We returned to Thailand by plane, arriving in Chiang Mai, in the northern part of the country, where lanterns were ready to lighten up for the famous Buddhist festival of light.
We arrived late in the afternoon and had difficulties to find a transfer from the airport, as most taxi and tuk-tuk drivers were kept busy on the crowded streets of the city. As a last-minute solution, we decided to take an expensive prepaid minibus ride from the airport, which brought us at our accommodation just before it got dark outside. We managed so to unpack fast our luggage and take a tuk-tuk to the city center where we joined the crowds of tourists.
Loy Krathong or Yee Peng?
Chiang Mai is one of the hot spots in Southeast Asia during this time because of the famous festival of lanterns that brings thousands of tourists into the city every year. If you already searched for some information about it, then you probably came across two names that refer to the festival of light:
Loy Krathong (which means swimming or floating handmade boat): is celebrated with floating flower bouquets that are sent down the river to release anger or negativity. The festival is held on the 12th full moon of the Luna month every year and that’s why it always takes place on a different date.
Yee Peng: In Chiang Mai, Loy Krathong coincides with the Lanna festival Yee Peng (northern Thailand), which is celebrated during the full moon day of the 2nd month of the Lanna calendar.
The Khom Loi, as the lanterns are called, are sent to the sky to scare bad luck away or to make a wish.
During these festivals, the city lights up with beautifully decorated streets and temples, with a sky full of lanterns and a river covered by floating little bouquets.
Where to see the lanterns during the Festival of Light?
There’s plenty of information about the festival on online platforms, which we found rather confusing than helpful. Like many others, we wanted to find the best spot to see the lanterns being launched into the sky and, while many people recommended different places, we found out that it was enough to walk to the city center in the evening and wait for the lanterns to lighten up.
Most of them were launched from the Narawat Bridge, which we believe is a good spot because from there you can observe also the lights floating on the river. But note that you’ll be able to see them all over the city. Thousands of visitors patrolled the streets in the evening and thousands of lanterns filled the sky with light for several hours, starting from 7 PM until about eleven. So don’t worry about being late, as lanterns can be seen in high numbers all evening.
There are also private events held outside the city which involve paying a high fee in order to participate. But, as long as you are not searching only for perfect pictures for your social media accounts, we think that the events happening in the city are already a more than rewarding experience. For a meaningful experience, we recommend looking for a place near the main temples, where Buddhist priests will launch lanterns and pray during the festival.
What else is there to do in Chiang Mai?
We did not spend much time in Chiang Mai, but we enjoyed the city for the beautiful temples, the wide range of boutiques, western coffee shops and the different types of restaurants.
We left Chiang Mai after 4 days with a bus that brought us to the border with Laos, from where we crossed into the new country.
Here are a few more photos from Chiang Mai: