Postcards from Thailand #3: A Festival of Lanterns, Lights and Floats in Chiang Mai

A dragon signifying Thai-Chinese friendship during the Loi Krathong Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
A dragon signifying Thai-Chinese friendship during the Loi Krathong Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand

If you are in love, or want to make any wishes for your future life, head to Chiang Mai a few days before the full moon night of the 12th lunar month – usually falling in November. And participate in one of the most beautiful of festivals of lanterns, lights and floats.

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The Yi Peng festival is usually a four day affair, starting two days before the full moon night. With many more days of events and festivities. These are days when the whole town is decorated with lanterns, lights, flowers and other decorations. Schedules and events vary every year, but the first day is usually marked with a lantern and floats contest parade going through the old city from Thapae Gate to the Pantip Plaza.

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The skies come alive with hundreds and thousands of hot air balloons go into the sky. Called khome loy, these are usually made of saa paper (hand-made from mulberry tree). Its light texture lends itself to going up easily with the hot air generated from an oil lamp lit at its base. For the romantic at heart, it is a time to promise a life of happiness with their loved ones. Others make personal wishes, see it as their troubles floating away into the skies or connecting with the Buddha and seeking his blessings. Of course, come morning, and you will see these deflated balloons all over town.

The festival is also marked by music performances, theatre, beauty pageants, fireworks and lantern and balloon exhibitions. You will see lantern decorations and gigantic lit installations all over town.

The full moon night is marked by the Loi Krathong festival. On this day, people in Chiang Mai gather along the Ping river to release Krathongs into the water. A Krathong is a small vessel made of folded banana leaf attached to a slice of banana stalk. These are decorated with flowers, candles and joss sticks – releasing these in the water means you let your troubles float away. Loi means ‘to drift.’ Those in love reaffirm their feelings to one another. It can be quite a sight seeing thousand of these bringing the river alive in a different way. This festival is also celebrated in other regions of Thailand.

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These festivals have been celebrated for time immemorial, with different theories for their origins. It could linked to Buddhist festivities in the past, or inspired from the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali. In both cases, the linkages to India are strong, where both these religions originated.

Head to Chiang Mai anytime, but especially so during these festivals. Plan in advance – hotels and flights can be a problem with the rush of visitors.

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Hot air lanters (Khome Loy) being released in Chiang Mai
Hot air lanters (Khome Loy) being released in Chiang Mai
Image from a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Image from a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Image from a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Image from a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Dancers at a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Dancers at a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Dancers at a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Dancers at a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Image from a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Image from a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Dancer at a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Dancer at a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
A float during a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
A float during a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Fire dancer during a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Fire dancer during a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Images from a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Images from a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Image from a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Image from a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Image from a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Image from a parade during the Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Decorations in Chiang Mai during the Loi Krathong festival. The statue of 4 lions is depicted from the Ashoka Pillars from India
Decorations in Chiang Mai during the Loi Krathong festival. The statue of 4 lions is depicted from the Ashoka Pillars from India
Decorations in Chiang Mai during the Loi Krathong festival
Decorations in Chiang Mai during the Loi Krathong festival
Decorations in Chiang Mai during the Loi Krathong festival
Decorations in Chiang Mai during the Loi Krathong festival
Decorations in Chiang Mai during the Loi Krathong festival
Decorations in Chiang Mai during the Loi Krathong festival

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1 COMMENT

  1. The one thing that you can always find in Thailand are really great things to take pictures of. I love all the pictures and remember how much I enjoyed taking pictures in Thailand!

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