Chiang Mai is well-known not only for its natural heritage but also for its festivals that celebrate the wealth of culture, religions, and nature of the country. It’s said that the best time to visit Chiang Mai is from November to February as you will be able to enjoy the most beautiful weather and a wonderful festival called Yi Peng.
Yi Peng is one of the most popular Chiang Mai November festivals, together with some others such as Loy Krathong, Surin Elephant Festival and Lopburi Sunflower Festival.
1. What is Yi Peng?
Yi Peng ( also written as Yee Peng) is a festival uniquely celebrated in Northern Thailand on the full moon of the twelfth lunar month every year. It precedes Loy Krathong which is a floating lantern festival in November. This festival has origin from the ancient Lanna Kingdom and aligned with the lunar calendar, so the date when it takes place changes each year. In the festival day, thousands of lanterns are released to the sky creating a stunning picture full of lights. Temples and houses are decorated with “khom fai” (paper lantern). Thai people believe that the lanterns will carry all the illness and bad luck, and every wish made at the time the lanterns are released will come true.
During the festival time, many tourists travel to Chiang Mai to experience the beautiful picture of nature, lights, and people. If you come to Chiang Mai at this time, you shouldn’t miss it. And it’s important to know exactly what to prepare and buy for the festival night, which places are allowed to release lanterns because you will be fined if you go against the rules.
2. What to prepare for Yi Peng?
Before attending the lantern festival, you should make sure to choose a hotel which is suitable for traveling to some famous spots of lantern release first => you may want to read our suggest on best areas to stay in Chiang Mai.
After getting your accommodation done, you will need a lantern for yourself. It’s no problem if you don’t have one and just watch lanterns flying in the sky, but perhaps no one want to miss the opportunity of joining and letting the lanterns go by yourself. You can buy the sky lanterns inside the venue for only 100 baht (about $3). Lanterns are also sold at the entrance to the venue but the security guard won’t let you bring them in. There’s no need to buy one lantern per person because it’s really big and there have to be two or more hands to hold. One more thing to remember is that you have to arrive early for a spot in the venue because people usually wait there much time before Yi Peng occurs. It’s better to come when there is still sunlight and buy some street foods to try.
3. Where to go for Yi Peng?
Usually, people often go to Lanna Dhutanka Buddhist Center behind Mae Jo University for releasing but there are some other places that are available too such as the Cowboy Army Riding Club in Mae Rim District, Doi Saket or at the Nawarat Bridge of Old Town. You had better get more information about them.
#1: Mae Jo University
This is the most famous place to observe the lantern festival as it’s held at the temple with a richly religious atmosphere. This place is 20km far from downtown Chiang Mai. The festival here offers about 4000-6000 seats for tourists and locals to join in. One thing that is great is the atmosphere, not only releasing lanterns, participants also have time to pray, meditate and think of themselves. Actually, it’s religiously amazing to take part in the festival near Mae Jo University.
Ticket: If you buy tickets online, there are many travel agencies that sell the full service including lanterns, food and beverage, souvenirs and transportation to pick you up at the hotel. The price is about 5600 baht ($169) for a Standard ticket and up to 7200 baht ($217) for a Premium ticket. A seat including one sky lantern (no Krathong), 1 snack box, Thai food, desserts, and drinking water, 1 souvenir set and transportation.
Children under 12 are allowed to join for free but without any protection from the temple. They can be asked to leave in case they make so much noise.
#2: Cowboy Army Riding Club
Travelers can join the festival at this place, it’s called CAD Khom Loi Lantern Festival. It is held in the open air and hosted by Chiang Mai Culture Art and Design (CAD). CAD Khom Loi Lantern Festival brings not only religious but also delightful atmosphere to participants. There are more seats for tourists at the Cowboy Army Riding Club than at Mae Jo University, about 3500-4000 seats and the price is more reasonable.
– Standard seat: 2999 baht (about $91) – including entrance fee, free unlimited food & beverage, hand painting souvenir, 2 lanterns, pick up and drop off at your hotel and watch the show and participate in every activity in the ceremony area.
– VIP seat: 3999 baht (about $121) – including all the stuff that a Standard seat provides plus better view and closer to the holy pagoda and your name on Brass Bodhi leaf for casting Buddha image.
However, children under 12 also have to buy a ticket to go to the ceremony area. They will have to take care of themselves too because the center is not responsible for their safety.
Both of them share the same festival schedule in the evening so you can choose one of them to join. However, participants must follow some obliged rules:
- All participants have to dress in polite clothing.
- Keep silent when you are joining in any religious activities.
- No alcohol, no smoking in the ceremony area.
- Firecrackers, weapons, illegal objects are prohibited.
- Not allow using selfie stick, ladder, tripod equipment.
#3: The Nawarat Bridge
The Nawarat Bridge located in the east of Chiang Mai. People could buy sky lanterns and release them here freely. Of course, there won’t be a sky full of lanterns at Nawarat Bridge but it’s suitable for those who aren’t fond of being with the crowd but also want to enjoy Yi Peng. Standing on this bridge, you are able to witness the beautiful picture of the festival without paying a high amount of money for it.
In the previous years, the Thai government allows releasing lanterns in every street in Chiang Mai, but from the year 2015, they have tightened the rules. Both locals and tourists cannot release lanterns where there is no fire security. You must be careful when choosing a place to join the festival because you can be fined and arrested by the police if you do not follow the rules.
4. What to keep in mind when joining Yi Peng?
The festival is outstandingly wonderful but as a participant, you should keep in mind those things so there’re no bad things happen.
- Be aware of the lanterns and the people around you. There are so many lanterns used in the festival night so you’d better look at how other people light and hold the lanterns before lighting your own.
- Make sure the lanterns are completely heated to fly up to the sky because if not, they will drop down and cause injuries.
- Be cautious of the distance between you and other people when participating in the ceremony.
- Last but not least, it’s not good to light up too many lanterns. The environment will not appreciate that and the cleaning up teams will have to work really hard the next morning to tidy up all the surface.
Overall, Yi Peng is one the most recommended festival for tourists and travelers when going to Chiang Mai. With our suggestions above, hope that you will find it easier and more fun to book a ticket right now in order not to miss the chance of enjoying the stunning moments!
READ ALSO: Other lantern festivals in Asia 2019.