Are you planning on attending the Loi Krathong and Yi Peng festival? I lived in Chiang Mai for almost four years and had the pleasure of going to this festival a few times. In this article, I would like to tell you more about this celebration and provide recommendations for your experience.
I grew up in Pennsylvania but moved around a bit as a child which is part of the reason why I ended up living a fairly nomadic lifestyle. I moved to Beirut, Lebanon after finishing university and lived there for almost two years before moving to Thailand in 2015 where I lived until 2019.
The more I traveled, the more I saw and the more I was inspired. I was fortunate to find jobs that allowed me to live abroad and work for causes that I believed in. That is why I spent so much time outside of the USA.
Living in Chiang Mai for Four Years
I lived in Chiang Mai for almost four years and fell in love with the culture, friendliness of the people, delicious food, scenery and friends and memories I made. Thailand is a popular destination for those looking to settle for a bit and work on themselves or as a place to work remotely.
Finding a vibrant expat community in Chiang Mai was relatively easy. The city has a thriving music, art, health and party scene. DIY festivals, open mic nights, exhibits, raves, poetry nights, yoga, hiking – you name it and there is a scene for it! I had such an awesome time in Chiang Mai and 100% recommend this city either for living the expat life or visiting for a few days.
Magical Loi Krathong & Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai
The Loi Krathong festival is a religious celebration where people release small decorated vessels holding candles, coins, fruit, flowers and a number of other offerings onto rivers all across Thailand at the full moon of the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar. This date typically falls in November.
The release of the vessels is meant to be an offering to spirits, as well as symbolize the release of negativity and bad feelings that float away down the river. Loi Krathong also falls on the same days as Yi Peng which originated in Northern Thailand where lanterns are released into the sky.
While the Yi Peng festival originated in Northern Thailand, the release of the lanterns is now a practice all over the country. Chiang Mai remains the best place to see both the krathongs released on the river and the lanterns.
Both festivals happen simultaneously and Chiang Mai is always packed with visitors releasing lanterns, buying firecrackers, eating a number of delicious foods from street vendors, and building or buying krathongs to float down the river. For three nights, the sky is full of lights and the river is full of twinkling candles that float downstream. It’s such a cool atmosphere!
My Experience at the Loi Krathong & Yi Peng Festival
During my experiences at the Loi Krathong and Yi Peng festival, I enjoyed sitting by the river and taking it all in – the lights, sounds and smells of so many people! In many ways, it can be overwhelming but despite the crowds you can still feel this spiritual energy as people release their fears, anger, negativity and attach wishes and dreams to the items they release.
I loved exploring Chiang Mai during this time with my friends. Seeing the different sights and taking a somber moment to release my own lantern was just an extraordinary experience. One that I will never forget!
Need to Know about Chiang Mai
Here are some essentials for any Chiang Mai visit. If you are able to, take the overnight sleeper train which leaves from Hua Lamphong Station in Bangkok. It fills up very quickly – so booking in advance is a good idea!
Once you arrive in Chiang Mai, I would suggest staying at a hostel or backpackers for the experience of meeting other travelers as well as having helpful staff who can give you advice on places to go, see and eat.
When it comes to food, the sky’s the limit! My recommendations are Khao Soi which is a Northern Thai curry noodle soup that is a staple and Som Tam – a green papaya salad with sticky rice. But the best advice is if you see it then eat it! I often followed this advice and was rarely disappointed.
Tips for Loi Krathong & Yi Peng
If you plan on attending the Loi Krathong and Yi Peng festival, be aware that the city is often full. Booking ahead can be a smart move – especially regarding transport to and from Chiang Mai. The festivities happen everywhere, mostly concentrated around the riverfront area of the city.
For the more adventurous types, you can find smaller outlying suburbs that hold their own local events where very few foreigners go. These events are often held near temples. When you head out, expect the riverfront area to be packed with people. But don’t worry, you will have no problem finding vendors to buy krathongs (to float on the river) or khom loi lanterns.
However, keep in mind that there is an environmental impact. The lanterns will land in fields and forests, and while the paper degrades quickly, the wire won’t. Also, only buy krathongs that are made from banana leafs or natural materials, not styrofoam or materials that clog up the river.
Even if you decide not to release your own khom loi or krathong, it’s worth it to go and watch the spectacle. Find a less busy corner of Chiang Mai and take in the beauty of the night as people launch their prayers into the sky and river. Bask in the deep cultural significance of purification.