Loy Krathong and Yi Peng Lantern Festival: Spectacular Visual Drama Unlike Any Other
Every November, Thailand’s Chiang Mai transforms itself into a spellbinding city that looks and feels like a description out of a fantasy novel, as citizens and tourists gather in numbers to celebrate Loy Krathong and Yi Peng. Look up and you’ll see thousands of lanterns glimmering against the night’s sky like swarms of fireflies. Look across and you’ll see droves of baskets illuminate lakes and rivers akin to glowing corals deep in the ocean. It’s a magical sight to behold.
But what exactly is ‘Loy Krathong’ and ‘Yi Peng’? And yes, in case you’re wondering, they’re two separate occasions coincide with each other wonderfully.
Loy Krathong (which loosely translates to ‘to float a basket’) is a Siamese festival celebrated annually in Thailand in which people, as the festival’s name suggests, float colourfully decorated baskets with candles, down rivers or lakes. It is traditionally a Buddhist festival that sees devotees pray to the water goddess Mae Khongkha as they set their baskets to sail down the riverbanks, thanking the goddess for blessing them with clean water to consume and also asking her for forgiveness for wasting or contaminating water.
That said, these days the festival is mostly used to mark a new beginning of sorts and each basket is attached with prayers, memories or even wishes. A cheeky tourist once told us that she once attached a paper which read “please please please, give me a handsome and super-rich boyfriend,” on her basket. Apparently, Mae Khongkha wasn’t very pleased as her basket-boat immediately sank to the bottom of the river.
During the festivities, Krathongs (the buoyant lantern baskets) will be available for purchase along all major waterways in Thailand. The prices will differ according to how elaborate the decoration of the Krathong is.
Much like most Asian festivals, the date of the festival differs from year to year depending on traditional calendars (in this case it’s the Thai lunar calendar). Usually, though, Loy Krathong is celebrated in the month of November.
Accompanying Loy Krathong is a festival known as Yi Peng AKA Full Moon Day. During this festival, flocks of floating lanterns are launched into the air towards the black of the night’s sky like tiny hot air balloons. The lanterns known as Khom Loi are usually made from thin fabrics that are stretched across a bamboo or wireframe and is attached with a candle or fuel cell.
Much like Loy Krathong, Yi Peng is also celebrated to wish away bad luck or as a sign of a new beginning. It is believed that as your lantern floats further and further away from you and finally out of sight, you’ll be healed from all bad omens and misfortunes.
As far as pricing goes, it’s a little tricky. There are various spots in Chiang Mai that celebrate Yi Peng, with the most bombastic of celebrations taking place at Mae Jo University. If you’ve seen breathtaking pictures online of lanterns blanketing the skies of Thailand, chances are they were snapped at this particular event.
Tickets of the event cost between THB 5600 – 12500. It’s pricey, but it’s undoubtedly a surreal and one of a kind experience. Apart from watching lanterns float in the sky, there will also be plenty of stalls selling scrumptious Thai delicacies as well as stage performances too.
But if you’re looking for something cheaper, you might want to check out the quieter and more romantic Nawarat Bridge, situated to the east of Chiang Mai Old City. All you have to do is to pay around THB 40 for the lantern with no additional costs to enter and join the festivities.
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