Perhaps the most magical and most recognizable festival in the Land of Smiles is the Thailand Lantern Festival. Locally known as the Yi Peng Festival (Yee Peng Festival), this celebration is marked by the thousands of floating lanterns released into the night sky. It is a festival celebrated across Northern Thailand, but one city in particular draws visitors from all over the world: Chiang Mai.

On the same day as the Yi Peng Festival, another similar but slightly different holiday is celebrated by Thais all across the country. This national Thai festival is known as Loy Krathong. It is recognized by the candle-lit floats that drift down waterways and fireworks that light up the night sky.

If you happen to be in Chiang Mai on the twelfth full moon of the lunar calendar, which traditionally occurs in November, you can celebrate both holidays together as one enormous festival of lights that make for an unforgettable holiday!

What is Yi Peng (Yee Peng)?

Yi Peng (or Yee Peng), is the other Thai lantern festival celebrated in Northern Thailand at the same time as Loy Krathong. Yi Peng is a Lanna festival with the largest celebrations held in Chiang Mai (the ancient capital of the former Lanna Kingdom).

The highlight of this festival is the numerous sky lanterns propelled by flames at their base that are released and ‘float’ up into the sky. These sky lanterns are called khom loi in Thai, which means floating lanterns.

The khom loi are made of rice paper stretched over a bamboo frame with a candle attached at the base. The hot air from the candle is trapped inside the lantern and making it rise from the ground. However, since the lanterns can be dangerous, the release of sky lanterns is being subjected to more and more government restrictions each year.

Besides the Khom Loi sky lanterns, you can see many different types of lanterns around Chiang Mai during Yi Peng: Khom fai are paper lanterns that decorate homes and temples. Khom tue are lanterns that are carried on a stick. Khom pariwat are revolving lanterns placed on temples.

Origins and traditions of Yi Peng

Deeply rooted in Buddhism, some people believe Yi Peng originated in India with the legend of the candle-carrying bird which once visited the Gautama Buddha and spoke to him about merit. In Thailand, paying respect to Buddha is regarded as a way to be reborn into the next life to enjoy great popularity and purity.

During the festival, people launch lanterns into the sky as if launching their own bad luck and mistakes into oblivion. If your lantern disappears into the dark before the light goes out, you will have an extremely good year. Conversely, if your lantern crashes, your next year will be full of bad luck.

Yi Peng vs. Loy Krathong

These two 'light' festivals are often confused for one another because they occur on the same day and are similar types of celebrations both including the release of different types of lanterns, cultural performances, and parades. 

One major difference is that Loy Krathong is celebrated all across Thailand while Yi Peng is celebrated mainly in northern Thailand, especially in Chiang Mai. During Loy Krathong, raft-like Krathong lanterns made from banana leaves are released to float on rivers and lakes whereas during Yi Peng bamboo paper Khom Loi lanterns are released into the sky.

Here are the major differences between the two festivals:

 

Here is all you need to know about Loy Krathong Festival

How to Celebrate Yi Peng in Chiang Mai

There are plenty of other activities that happen all over Chiang Mai during Yi Peng. These include worship rituals, decoration contests, bazaars, parades traditional Thai dance shows, the official ‘Yee Peng Parade’ around the Old City gate and down Tha Phae Road, live music, and handicraft sessions. You can also expect lots of food vendors setting up, firecrackers, fireworks.

For travelers, the biggest events to attend are the mass lantern releases. Two of the most popular releases include the CAD Sky Sports Stadium release and the Maejo University release. These two offer the best lantern release experiences along with cultural performances. Get your tickets for a 2020 lantern release today.

During the festival, some people also decorate their houses, gardens, and temples with khom fai, intricately shaped paper lanterns that take on different forms.

A typical schedule of Yi Peng

The Chiang Mai, Yi Peng Festival 2020 will be mainly celebrated through two events: The Yi Peng International Lantern Release by the Lanna Dhutanka Buddhist Center and the Chiang Mai CAD Lantern Release. Both share a similar schedule for the evening.

In 2020, the Yi Peng Festival will be observed on October 31st & November 1st at the CAD location and on November 1st at Maejo University according to our estimates (it is usually observed on the full moon day in the 2nd month of the Lanna calendar every year).

Where to Celebrate Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai

Lanterns are released into the sky all over Chiang Mai and during the night there are at least five main places where you can enjoy the event for free!

In general, free lantern releases are best for budget travelers. For those who really want to get incredible photos of thousands of lanterns floating in the sky, it is a good idea to go to a mass lantern release event such as those at CAD or Maejo University.

Top Places that Offer Yi Peng Mass Lantern Releases

As far as we know, there are currently 5 mass lantern release events that will take place in Chiang Mai 2020. While each of them offers a good experience, our favorites are the Chiang Mai CAD lantern release for its cultural performances and number of lanterns and Yi Peng International for its non-profit nature.

While there are also free local lantern release events that take place in Chiang Mai, the viral videos and incredible photos you see of Yi Peng are all from the mass lantern releases. Mass lantern releases are often located outside of the main city and release thousands of flying lanterns at once making for a majestic atmosphere and incredible photos.

Mass Lantern Release Comparison Overview:

Event 1. Chiang Mai CAD Khomloy Sky Lantern Festival 2. Yi Peng International (Mae Jo University) 3. Yee Peng Doi Saket 4. Northern Study Center 5. Wat Doi Ti & Kruba Srivijaya Monument
Organization Chiang Mai CAD Lanna Dhutanka LCMT Tour Northern Study Center Doi Saket
2020 Date Oct 31 & Nov 1 Oct 31 TBD Oct 31 & Nov 1 TBD
Cost (USD) $155-$215 $290-$350 $110-$140 $125-$185 $93-$125
Lanterns 2 Khom loi
1 Krathong
1 Khom loi 1 Khom Loi for a Standard, 2 for VIP 2 Khom loi
1 Krathong
1 Khom loi
Major Advantages Tickets are already available! This is the largest release likely to make the best photos. Includes an all you can eat dinner, cultural performances, and cultural activities.  This is the original “mass” lantern release and has been running since 2013. Held by a Buddhist organization as a non-profit fundraiser for the local hill tribes. Good prices and offers a nice location outside of the city. Lanterns are made by locals as a way to bring money and work to villagers. Good prices and offers plenty of lanterns with each ticket. Second biggest release after the CAD Chiang Mai release. Takes place at a temple and is hosted by a local Buddhist organization. Good prices.
Major Disadvantages Slightly more expensive than the other event tickets, besides those for the Maejo University Release. The most expensive event that mainly caters to foreigners. Tickets don’t go on sale until around 2 months before the event. The second day of celebrations was canceled in 2019 so there are doubts about their ability to get approval from the government for the event in 2020. Not too much information online so it's difficult to know exactly what happens during the event and how good it is. No private transfer to the event allowed. Only offers one lantern per ticket and can hold around 750 guests, the smallest release of the bunch.

1. Chiang Mai CAD

Chiang Mai CAD (Culture Art and Design) is a government-sponsored organization that puts on an incredible mass lantern release event every year. In 2020, the lantern release will take place on October 31 and November 1. Each ticket includes 2 khom loi sky lanterns, an all you can eat buffet, a krathong floating lantern, a Buddhist release ritual, and local Thai Lanna performances.

Last year, the Chiang Mai CAD was scheduled to take place at the Cowboy Army Riding Club but was changed a few months before the event to the Sky Sport Stadium. This year the release will also take place at the Sky Sport Stadium with a capacity of 5000 people and the ability to release more than 6000 lanterns making for an incredible experience.

The Chiang Mai CAD Lantern Release gets early approval from the government to operate each year meaning that you can already buy tickets for the 2020 celebration! Some of the other lantern releases only begin selling tickets a few months prior to the event.

Price: Tickets start at $155 per person and range up to $215 per person for Premium tickets with shuttle transfer to and from the event. The main difference between the Standard, VIP, and Premium tickets is where your seat is located and which dining area you have access to.

The CAD Chiang Mai release stage is a circle with seats located all around the stage so there are really no "bad" seats.

2. Yi Peng International

Yi Peng International is the event held near Maejo University by Lanna Dhutanka which is a Buddhist organization that promotes the practice of meditation. The lantern release here is a fundraiser with the profits going towards the welfare of the local hill tribe communities.

Tickets to this mass release come with one lantern and a buffet dinner. As this event is hosted by a Buddhist organization it has more of a religious focus. Yi Peng international offers 3000 seats and includes the Buddhist release ritual and group meditation.

Tickets for the Yi Peng International lantern release usually go on sale around 2 months before the event and sell out within two weeks. If you are planning on attending this event, it's important to check the website regularly. 

This release only takes place for one night on October 31st as compared to other venues that typically offer two nights of lantern releases. 

