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Guide to the Yee Peng Sky Lantern Festival & Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai

A festival of sky lanterns floating into the air!
Updated: November 1st 2016 | Thailand travel guides


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about - where to see - entrance fees- maps - tips
 

About Yi Peng (Yee Peng)


Yi Peng or Yee Peng (local name) is part of the festival of lights in Northern Thailand to show respect to Buddha. It's date usually coincides with Loi Krathong which all of Thailand celebrates using floating lights on water. In Northern Thailand Yi Peng, which is celebrated alongside Loi Krathong, is different in that lights are placed into sky lanterns which float up into the air.

Loi Krathong still happens in Chiang Mai but the actual Loi Krathong floating lanterns on water event happens the day/night after Yi Peng.

Alongside the floating light ceremonies there are also parades, fireworks, displays of colorful lanterns and cultural highlights involving the Lanna. As Chiang Mai was the former capital of the Lanna Kingdom it holds the largest Yi Peng Festival.

Did you know?

Yi Peng translated from Lanna is "Yi" meaning "2nd" and "Peng" meaning "month".

Yi Peng is held on the full moon of the 2nd month of the Lanna calendar. Though the exact dates change yearly it's usually held in mid to late November.

Sky Lanterns (Khom loi / Khom Loy / Khom Fai) when released are said to end a person’s bad luck or misfortune. Especially if it disappears from view before the fire goes out.

There are actually two main Yi Peng Lantern shows. One is free and the other is only for paying tourists. The dates are quite separate too, so read on and find out where to really see Yi Peng!


Where to see the Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai


Please note that the 2016 sky lantern part of Yi Peng in Chiang Mai has been canceled. The $100 ticket sky lantern event is also cancelled due to the death of the king. The river lantern spectacle should still be taking place but at a small scale.

There's a little confusion over where and when to actually see the spectacular lantern release during Yi Peng in Chiang Mai. Here's a simple break down.

  • The biggest lantern release is held behind Mae Jo University in Chiang Mai known as the Lanna Dhutanka grounds.
  • There is a second release of lanterns for paying tourists only about a week after the official ceremony.
  • Lanterns are released all over Chiang Mai city throughout the weekend festival (even in the days leading up to it)

Mae Jo University Yi Peng Lantern release

Several thousand people attend the largest release of lanterns on the grounds behind Mae Jo University at the Lanna Dhutanka grounds in Chiang Mai. It is free for all to enter. However you should beware of the following:

You must wear respectable clothing eg. shoulders covered, long trousers etc white tops are encouraged. Alcohol is forbidden there as is bringing your own lanterns. You can buy them inside for about 100 baht (the reason for this is to keep them all the same size so it looks better)..

Get there early! Thousands of people will be attending so expect the roads to be jammed. Getting there at about 3pm is safe to secure a good place to watch the ceremony. On the day forget about regular transport considering you have to come back as well. Here are some ideas of prices.

  • 1,200 baht for a red songthaew to take you there and wait.
  • 600 baht for a tuk tuk to take you their and wait.
  • 150 baht to hire a motorcycle for the day

In the above cases where there are drivers involved be sure to arrange your prices beforehand and agree on a fixed time to for the driver to meet you after the event! If you hire a motorcycle be sure to have insurance and to remember where you parked.

There are designated motorcycle parking areas where people will guard your motorcycle for about 10 baht (one parking area is close to the ceremony in a field).

It can take up to approximately 2 hours depending on traffic to reach the university.

  • In recent years local tour operators are organizing trips to Yi Peng from Chiang Mai. It costs anywhere between 500 to 1000 per person for an aircon mini van pick-up from your hotel, a lantern shared between two people, a fixed spot in the grounds plus a lift back to Chiang Mai city center.

Bring a small mat to sit on the grass while waiting.

Food and drinks are available inside the grounds.

There is a large toilet available.

The actual ceremony starts in the late afternoon. Expect lots of Buddhist prayers. Between 18.30-19-30 the lighting of lanterns begins.

The idea then is for everyone to release the lanterns at once! There's a signal to tell you when to do this. Don't release them beforehand.. The result if everyone releases the lanterns at once is a visual and emotional event to behold!

Once the lanterns are released you are free to leave or stay a while on the last of the lanterns floats away. You can stay on and light more lanterns if you wish.

The grounds start to be cleared by 10pm.

Expect traffic on the way back to be quite slow leaving the university but once on the main roads it moves quickly again until you enter Chiang Mai city again. The journey back to the city could take up to two hours.

Yi Peng Lantern release for tourists

This event usually happens one week after the official Yi Peng ceremony and it's only accessible for people who have paid for a ticket in advance. The idea for this is that there will be no crowd and everyone will be comfortable. It is run by he DMC who are buddhist organization who put on large scale events. This even is not an official part of the governments Yi Peng events.

Tickets cost USD$100 and include: 1 set of Lanna-style food (1 snack box and 1 meal box) , 2 Dhammachai floating lanterns, 1 Krathong's (flower vessel for float in canal), 1 souvenir sets, round-trip shuttle bus from meeting point.

Tickets and information can be found at http://www.yeepenglanna.com

Watching Yi Peng Lantern from Chiang Mai city

If you don't want to travel out to Mae Jo University, join the tourist version or will not be in Chiang Mai on the exact dates of Yi Peng then there's still hope. In the days leading up to Yi Peng and a few days afterwards in Chiang Mai will be fully decorated with colorful lanterns and have some smaller individual lantern releases.

Just in front of the Three Kings monument is a popular place to see colorful lanterns and to purchase an air lantern to set into the sky yourself. Get there from about 6.30 onwards. Lanterns cost about 30-50 baht.

Likewise in several of the Wats in and around Chiang Mai's walled area there will be colorful lanterns on display. In several temples or just outside them there will also be places where you can buy and launch a lantern.

