What is Yi Peng Festival?
Yi Peng (sometimes written as Yee Peng), the festival of light, or the sky lantern festival, is predominantly a northern Thailand celebration. Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna Kingdom in northern Thailand, hosts the grandest Yi Peng Festival celebration every year.
During the celebrations, thousands of people gather to release paper lanterns that are gently lifted into the sky by the hot air expelled from the flame at their base.
This holiday coincides with the nationally celebrated Loy Krathong Festival (floating lantern festival), Yee Peng attracts tens of thousands of tourists every year and is a spectacular event.
In 2020, Yi Peng is on October 31 and November 1
Yee Peng is celebrated on the full moon night of the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar. Though the exact dates vary each year and are only officially announced around two months beforehand, the holiday normally falls in mid-November.
In 2020, the Chiang Mai Yi Peng festival will be held on October 31st and November 1st.
This coincides with the celebrations of Loy Krathong, the floating lantern festival where on October 31st rafts with lit candles are released on rivers and waterways throughout Thailand.
Yi Peng and Loy Krathong Are Two Different Festivals!
These two 'light' festivals are often confused for one another because they occur on the same day and are similar types of celebrations both including the release of different types of lanterns, cultural performances, and parades.
One major difference is that Loy Krathong is celebrated all across Thailand while Yi Peng is celebrated mainly in northern Thailand, especially in Chiang Mai. During Loy Krathong, raft-like Krathong lanterns made from banana leaves are released to float on rivers and lakes whereas during Yi Peng bamboo paper Khom Loi lanterns are released into the sky.
Here are the major differences between the two festivals:
Why is Yi Peng Celebrated?
In Thai Lanna tradition, the Yi Peng festival is celebrated as a way to release negative energy and wish for good luck and good fortune in the coming year. The festival is also a way to honor Buddha and the legend of Yi Peng has been traced back to the story that a candle-carrying bird once flew around Buddha to pay his respect and gain merit.
How to Celebrate Yi Peng in Chiang Mai
There are plenty of other activities that happen all over Chiang Mai during Yi Peng. These include worship rituals, decoration contests, bazaars, parades traditional Thai dance shows, the official ‘Yee Peng Parade’ around the Old City gate and down Tha Phae Road, live music, and handicraft sessions. You can also expect lots of food vendors setting up, firecrackers, fireworks.
For travelers, the biggest events to attend are the mass lantern releases. Two of the most popular releases include the CAD Sky Sports Stadium release and the Maejo University release. These two offer the best lantern release experiences along with cultural performances. Get your tickets for a 2020 lantern release today.
During the festival, some people also decorate their houses, gardens, and temples with khom fai, intricately shaped paper lanterns that take on different forms.
Where to See Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai
Lanterns are released into the sky all over Chiang Mai and during the night there are at least three main places where you can enjoy the event for free!
In general, free lantern releases are best for budget travelers. For those who really want to get incredible photos of thousands of lanterns floating in the sky, it's a good idea to go to a mass lantern release event such as those at CAD or Maejo University.
Learn more about where you can release lanterns for Yi Peng in Chiang Mai.
3 Best Free Lantern Releases:
- Narawat Bride
- Three Kings Monument
- Thapae Gate
2 Best Paid Lantern Releases:
1. Lanna Dhutanka Buddhist Center (Mae Jo University) Sky Lantern Mass Release
The classic place for travelers who want to get that iconic photograph. This is also one of the first mass lantern releases to exist in Chiang Mai and is organized by a Buddhist monastery as a fundraising project to help the Thai Hill Tribe communities.
- Details：3000 sky lanterns released
- Ticket price: starts from $260
- Location: 1-hour drive (20 km) from the Chiang Mai old town
- What's included: Pick-up and transfer back, Thai Buffet Dinner, and a Lantern
2. Chiang Mai CAD Lantern Release
This lantern release is organized by the Chiang Mai Culture Art and Design group. The benefit of attending this release as opposed to the Maejo University release is that it is more affordable, offers interesting cultural performances, and tickets go on sale around a year in advance.
- Details: 4500 sky lanterns released
- Ticket price: starts from $ 143
- Location: 50 minutes drive (19 km) from downtown Chiang Mai
- What's included: Pick-up and transfer back, Thai Buffet Dinner, 2 Lanterns
How to Release your Lantern Successfully
Because Yi Peng centers on wishing for luck in the future year, in Thai culture it is considered important to successfully release your khom loi. If the fire goes out or your lantern quickly falls back to earth, it could be a sign that your wish won't come true!
1. Get your Khom Loi Sky Lantern
If you are attending a mass lantern release, environmentally friendly lanterns are provided with your entrance ticket. CAD provides each guest with 2 lanterns and Maejo University provides 1.
If you are releasing the lantern yourself, you'll need to purchase one from a street vendor. It's best to buy a big lantern because they are easier to release. It's also important to make sure they are made from environmentally friendly materials like rice paper and bamboo.
2. Find a lantern release partner
Khom Loi are very difficult to release correctly by yourself, so make sure you are either traveler with at least one other person or meet another person that can help you release your lantern.
Once you find your partner, hold the lantern tightly between the two of you and prepare to light it. In Buddhist tradition, it is common to meditate on your goals for the future year at this stage.
3. Light your lantern
The next step is to light a long stick or match and use it to light the circular block at the base of the sky lantern. Once this ignites, hold the lantern tightly and wait for it to fill with hot air.
4. Gently lift your lantern and make a wish
Once the lantern starts to fill with hot air, it will start pulling upwards. Let it lift naturally and don't push it up. Once it starts to lift and pulls on your arms, you can make a wish then gently release it and watch it float up into the night sky.
Some travelers like to write their wishes directly on the lanterns, you can do this or just make your wish in your head as you let go.
5 Things You Must Know About Yi Peng Festival
- Book hotels early if you wish to experience the event! Yi Peng is the busiest time of year to visit Chiang Mai. The small city receives many tourists traveling to enjoy the lantern festival hotel rooms sell out rapidly!
- Chiang Mai during Yi Peng is very crowded. Chiang Mai doubles in population during the week leading up to Yi Peng. You should be prepared for the streets to be crowded with other travelers, cars, and tuk-tuks.
- You can only release lanterns at certain places and between 7 pm and 1 am on that day. The sky lanterns pose a safety threat to planes flying over Chiang Mai’s international airport which is why the release is only allowed at a specific time. The government has introduced fines ranging from around $3,000 USD and jail time for those who release lanterns in unapproved locations or outside of the specified release time.
- If you are an avid photographer you should stay in Chiang Mai for at least three days and try to attend a mass lantern release for the iconic photos and a local release for a more laid back and cultural experience.
- Remember to be respectful because this is a Buddhist holiday. When attending any holiday events or lantern releases it is important to wear clothes that cover the shoulders and knees.