Loy Krathong, Yi Peng and the Mae Jo Mass Sky Lantern Release

Thousands of lanterns illuminate the sky at the lantern festival in Mae Jo

Thousands of lanterns illuminate the sky at the lantern festival in Mae Jo

Have you seen images from Thailand with the sky full of lanterns? When we have seen the first images of Loy Krathong and the Yi Peng mass sky lantern release in Chiang Mai, we knew that we want to be there one day. This year, our timing was perfect and we managed to be in Chiang Mai during the Loy Krathong festival beginning of November.

To avoid disappointments, make sure you start your research early enough and check when exactly Loy Krathong and Yi Peng is taking place. We almost missed the mass sky lantern release at Mae Jo because we haven’t been aware, that there are different events on different dates. In this blog post we will tell you more about the different activities and you will find useful information to plan your trip.

Mae Jo Mass Sky Lantern Release

We want to be independent and rent a motorbike to get to the Mae Jo University. After lunch we leave Chiang Mai and head north. Mae Jo is only about 15 km away from Chiang Mai and the way is quite easy to find. Since we are very early, there is no traffic jam and we can drive right into the festival area. All the security guards are waving us through and at the end we can park our motorbike right next to the entrance. If you are late you will have to pay for the parking and walk a few minutes to get to the entrance.

The preparations for the mass sky lantern release is in full swing

The preparations for the mass sky lantern release is in full swing

The festival ground is prepared with candles mounted onto a stick to light the lanterns. There is a lot of space and we can choose a good spot. If you like to release a lantern, you need to buy one of the official lanterns from the organiser of the event. It’s not allowed to bring lanterns from outside into the festival grounds. Now we have enough time to look around and absorb the peaceful atmosphere. Along the road to the festival grounds are plenty of stalls that sell food and drinks.

After 3 pm the festival area starts to fill up and it is getting more and more difficult to find a good spot.

We are in the middle of thousands of visitors at the Mae Jo sky lantern festival

We are in the middle of thousands of visitors at the Mae Jo sky lantern festival

The ceremony starts with meditation and prayers

Between 5 pm and 7 pm the monks enter the centre part of the festival grounds and take their seats. Around the monks is an area reserved for a limited number of people. Access to this area is for guests wearing white or traditional Lanna style robes only.

It is getting quiet as soon as the monks start to meditate and pray. Everybody is welcome to join in and meditate and pray with the monks.

Monks are gathered around the Buddha statue in the centre

Monks are gathered around the Buddha statue in the centre

In the meantime the sun has set and it’s getting dark. Between 7 pm and 8 pm the organisers light the candles and everybody is excited.

The candles are lit. In a few minutes thousands of lanterns will float towards the sky.

The candles are lit. In a few minutes thousands of lanterns will float towards the sky.

The organisers are busy controlling the event and making sure that nobody is lighting the lantern too early. After the announcement over the speakers, thousands of sky lanterns are lighted up. It is getting very hot and bright from all the candles and flames around us. Suddenly there is hectic movement behind us. One of the sky lanterns caught fire and is now fully ablaze. Luckily, the rice paper of the sky lantern burns down in seconds and no other lantern is catching fire.

Thousands of sky lanterns float into the sky. A magical moment.

We have to hold the sky lantern down and wait until there is enough hot air in it. And then, finally, the big moment has come. After the announcement over the speakers, thousands of sky lanterns are being released and start to float into the sky.

This moment is BREATHTAKING! The whole sky is full of light and thousands of sky lanterns float in the sky.

Thousands of sky lanterns float into the sky at Mae Jo

Thousands of sky lanterns float into the sky at Mae Jo

Not all lanterns can be lighted at the same time and there is a second and a third wave of lanterns floating into the sky. And even after the official releases, there are still many more lanterns that fill the night sky.

The sea of lights at the mass sky lantern release is breathtaking.

The sea of lights at the mass sky lantern release is breathtaking.

Slowly, the visitors start to pack up and prepare to leave. We are deeply moved and observe the hustle and bustle around us.

Our motorbike is just outside of the gates to the festival grounds and that is now a big advantage. The streets are completely congested and the traffic almost stopped to move completely. With our small motorbike we are very manoeuvrable and can sneak through the gaps between the cars. After half an hour we are already back in our guesthouse. We have heard that other visitors to the festival had been stuck in cars for several hours on their way back to Chiang Mai.

Good to know

The official name of the event is “Lanna Kathina Ceremony and Floating Lanterns Ceremony” and the organiser is the “Duangtawan Santiparp Foundation”. The Mae Jo mass sky lantern release is not part of the official Loy Krathong festival in Chiang Mai and is not held on the same date. That’s exactly what confuse many visitors and cause a lot of disappointments. The dates for the Mae Jo mass sky lantern release is usually communicated only a couple of months before the event. You may find more details on the website of the organiser of the event (Update September 2015 – The Website of the organiser seems to change from year to year. The best is to check with the locals in Chiang Mai or Google YeePeng and Mae Jo Mass Latern Release about a month before the official Loy Krathong). It is also important to know that there are two separate events. There is a free event that is meant for the locals and there is a ticketed event for tourists.