Price: $290 for a standard ticket with a shuttle transfer and $350 for a VIP ticket with shuttle transfer. The main difference between the levels of tickets is how close you will be to the stage.

3. Yee Peng Doi Saket

The main advantage of the Yee Peng Doi Saket celebration is that is it located at the Doi Saket Hot Springs which is a beautiful area around 20 kilometers outside of Chiang Mai surrounded by mountains, rice fields, and a river.

One ticket to this event gets you a meal from the all you can eat buffet and 1 sky lantern for standard ticket holders and 2 for VIP ticket holders. The event can hold 2500 people and will likely take place over two nights. 

The exact date and location of this release in 2020 have not been announced. In 2019, one of the nights was canceled due to government restrictions and the event was forced to refund customers or ask them to attend the release on the first night.

Price: Around $110 to $140 depending on Standard or VIP tickets. The main difference between the two tickets is the number of lanterns you receive and how close you are to the stage.

4. Chiang Mai Sky's Lanterns Northern Study Center

There isn't too much information online about the mass lantern release at the Nothern Study Center in 2020, but the event itself is set to take place on both October 31 and November 1 and accommodate up to 4000 guests. This is the 3rd year that this event has taken place and one ticket includes 2 sky lanterns and 1 krathong floating lantern.

Tickets also include access to a set Thai dinner, traditional dance shows, and performances. Everyone who attends this event must first meet at the Mercure Hotel where the organization will pick you up in buses and transport you to the event location. No private transfers are allowed.

Price: $125 for a Standard ticket and $185 for a VIP ticket. Transfer from the Mercure Hotel to the Northern Study Center costs around 300 baht ($9.50).

5. Wat Doi & Kruba Srivijaya Monument

This mass lantern release is held at the Wat Doi and Kruba Srivijaya Monument around 35 kilometers from downtown Chiang Mai. This is by far the smallest release event with only 750 seats available. Each ticket comes with 1 sky lantern and a set Thai dinner.

There isn't much information online about this lantern release either, but it does take place at a popular Buddhist temple so you can expect the vibe to be more religious. The celebrations include a ritual and exploring a local market.

Price: Standard tickets go for around $93 and VIP tickets for $125.

Free Yi Peng Celebrations - Are they worth it?

If you are a budget traveler who wants to experience Yi Peng lantern release but doesn't want to pay for tickets to enter a mass release event, there are still places in Chiang Mai where you can release your sky lanterns for free.

It is important to note that you can only release sky lanterns in designated areas at designated times. Usually, you are only allowed to release lanterns from 7 pm to 1 am during the two nights of celebrations (Oct 31 and Nov 1). If you release a lantern outside of this time, you can be fined by the Thai police.

Thai police are often strict about these rules because the khom loi can pose a fire hazard to nearby neighborhoods and cause problems for planes landing at the Chiang Mai International Airport.

It is also important to note that while the free celebrations offer a more local experience, they won't give you the incredible photos you see online of thousands of lanterns floating in the sky. These photos are easier to take at the mass releases. At free events, not everyone releases at the same time so some pictures may only have a few lanterns while others may catch more.

1. Nawarat Bridge

Out of the free releases, Nawarat Bridge is the one with the most lanterns and is probably the best place to be. This is where most of the Chiang Mai locals go to release their khom loi sky lanterns as well as their krathong floating lanterns on the nearby Ping River. 

Here you can catch great photos of the sky lanterns and floating lanterns at the same time and release both yourself. You'll also find plenty of street vendors selling lanterns for around 30-50 baht each ($1 to $1.50). Make sure to try and buy lanterns made from biodegradable and eco-friendly materials.

2. The Iron Bridge

The second-best free spot to release your lantern during Yi Peng in Chiang Mai is the Iron Bridge. This bridge also crosses the Ping River so you will have a chance to see the beautiful floating Krathongs, but is less crowded than the Nawarat Bridge.

3. Tha Phae Gate

The Tha Phae Gate is full of festivities during the week surrounding the Yi Peng celebrations. Here you'll find food vendors, firecrackers, fireworks, and crowds of foreigners and locals who've all come out to celebrate.

The Tha Phae Gate is also where the Yi Peng opening ceremony takes place as well as many of the festival parades. You can release lanterns here from 7 pm to 1 am on the two nights of the festival. The only difficult part about celebrating here is getting there as it's the most congested part of the city during Yi Peng.

