My sole reason for returning to Chiang Mai was so that I could finally witness the Yi Peng lantern festival in person.
Narrowly missing it by about a week last year and subsequently having to look at my friends’ amazing photos for the next week had Dave and I jealously vowing that we would be back in Chiang Mai to see it in 2012.
Yi Peng is a traditional Northern Thailand festival, which takes place around the same time as Loy Krathong and is an event for making merit, meditating and releasing floating paper lanterns, symbolic of letting go of worries and making wishes for the future.
The biggest and best of these events takes place at Mae Jo University, 20 kilometres north of Chiang Mai. To keep too many tourists from attending they don’t announce the actual date of the release until a month or so beforehand, meaning that Dave and I had to keep our travel plans very loose over the last few months! Despite a lot of stress and confusion, and me being convinced that my curse in Cambodia would lead to us missing it, we made it!
And I am very pleased to say that it didn’t disappoint.
We arrived early. After wandering around and wondering why so many areas were cordoned off, our group found a patch of grass in what I was informed was a good position and spent the next few hours hiding under umbrellas, buying our lanterns and eating food. It was a long, hot wait, but one that was definitely worth it.
And so began the ceremony. Beginning with an hour long meditation and prayer, we unfortunately couldn’t hear or see much of this at all due to tour groups loudly chattering and fireworks exploding in the distance.
Suddenly, a buzz of activity formed as people jumped to their feet, lighting candles and reaching for their lanterns.
Finally, the time had come.
The lanterns laid out and ready on the grass.
The candle we used to light our lanterns.
Lighting our lanterns!
Our good friend Shawna took this photo of Dave and I making a wish and releasing our lantern. I love how captivated we look in this shot!
Watching our lantern float up to join the others…
And then the evening was finished off with a surprise firework display!
Yi Peng was so incredibly beautiful and one of the most amazing things I’ve ever witnessed. It was 100% worth coming all the way back to Chiang Mai for and I have a feeling that this won’t be the last time I’ll be here for it…
It’s too beautiful ! Now I’m the one who’s jealous looking at your amazing pictures, boo hoo :((
I wish I could have celebrated my birthday there. It would be unforgettable
Thank you so much, Debby! Hopefully one day you’ll be able to celebrate your birthday there :)
Amazing photos! The ceremony must be so magical!
Thanks, Julika! “Magical” sums it up perfectly!
shame we didn’t see you there. i brought my parents to witness this and they were gobsmacked! next year sacha and i are going to watch this in Sukhothai to mix it up a bit.
Awesome! I was in Sukhothai a few days before Yi Peng and it looked like it would be amazing there! I hope to catch it there one year too :)
Aww I’m so jealous! Definitely coming back for this next year. Love the pic of you and Dave!
I’d love to come back for this next year but I’ll probably be in Central America by then!
Loving the photos big time! Very glad you didn’t wait three months to put these up!
Thanks, Carl! I would have gone crazy waiting months to write about this!
Gorgeous. As someone with an obsessive tendency myself, I’m glad you shared so soon!!
Thanks, Cat! My OCD is still freaking out about it but it was definitely worth sharing early :)
Every time I see this happening in video or pictures it looks like a great time. Simple, yet beautiful!
Doesn’t it?! I’ve been desperate to see this from the very first photo I saw of it!
I love these photos! Thank you so much for sharing. This looks like a must-do experience.
Thanks, Melanie! It’s definitely something everybody should experience once!
Well, I’m really glad you decided to interrupt your regularly-scheduled posts, because this is stunning! Your photos are fantastic and make me wish I had been there, too! It looks like an amazing experience.
Thanks, Amanda! You’ll have to get there someday :)
So beautiful, I will be there next year. Can’t wait!!
Awesome! Hope you enjoy it next year, Brend!
It looks amazing, I hope to make it to this event in the near future! The photos were amazing by the way!
Thank you so much, Bob!
Very cool! I’ve always wanted to see that too… I had no idea it was complicated to get in on though! Thanks for sharing!
Yeah, if you don’t want to pay close to $100 for the touristy event, then it makes it a bit tricky to plan for it!
I’ve never been to a lantern festival where they actually release lanterns into the air like little hot air balloons. Seen many photos though – they all look great!
What have they done at the festivals you’ve been to?! Surely the only thing to do with them is to release them!
What a spectacular celebration! I love the purpose behind it and hope that for the many who take part, their wishes and hopes come true. How great it must have been to release your own lantern. So amazingly beautiful! BTW, that’s great photo of you two :-)
Thanks, Gayla! :) It was my first time releasing a floating lantern and it’s an experience I’ll always remember!
I was there! Had an amazing time! i can’t believe they were giving all the food away for free also! Nice photo’s!!
Ha, I didn’t know there was free food, I bought my own with me!
Looks stunning! Definitely need to go to this one year.
Yes, you definitely do! :)
Wow! What a thrill to not just witness but participate in such a beautiful event. And not just visually beautiful – sending off your worries and wishes…oh, if only all of life was so simple. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks, RobRob. I loved getting to participate as well as watch! If only you could send off all of your worries!
Ahh this looks SO pretty! I’ve gotta say though, I’m surprised you didn’t set your hair on fire.
I know, right?! Some people let off the lanterns too early and they would rise a little bit before falling back down to earth on top of the crowd!!
Thank you so much, Stephanie! :)
This Is absolutely amazing!!!!! Xxx
It really was! :)
Love the photos–they are beautiful! Looks like an amazing time. I’ve always wanted to see this–hopefully I can make it there one day!
Thank you, Jenna! I hope you get to see it too, it was so much more amazing than I had expected!
I’m so sad. I arrived the day after, thinking it was happening on the 28th. I still released my lantern, but I didn’t get these awesome photos. Looks like I had the same experience you had last year, and now I’ve made myself the same promise!
Your photos are gorgeous! I’d love to see that someday. I’m glad you were able to make it this year, looks like a wonderful experience!
Your photos are spectacular!! There is an annual lantern festival in Taiwan, at Pingxi, but I’ve never been there because of the traffic jam and crowd. Maybe I should go once, your photos motive me, haha. People can write their wishes and hopes on the lanterns here, it’s quiet interesting. :-)
I just can’t pay $88 for a staged ceremony. The result is beautiful but the process would be a stain on my soul.
Beautiful photographs! I’m glad whenever I find other people who were moved by this breathtaking ceremony. What a special time to be in Thailand =) Have a look at my post on Yi Peng here: http://marketofeden.blogspot.com/2013/05/lantern-festival-in-chiang-mai.html
Thanks for sharing, Adrian! Your Yi Peng photos are great!
I just stumbled upon your website, and I’m enjoying reading about your adventures! This lantern ceremony is amazingly beautiful!! Your photos are stunning but I’m sure they’re nothing compared to the real thing. What a life-changing experience!
Thanks, Amy! I highly recommend visiting one day if you get a chance :-)
These photos look amazing. I can’t wait to visit
Thank you! It’s a pretty magical experience :-)