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Light and Luck – The Yee Peng Festival of Chiang Mai

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Picture this, you’re looking at the November night sky in Thailand. Then, all of a sudden, a small flame illuminates the dark. A lantern rises, glowing in the inky black sky. It’s joined by one, then another and then thousands of lanterns that quickly follow. Suddenly the entire night is aflame with the light of a thousand small suns. As you watch, the lanterns drift, swirl and slowly dance in the cool breeze.

It’s breathtaking, it’s spiritual, it’s heavenly – it is the Yi Peng festival held in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Are you intrigued? Want to know more? Well, we’ve put together a guide to one of Thailand’s most beautiful festivals. Read on to discover more about this gorgeous festival of lights.

Moonlight, Lantern Light, Inner Light : Yee Peng Festival

The Yi Peng Festival
Image Source : chiangmaitraveller.com

In Northern Thailand, formerly known as the Lanna Kingdom, thousands of lanterns are released to celebrate the Yi Peng festival. “Yi” means two, while “Peng” means a full moon day. Yi Peng is usually celebrated on the full moon day of the second month, according to the Lanna Lunar Calendar. Although the dates may vary, the festival is generally celebrated in November.

Yi Peng celebrates the light, but behind the dazzle and illumination, is a deeper more spiritual purpose. This festival is a religious occasion that celebrates Buddha. When locals and devotees release the lanterns, they let go of all ills and misfortunes of the previous year. Buddhists also cherish the moment the lantern is released, as that is the moment to make a wish. It is believed that the wish, made at this time, will come true. With this small act, devotees rid themselves of the turmoil of the year, wiping the slate clean. They pray for merit, for luck and for a prosperous year to come.

Also Read : Songkran Festival In Thailand Is Too Good To Miss

Sky and Water – Yee Peng and Loi Krathong

Image Source : asiadmc.com

Many people often mix the two, however, there are key differences. Loi Krathong is celebrated by the entire country. Worshippers offer thanks to the Water Gods during this festival for bringing the rain to Thailand. Locals slip Krathongs – floating, lotus shaped floats with candles, incense and coins – into water bodies, creating lakes, rivers and water bodies filled with light and flame. Just like Yi Peng, locals believe that this act banishes bad luck.

While both seasons celebrate the turn of the season, Loi Krathong is dedicated to the end of the rainy season, while Yi Peng anticipates the coming of winter. Yi Peng was celebrated, originally, as a standalone festival, although over time it is celebrated in tandem with Loi Krathong.
Since Chiang Mai was the former capital of the Lanna Kingdom, the grandest Yi Peng celebrations are held there.

The Land under the Lights

khom-fai - Thailand
Image Source : asiagofun.com

When you can tear your eyes away from the sky, look down at the land under the lights. You’ll see homes and buildings around you decorated with bold, bright colours. Lanterns – known as khom fai – can be found on land too, anchored outside doors. They are carried at the end of sticks (khom kwaen). Lanterns (khom pariwat) are also found hanging from temples, revolving because of the heat inside them.

Temples and homes are also festooned with flowers and silky coconut leaves. The festival also includes traditional Thai dance shows, parades, live music shows, handicraft sessions and more. Vendors set up small stalls filled with delicious food. You’ll also find fireworks, firecrackers and small knickknacks to buy during the festival.

The Yi Peng festival is three days of love and light.

Launch Spots – Where can you go

The biggest event of Yi Peng used to be held at the Maejo University. However, due to complaints from aircraft carriers (lanterns being a hazard to passing aircrafts) and damage to the surrounding events, this grand event was cancelled. We mention this only because certain sources continue to cite Maejo university as the biggest lantern launch of the festival.

You can take part in the Yi Peng Lanna International event, which sees thousands of participants. The event allows you to buy, for 5,500 Baht, transfer to and from the city, 1 lantern and dinner for the evening. Another event you can participate in is Yi Peng Doi Saket. The standard package includes a lantern, a krathong, a small souvenir and transport to and from the city.

If you don’t want to pay to participate in the Yi Peng Festival, there are free events in Chiang Mai to celebrate the festival. Most of these include the firework shows, parades and the floating of khom lois from the Nawarat Bridge of the Mae Ping River. Unlike the paid events, where the lanterns are launched simultaneously, locals launch the lanterns one set at a time from the bridge.

Suggested Read : 9 Must-visit Places in Thailand

Letting the Lantern Go – Tips

Image Source : elegantsparklers.com

If you would like to send your own wish out, you should make sure you get a lantern to launch into the sky. However, you’re dealing with fire and flammable paper in a crowded area, so, it becomes important to follow the safety tips to conduct this beautiful ceremony successfully.

  • If this is your first time launching a lantern, buy a bigger version. These are easier to release. Be gentle when you’re holding the lantern. The paper is wafer thin and will tear under pressure.
  • When you’re lighting the lamp, use a long stick or long match. The length of the match will allow you to ease it into the centre lantern and will minimise any chance of burns on your hands.
  • Do not try and release the lantern on your own (if it is your first time, or if you’re launching a large lantern). Hold the lantern with the lit coil at the bottom. The sides of the lantern should be held taut between a group of people and should be extended as high as possible. Not only does this minimise the risk of anything going wrong, but it’s also a time to bond with others as you share this moment.
  • Wait for the lantern to fill with hot air and if there is a suitable amount of resistance from the wind before you release it.
  • If you would like to inscribe a wish or message on the lantern, vendors will sell you the markers which you can use.
  • If the circular block does not light immediately, gently chip away small portions and then light the newly exposed areas.
  • Don’t forget to make your wish as you release the lantern!

There are some additional tips you can follow during the Yi Peng Festival.

  • Since this is a religious festival, make sure you do a little research on the local customs and etiquette before you step out. That way the festival, its traditions and what you need to do will be clear, and you won’t need to ask others, in case you are confused.
  • If you are visiting a temple during the Yi Peng Festival, dress modestly. Your knees and shoulders must remain covered.
  • Due to the popularity of the festival, Chiang Mai becomes congested and traffic is a gridlock. So, plan to leave for the festival well in advance. November is also the best time to visit Thailand, and so hotels and flight prices will skyrocket. Be safe and book in advance.
  • Make sure you’re carrying a great camera, so you can capture memories from this incredible festival.

Must Read : How to Save Money for International Festival and Enjoy Yourself at One

How can we help?

At Thomas Cook, we’re always on the hunt for unique experiences. A thousand lanterns in the sky? Colours, parades, music and festivity? These are moments and experiences that we’d like our travellers to sink into. Which is why we’ve created an exclusive Festival of Lights package for the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai. Five nights and six days of participating in the festival, visiting the Doi Inthanon National Park, touring the temples of Chiang Mai and a day at the beautiful and bustling city of Bangkok. You can look through the trip details here and make your booking.

So, this November, carry your greatest wish with your luggage, and send it into the universe with the power of a lantern.

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