying lanterns that are released in the sky, compared to Loy Krathong which is more about floating lanterns on the river.

Like in the past years, the biggest lantern release (over a thousand lanterns launched simultaneously) took place in Mae Jo, a small town outside of Chiang Mai. Thousands of people gathered up near a temple to meditate before releasing lanterns.

In the past years, I had an amazing time during this festival. However, this year, I felt the slimy tentacles of commercialism starting to taint the whole experience. Already in 2011, they created 2 separate events in Mae Jo, one that was for ‘locals’ and remained free, and the second one was for tourists, costing about $80 (which is a LOT of money in Thailand for a single event). This didn’t bother me much since we still could attend the first free event anyway.

This year was a little different. There still was a free event, but half of the field was reserved by tour agencies, hoarding tourists from various Asian countries. It not only limited the space we all had, but it spoiled the experience a little bit since nobody respected the meditation (speaking and laughing loudly) and nobody followed the rules that attendants should light the lanterns and release them all together at the same time. It was chaotic, crowded, and a little disappointing.

Having said that, I still think Yi Peng and Loy Krathong are amazing festivals that need to be added on a bucket list (along with Songkran at least once). It didn’t suck, it was just a little disappointing. Yi Peng isn’t just about Mae Jo’s release, it’s also the celebrations in town, the events in temples, the happy locals, and all the decorations around Chiang Mai’s old city.

I attended this event 3 times and I knew what to expect. But for a newcomer, it is still an incredible experience and I often see huge smiles and happy tears all around me when the lanterns are all launched together in the sky.

If you haven’t already, add it to your bucket list and head out to Chiang Mai during the month of November.

Here are a few shots from this year, hope you enjoy them and don’t hesitate to pin or share them.

Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Yee Peng lanterns

Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Young Monk and the Dog - Thailand

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Young Monk Meditating - Thailand

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Monks and Lanterns

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  • Mary

    These photos are AMAZING!! Well done!

    • http://www.canvas-of-light.com/ Daniel Nahabedian

      Thanks Mary :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=515054778 Nancie M

    Beautiful shots. This festival has been on my must see list for a long time. I teach, and November is a teaching month, so until I stop teaching I’ll have to live this festival through gorgeous shots like yours. Too bad to hear about the commercial aspect creeping in. $80.00/ticket is a little hard to accept/pay with a smile on your face.

    • http://www.canvas-of-light.com/ Daniel Nahabedian

      Thanks a lot Nancy :) I guess commercialization is a sad reality of our world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/guelay.ekin Guelay Ekin

    Absolutely amazing pictures. They make me want to pack my bags and go to Thailand!

    • http://www.canvas-of-light.com/ Daniel Nahabedian

      Thank you very much Guelay :) You should!

  • Shirley Main

    Thank you for a the breath taking beauty of these photos, they are awesome!

  • Desert safari, Dubai

    Great picture, Thank you for sharing…….

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  • indra

    can you pin the exact date for the free yee peng in 2013 daniel?

    • http://www.canvas-of-light.com/ Daniel Nahabedian

      Hey Indra, I don’t think the dates are set yet. But it’s often a few days or a week before the official Loy Krathong day.

      • Ellie

        it is said that 17th Nov is confirmed to be the official Loy Krathong day. Is it right?

        • http://www.canvas-of-light.com/ Daniel Nahabedian

          It falls on the full moon in November, so yeah that should be the official date.
          However, not sure when the release would be exactly. It can vary.

  • wanderlust

    Breathtaking shots Daniel!! Inspires me to keep traveling and keep shooting. (On a side note, I plan on going this year. Do you know of a site I can check with to find out the date of the local festival?)

    • http://www.canvas-of-light.com/ Daniel Nahabedian

      Thanks!
      I don’t know a site really but the festival should be around mid-November. You can search for Loy Krathong 2013 and Yi Peng is usually a few days before.

  • sin

    i love it and i will visit thailand in November, but i don’t know it will be held on any day of November. Can you tell me in 2013 it will be held on any day? Thanks very much !

    • http://www.canvas-of-light.com/ Daniel Nahabedian

      Thank you :)
      Loy Krathong is usually during the full moon in November, so it’s on the 17th of November this year. Yii Peng should be a few days before that.
      Hope it helps.

      • sin

        thank you very muchhhh…But if i want to see a festival light in Chiangmai like your photo, should i come on day?
        Sorry to bother you, but i look forward to participating this festival once in my life so hope you help me….

        Thank you !!!

        • http://www.canvas-of-light.com/ Daniel Nahabedian

          It’s still a little early to know the exact date of the big event (like in my photos) but it should be between the 10th to the 17th of November. I’d say go for a week and enjoy the festivities :)

          • sin

            Thank you very much…You are supper nice…See you at the festival !!!

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  • Penny

    Really loved it! do you know when is the date of Yee Peng in 2013 that I can see all the flying lanterns in the air?

    • http://www.canvas-of-light.com/ Daniel Nahabedian

      Hey Penny,
      Thanks for the comment :) This year, the official date is on the 17th of November.

  • http://www.mytravelaffairs.com/ Marysia @ My Travel Affairs

    Daniel you are an amazingly skillful photographer, just an idea from me, maybe you would like to take part in my Friday Lens Affair series? Let me know!

  • http://www.holidaynomad.com/ Freya

    ooh those photos are absolutely stunning, what a beautiful festival. I hope to make it there one day

  • woohooitsmel

    AMAZING photos!! Considering the last “free” event you went to left you with a bitter taste in your mouth, would you recommend the paid event over the free one for the locals?