Do note however that Yi Peng coincides with Loi Krathong (think of this as the lanterns on water festival). There will be parades, fireworks and more taking place mainly near the Saphan Nawarat Bridge. The crowds can get rowdy there as alcoholic drinks and firecrackers are for sale on the roadside. Do be cautious.


Future problems for releasing lanterns?


In 2014 Thai airline carriers asked for no more lanterns to be released due to the dangers and costs of diverting planes during the festival. For the record there has never been any air traffic incident during the festival.

With over 200,000 visitors to Chiang Mai for Yi Peng each year it would seem highly unlikely an outright ban will take place in 2015. Other parts of Thailand, Bangkok in particular, might well see a curb in unregistered lantern releases along with fireworks.

Update: Sadly it seems as if the university part of the sky lantern release has been canceled for 2015. The ticketed event is still happening. At this stage it is uncertain why it has been cancelled other than to say it's probably due to a political statement more than airline industry pressure.

There's a strong likelyhood the 2016 mass sky lantern release will not go ahead due to the death of Thailands King Bhumibol. That doesn't mean there won't be smaller individual releases. There may also be a "new" release on December 31st.


Map of the best places to see Yi Peng in Chiang Mai


Although you can see lanterns being launched all over the city the following places on this map of Chiang Mai will show you the more popular locations.


How to release a lantern during Yi Peng


Warning: Many countries around the world would not allow Yi Peng's lighting of lanterns in its current form due to fire regulations. Please take care when lighting a lantern and also of those around you.

The primary reason to light a lantern is to offer respect to Buddha. Secondary reasons include the idea of letting go of bad things.

Lighting a lantern safely usually involves two or more people.

  1. Meditate before preparing to release the lantern. This soothes your mind for the upcoming event.
  2. Light a stick or long match and then light the candle (circular block) that goes inside the lantern on the ground.
  3. Extend the lantern out to its full height.
  4. Make sure the lantern remains fully extended (take care).
  5. Wait for the lantern to fill with hot air. Hold on tight and don't let it go!
  6. Make a wish while waiting for the signal to let it go.
  7. Let the lantern go only when you hear the signal
  8. Stand back and enjoy the spectacle!

Tip: If the circular block does not light properly chip away small portions of it and light the freshly exposed areas.


Events for Yi Peng / Yee Peng & Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai


Please note that Yi Peng is based on a lunar calendar so exact dates change every year. However the festival takes place over three days and is usually just after or before Loi Krathong. The following is what you can expect to see and do.

One week before Yi Peng:

  • Colorful Lanterns go up opposite the 3 kings monument and around Thapae Gate.
  • In the days just before the festival many Wats begin hanging lanterns
  • About 4 days before the first day vendors start to appear and you can start lighting lanterns.

Day 1 of Yi Peng in Chiang Mai:

  • Opening ceremony of “Chiang Mai Yee Peng Festival” 18.30-19.00 at Thapae Gate
  • Yee Peng Lantern Procession Contest at Night Bazaar: 19.00-22.00 Thapae Gate to Pantip department store
  • Yee Peng Kids Contest 19.00-24.00 Office of Chiang Mai Municipality
  • Large Lantern release 18.00-20.00 Mae Jo University (see above for details)

Day 2 Events for Yi Peng / Yee Peng (Loi Krathong) in Chiang Mai

  • Boat Race: 09.00-15.30 Ping River by the Office of Chiang Mai Municipality
  • Hot Air Balloon Contest (small) 09.00-12.00 by the Office of Chiang Mai Municipality
  • Handmade Krathong Contest: 09.00-17.00 by the Office of Chiang Mai Municipality
  • Mister and Miss Yee Peng Contest : 18.00-24.00 Thapae Gate
  • Floating of Lanna candlelit Krathong: 19.00-21.00 Ping River by the Office of Chiang Mai Municipality
  • Boat Procession: 19.00-21.00 Ping River by the Office of Chiang Mai Municipality
  • Fireworks display in Honor of H.M. the King: 20.00-24.00 Ping River by the Office of Chiang Mai Municipality

Day 3 Events for Yi Peng / Yee Peng (Loi Krathong) in Chiang Mai

  • Grand Krathong procession and contest: 18.00-24.00 from Thapae Gate to Office of Chiang Mai Municipality

The Days after Yi Peng / Yee Peng (Loi Krathong) in Chiang Mai

Not much happens at all. A few people still release individual lanterns but basically the celebrations are over. Even the stationary lanterns outside many wats and buildings are turned off at night. Do don't let any tour operator tell you the celebration continues all week. It doesn't!

Do check out my guide to Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai.


Plan ahead to Chiang Mai


Transport to Chiang Mai being a headache? Or do you want to let the experts plan your trip to Chiang Mai and beyond so you can relax and enjoy yourself.

 


Accommodation in Chiang Mai for Yi Peng / Yee Peng & Loi Krathong


Accommodation in Chiang Mai for Yi Peng and Loi Krathong books out fast. Book well in advance for your preferred accommodation standards and prices. Prices are key as they often shoot up in the days leading to the festival..

Check out my great hotel search to get you the best online hotel prices for Chiang Mai

Remember, book well in advance for this years festival!


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Lanterns in the night sky during Yi Peng

Sky filled with floating lanterns during Yi Peng
Click photo to see a larger photograph of Lanterns in the sky at Yi Peng!
 

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Girl lighting lantern at Yi Peng

Girl Lighting Lantern at Yi Peng
 
From the travel blog
Day one of Yee Peng
Read a live report from the Sky Lantern Release at Mae Jo University as it happened. A great way to find out what to really expect read more ... Close-up of sky lanterns at Yee Peng
 
 
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