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.