    • http://www.canvas-of-light.com/ Daniel Nahabedian

      Thank you :)
      It was a disappointment compared to the previous years, but it’s still a beautiful event, so: yes, I would still recommend the free one.
      I’ve never attended the paid one so I can’t really give an opinion. If you are looking for an easy way to get there, attend some cultural events, have less crowd around you and get back home easily, then paid one is better suited (but costs $100). The free one has no cultural events, and you have to get there and back on your own :)

  • Winnie

    Hi Daniel!
    Awesome post! I’m coming to Chiang Mai this November and Yi Peng is part of the trip.
    I’d be grateful if you can share with me some information about the event, its location and anything need to be prepared since it’s my first time coming to Chiang Mai.

    Thank you
    Winnie

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  • http://www.hotelrakinternational.com/ gagan@budgethotelsindelhi

    what a bice pictures mind blowing feel nirvana

  • moonie

    hi daniel, thank you for your photos, they are amazing. i’m going to chiang mai this Nov and it is updated that the Yi Peng this year will be on 23 Nov 2013, is it correct?

    • http://www.canvas-of-light.com/ Daniel Nahabedian

      Thank you Moonie.
      There are 2 events, one is free which is on the 16th and one is paid (with some more cultural events) which is on the 23rd.

      • Andy

        Hi Daniel,
        Is the date for the free one confirmed? I haven’t been able to found a source that can confirms the date. You’re the first, so thank you.
        Andy

        • http://www.canvas-of-light.com/ Daniel Nahabedian

          Hey Andy,
          Sorry for the late reply. I don’t think there will be really an official confirmation but from the multiple sources I’ve heard from Chiang Mai, it is most likely going to be on the 16th.

          Hope you make it.

  • Ellie Pollitt

    Hi Daniel we are coming to thailand in nov this year (yet to book as wanting to see the release of the fire lanterns as you pictured above. Do you know the date that the lanterns will be released as I know this can vary from Loy krathong and yi peng dates? We really want to see and be part of he lantern release if possible so really need to find out the exact date that it will happen on…. Thank you so much for your help.

    • http://www.canvas-of-light.com/ Daniel Nahabedian

      Hey Ellie,
      The official Loy Krathing day is on the 17th of November (full moon), but the mass lantern releases are during two events: A free one on the 16th and a paid one on the 23rd.
      Hope you make it.

      • Victoria

        Hi Daniel! I’m going to see Yi Peng this year and was wondering if you would know the dates for 2014? :)

        • http://www.canvas-of-light.com/ Daniel Nahabedian

          Hey Victoria :)
          As I mentioned above, nobody knows the 2014 dates for the big lantern release. It should be around the full moon in November (which will be on the 6th this year). It could be a week earlier to a week later.
          The dates are announced much later in the year. Hope you make it though!

  • My

    Hi Daniel,
    Your photos are awesome.
    Could you please tell me where is the free event and where we can wait for the launch of thousand of lanterns ? We really want to see the release of lantern but all tickets for the paid event seem to be sold out.
    Thank you so much for your help.

    • http://www.canvas-of-light.com/ Daniel Nahabedian

      Hi,
      Both the paid event and the free event take place at the same place, which is in Mae Jo, a few minutes outside of town.
      You can ask any taxi/tuktuk or songthaew driver and they can either take you there or point you how to get there.
      I recommend taking a songthaew from the Warorot market, I don’t remember which color bus takes you to Mae Jo (either blue or white) but you can just ask the driver. It will cost you 20 baht per person if you take a songthaew, which is quite cheap for a 45min drive :)

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  • Tricia

    Hi Daniel,

    I love your photos! I was in Chiang Mai during Loy Krathong last year, but ended up missing Yi Peng. Would you know when the paid/free event will take place this November 2014? Definitely including it in my travel plans this year.

    Cheers!

    • http://www.canvas-of-light.com/ Daniel Nahabedian

      Hey Tricia,
      Thanks for the compliment :)
      The Yi Peng / Loy Krathong OFFICIAL dates are easy to find, it’s always on the full moon day in November.
      However, the mass lantern releases in Mae Jo are never known months in advance. It can be from 1 week earlier, to a week later. You’ll just have to keep an eye around that period.

      Hope it helps and hope you get to see the festival this year.

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  • Lindsaynik

    I’m having such a hard time figuring out when the release will be this year (2014). I know they dont release the date till pretty soon before. The full moon falls on Thursday November 6th. Do they ever hold the release at Maejo on a week day? Is it always right on the full moon, or simply just sometime around it? I really don’t want to miss it and only have about 4 days to spend in Chiang Mai so I’m trying to coincide my dates with it.

    • Lindsaynik

      I now know after reading your posts that they wont release the dates until MUCH later in the year, but really I want to know if its always on a weekend or during the week ever? Thanks!

      • http://www.canvas-of-light.com/ Daniel Nahabedian

        Hey :)
        Yes, they don’t release the dates until much later in the year, but it’s very often around the full moon and you are correct, it’s usually on weekends to allow Thai people to attend too. So It might be on the weekend right before the 6th (1st or 2nd November?).
        However, this is the “big release” that I’m talking about, which happens in Mae Jo, right outside of Chiang Mai. But if you arrive during the week of yee peng, you WILL experience lantern releases in town and there are celebrations during the entire week :) Some of the photos above with the monks are actually taken in town, and not at the mass release.
        Hope it helps, sorry it’s confusing :)