How to See the Floating Lantern Festival (Loi Krathong + Yi Peng) in Chiang Mai
Planning to visit Chiang Mai during the popular lantern festivals known as Loi Krathong and Yi Peng can be tricky. I had seen photos on Pinterest of the mass sky lantern release which takes place at the local Mae Jo University and was dying to fit it into our itinerary in November 2015. The event is scheduled based on the Thai lunar calendar, which means the date varies from year to year but usually falls in November.
The city usually hosts the event for three days, which used to mean that the lantern release occurred on each day. However, after a lantern got caught in the engine of a commercial plane landing in Chiang Mai, the government restricted the khom loy sky lantern release to only occur on the full moon (at least in 2015, things may have changed now). The experts on TripAdvisor were waiting to see how strictly this new policy would be enforced, which ended up being fairly strictly. In our case, this meant that the only mass lantern release at the university would be the day after we left. I had booked it this way, hoping we would be able to catch the event on the first day of the festival and then maximize our time at the beach in Krabi.
I was definitely disappointed that we would not be able to witness the mass sky lantern release, but felt so lucky that we were invited to celebrate Loi Krathong with Anantara. Loi Krathong is actually the most important part of the festival. During this event, everyone will make a floating lantern decorated with banana leaves, flowers, incense, money, food, and even locks of hair. Then they release the lanterns on the river to honor Buddha, let go of negative energy, and ward off bad fortune. The event also marks the end of the rainy season.
Anantara Chiang Mai put on a beautiful Loi Krathong celebration including a delicious spread of food and drinks, and entertainment by locals dressed in traditional Thai clothing. I loved the gorgeous pink, purple and gold hues of the women's dresses. I've since stayed at other Anantara properties and they seem to specialize in fabulous event planning, with unique decor and Instagram worthy spreads.
The resort provided us with our own floating lanterns to release on the river and I honestly felt so grateful to experience this beautiful tradition of letting go and hoping for the future. We even saw small groups of sky lanterns released in the sky around the city, though it was supposedly illegal.
This was truly a night that I will never forget. Thank you, Anantara Chiang Mai!
If you would like visit Chiang Mai during the Yi Peng and Loi Krathong festivals, just be sure to schedule your trip over the full moon in November. This year the full moon is November 4th, 2017. Tickets (over $100 per person) for the event at Mae Jo University may pop up on the internet throughout the year, but more than likely the event will not be approved by the government until closer to November.
Here is a useful TripAdvisor feed where local experts will be happy to answer your questions and keep you updated on the event. You can also work with your hotel to make plans. In any case, the entire city celebrates these festivals so you will be sure to have a unique experience where ever you stay.
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