Hubby and I were just reminiscing that at this time last year, we were in his hometown of Chiang Mai, sending fire-lit lanterns into the sky and floating decorations down the Ping River. We loved being able to participate in these festivities of the Loy Krathong and Yi Peng celebrations in Thailand, and thought it’d be fun to share our experiences with you.
Loy Krathong is meant to honor the water spirits by floating beautifully-decorated vessels (krathong/กระทง) down rivers and streams, while Yi Peng stems from an old Lanna ritual of making merit and is celebrated by floating paper lanterns (khom loi/โคมลอย) into the sky. Both celebrations fall on the twelfth full moon of the Thai lunar calendar, which is usually some time in November, making it a very festive time of year!
When we arrived in Chiang Mai last November, a lantern parade signifying the start of the celebrations was moving through town. After quickly checking into our hotel for the night, we hurried down to the Night Bazaar to watch the procession. The road was filled with Thai schools and other groups marching to traditional Thai music and carrying elaborate paper lanterns. It was a neat start to the festivities!
The following day, as we were walking back to the hotel after dinner, we ran into a group of people outside of a coffee shop lighting paper lanterns and watching them float off into the dark blue sky. They were kind enough to sell us some lanterns and pointed us in the direction of the major lantern lighting scene by the moat surrounding the city center.
We joined the large crowd that had gathered, borrowed one of the lighters that was circulating, and lit the fuel ring of our khom loi. As the fire grew, we carefully turned the lantern right side up and placed it on the ground to gather enough hot air to float away. Once it was dancing on the ground, trying to escape our grasp, hubby and I silently made our wishes and sent the fiery lantern on its way up into the night sky to join the others. It was such a beautiful scene and a wonderful way to end our first full day in Chiang Mai.
Each night that week, the sky was dotted with more and more fire-lit lanterns. There is an official lantern release near Mae Jo University, in the north of Chiang Mai, but I’m glad we stayed in town. The spirit of the lantern lighters was jovial and light, and there were more than enough lanterns to go around… with some very creative ones in the mix!
The next day, hubby and I ventured out to one of the main markets in Chiang Mai, Dtalat Warorot. Outside of the market, there were many dozen stalls selling beautiful krathongs decorated with banana leaves, flowers, and incense candles to float down the river. Although the pre-made krathongs were gorgeous, we decided it would be more meaningful to make our own. I’ll show you how we did it in the next blog post.
That night, we ventured down to the Ping riverbank and sent our little krathong on its way, silently watching as it floated further and further out into the shimmering dark distance.
Both the lantern lighting and the krathong floating were pretty magical ways to spend our time in Chiang Mai, of course in addition to tasting the city’s best food offerings (like Pad Thai Ha Roat!) This year, the Loy Krathong and Yi Peng festivities in Chiang Mai run from November 24th through the 26th. If you are there for the celebration, or if you’ve been in the past, we’d love to hear about your experience!
P.S. — Watch out for fireworks being thrown at you! I narrowly escaped with only one charred toe…