4. Three Kings Monument

The Three Kings Monument is a great place to go for a more traditional Yi Peng ceremony as the release of Sky Lanterns is a recent addition to the festival. At the Three Kings Monument, travelers can watch a candle-lighting ceremony and a Buddhist worship ritual.

You can also head here on the first day of celebrations to watch the hundreds of dancers all performing Lanna Traditional Dance in beautiful costumes.

5. Wat Phan Tao

Wat Phan Tao is a Buddhist temple where travelers can go to take in a truly enchanting and beautiful ceremony. Here you can watch as orange-clad monks surrounded by a meandering stream light candles and slowly release khom loi into the sky while chanting and offering blessings.

When to Celebrate Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai

Below is the calendar for Yi Peng Festival until 2030 so that you can plan your visit around the date of festival.

Year Yi Peng Dates Day
2020 October 31 Saturday
2021 November 19 Friday
2022 November 8 Tuesday
2023 November 27 Monday
2024 November 15 Friday
2025 November 5 Wednesday
2026 November 24 Tuesday
2027 November 14 Sunday
2028 November 2 Thursday
2029 November 21 Wednesday
2030 November 10 Sunday

How to Release your Lantern Successfully

Because Yi Peng centers on wishing for luck in the future year, in Thai culture it is considered important to successfully release your khom loi. If the fire goes out or your lantern quickly falls back to earth, it could be a sign that your wish won't come true!

1. Get your Khom Loi Sky Lantern

If you are attending a mass lantern release, environmentally friendly lanterns are provided with your entrance ticket. CAD provides each guest with 2 lanterns and Maejo University provides 1.

If you are releasing the lantern yourself, you will need to purchase one from a street vendor. It is best to buy a big lantern because they are easier to release. It is also important to make sure they are made from environmentally friendly materials like rice paper and bamboo.

2. Find a lantern release partner

Khom Loi are very difficult to release correctly by yourself, so make sure you are either traveler with at least one other person or meet another person that can help you release your lantern.

Once you find your partner, hold the lantern tightly between the two of you and prepare to light it. In Buddhist tradition, it is common to meditate on your goals for the future year at this stage.

3. Light your lantern

The next step is to light a long stick or match and use it to light the circular block at the base of the sky lantern. Once this ignites, hold the lantern tightly and wait for it to fill with hot air.

4. Gently lift your lantern and make a wish

Once the lantern starts to fill with hot air, it will start pulling upwards. Let it lift naturally and don't push it up. Once it starts to lift and pulls on your arms, you can make a wish then gently release it and watch it float up into the night sky.

Some travelers like to write their wishes directly on the lanterns, you can do this or just make your wish in your head as you let go.

5 Things You Must Know About Yi Peng Festival

  1. Book hotels early if you wish to experience the event! Yi Peng is the busiest time of year to visit Chiang Mai. The small city receives many tourists traveling to enjoy the lantern festival hotel rooms sell out rapidly!
  2. Chiang Mai during Yi Peng is very crowded. Chiang Mai doubles in population during the week leading up to Yi Peng. You should be prepared for the streets to be crowded with other travelers, cars, and tuk-tuks.
  3. You can only release lanterns at certain places and between 7 pm and 1 am on that day. The sky lanterns pose a safety threat to planes flying over Chiang Mai’s international airport which is why the release is only allowed at a specific time. The government has introduced fines ranging from around $3,000 USD and jail time for those who release lanterns in unapproved locations or outside of the specified release time.

  1. If you are an avid photographer you should stay in Chiang Mai for at least three days and try to attend a mass lantern release for the iconic photos and a local release for a more laid back and cultural experience.
  2. Remember to be respectful because this is a Buddhist holiday. When attending any holiday events or lantern releases it is important to wear clothes that cover the shoulders and knees.

How to Get an Entrance Ticket to Yi Peng

All visitors need to buy an entrance ticket to participate in a mass lantern release. Once tickets are on sale, they are often sold out quickly. For visitors wishing to join the festival, we suggest that you book the ticket package with an authorized agency via an online platform. Please check what is included in your ticket package before booking.

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My name is Jolie, I am a Vietnamese girl growing up in the countryside of Hai Duong, northern Vietnam. Since a little girl, I was always dreaming of exploring the far-away lands, the unseen beauty spots of the world. My dream has been growing bigger and bigger day after day, and I do not miss a chance to make it real. After graduating from the univesity of language in Hanoi, I started the exploration with a travel agency and learning more about travel, especially responsible travel. I love experiencing the different cultures of the different lands and sharing my dream with the whole world. Hope that you love it too!

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