One of the most beautiful festivals in Thailand takes place on the full moon night of the 12th lunar month. It is known in Thai as Loy Krathong, but is sometimes referred to as the Festival of Lights. The next one will take place nationwide on 10th November 2011. For many years I have been floating my krathong, a kind of bowl made from banana plants, on my local river in Samut Prakan. This year I was really happy to get an invitation to take part in the “Yee Peng Festival” in Chiang Mai.
Yee Peng (sometimes written as Yi Peng), is Northern Thailand’s version of the Festival of Lights in the 12th lunar month. Like the rest of Thailand, they do float krathongs on the rivers and canals, but they are increasingly more famous for their floating lanterns called “Khome Yee Peng”. This is what you can see in the pictures on this page. The idea is much the same. You say a prayer and make a wish and watch as your “krathong” or “khome” floats away.
I am sure Loy Krathong used to be just a one day affair, if not just one night during the full moon in November. However, in recent years it seems to be a much longer festival lasting three to five days. I don’t think any where else in Thailand do they celebrate the Festival of Lights more passionately than in Chiang Mai. The whole of the city was beautifully decorated with lanterns and flags. But, it is the sound of firecrackers and fireworks exploding that amazed me the most. Even when I woke up at 7 a.m. I could still hear them celebrating.
In Chiang Mai they had parades and cultural demonstrations every day with the biggest and most impressive reserved for the last day. At first I thought people would be setting off the lanterns only on the night of the full moon but they were doing it every night. On the evening of Loy Krathong we ate our dinner in a restaurant along the Mae Ping River. The sound of firecrackers was constant and up in the sky there were countless floating lanterns. And more were going up all the time.
It was such an emotional sight seeing so many happy people taking part in this event. I took quite a few pictures and then decided it was time to float my own “khome” up into the sky. It is not that difficult and they only cost about 35 baht each. You stand in a circle with friends holding onto the edge and as the flame fills the lantern up with hot air you can feel it starting to rise. I made a quick wish and then we all let go and watched the lantern float up into the sky. Many people believe that the lantern will carry your troubles away with it.
The biggest launch of lanterns takes place outside of Chiang Mai City and I would love to go again to spend more time enjoying this wonderful and unique festival. Many thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) for inviting me on this trip. Please visit our Thai Festival Blogs for all the latest news and dates for festivals and events in Thailand. You can also follow me on Twitter @RichardBarrow where you will be able to see live pictures from these festivals.