Free Mae Jo Mass Sky Lantern Release Event

The local event already starts in the morning and apart from the mass sky lantern release, the Kathina Ceremony is the main focus of this event. During the ceremony the monks are receiving their new robes and donations. The Kathina ceremony usually starts at around 1 pm. The free event of 2014 was held on the 25th of October.

Ticketed Mae Jo Mass Sky Lantern Release Event

If you don’t like it crowded, then the ticketed event might be a good option for you. You need to buy a ticket for around USD 100. The number of tickets is limited and the event will not be that crowded. The mass sky lantern release is the main focus of this event. This event was held on the 8th of November 2014.

Tips for your visit to the mass sky lantern release at Mae Jo

  • Check the dates of the different events before planning your trip.
  • Wear appropriate clothes. Shoulder and knees should be covered. Many locals wear white.
  • Organise your transport to and from the event.
  • Be respectful during the festival especially during the time of meditation and the prayers.
  • You can buy the lanterns in the festival area. No outside lanterns are allowed.
  • Do light and release the lanterns only after the announcement.
  • This is a non smoking and non alcohol event.
  • Don’t forget sun protection and drink plenty of water if you are early. Think about rain protection as well.

Loy Krathong / Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai

Loy Krathong / Yi Peng is one of the most important festivals in Thailand. It’s held every year at full moon of the 12th month in the lunar calendar. Chiang Mai is one of the popular places to celebrate Loy Krathong and we decided to be here during this time as well. This year Loy Krathong / Yi Peng is taking place between the 5th and the 7th of November. After sunset the whole city is beautifully illuminated by thousands of lanterns and the atmosphere is really nice.

Chiang Mai is illuminated by a sea of lights during Loy Krathong / Yi Peng

Chiang Mai is illuminated by a sea of lights during Loy Krathong / Yi Peng

Thapae Gate to the Ping River

The epicentre of the Loy Krathong / Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai is the Thapae Gate. The parade with the big Krathongs starts at the gate and finishes at the Ping River. Miss Chiang Mai is elected and celebrated here and the streets are lined with food stalls where you can buy various Thai specialities. For delicious local food and good cappuccino (=> click here)  do not miss out Sailomjoy Restaurant.

The big Krathongs are presented and towed along Thapae Road to the river Ping

The big Krathongs are presented and towed along Thapae Road to the river Ping

The Thapae road from Thapae Gate to the Ping River is closed off for traffic and is full of people. Many are international tourists but there are also many Thais that enjoy the festival. The sky is full of small dots from the floating sky lanterns. Everybody is eating, drinking, and chatting. The mood is extremely cheerful and happy. On the river, many Thais float their Krathongs and transform the river into a sea of lights.

Thousands of lanterns are illuminated in the night along the streets and in front of houses.

Thousands of lanterns are illuminated in the night along the streets and in front of houses.

Wat Pan Tao transforms into a fairy tale world

During Yi Peng the monks of Wat Pan Tao release sky lanterns into the sky.

During Yi Peng the monks of Wat Pan Tao release sky lanterns into the sky.

If you don’t like big crowds you can enjoy the festival in various other places in Chiang Mai. One evening of the festival we spend at Wat Pan Tao. The whole temple area is full of lights. Everywhere are lights, lanterns and candles. The atmosphere is mystical and indescribable. The monks light sky lanterns and float them into the night sky. They pray to Buddha and with the reflections in the pond it’s just a stunning view.

Wat Pan Tao is probably our favourite place to enjoy Yi Peng in Chiang Mai.

Wat Inthakhin, the magnificent temple with the golden ornaments

In front of the magnificent Wat Inthakhin is a small pool and Thais come here to pray and float their Krathongs in the water. Right next to Wat Inthakhin is a huge square with the “Three Kings Monument”. During Loy Krathong this square is filled with hundreds of hanging lanterns. Thais love to take photos of each other in front of these lanterns.

Wat Pan On and the Giant Lantern

The monks at Wat Pan On release a giant lantern into the sky.

The monks at Wat Pan On release a giant lantern into the sky.

In the morning of November 7, monks are busy preparing huge lanterns which are called “Kome Loys”. These huge lanterns are built entirely of rice paper and have no frame. It’s interesting to watch the monks filling the huge lanterns with air and then heating up the air with a big torch. Before they release the lantern, they attach a whole bunch of fire crackers onto it and light the fuse. The monks are enjoying the lantern floating away under a long volley of fire crackers.

Tips for visiting Loy Krathongs / Yi Peng Festivals

The date of the events is changing from year to year because it’s derived from the moon calendar. Loy Krathong / Yi Peng is in the night of full moon of the 12th month in the lunar calendar. In 2014 this was on the 6th of November. Official activities take place from the 5th until the 7th of November.

  • Check the dates of the different events before planning your trip.
  • Chiang Mai can be very busy during Loy Krathong / Yi Peng. Especially the area around Thapae Gate is very popular and a lot of guest houses are fully booked.
  • Wear appropriate clothes. Shoulder and knees should be covered. Many locals wear white.
  • Be respectful during the festival especially if you visit temples and during prayers.

The different events – A short explanation

Loy Krathong

Loy Krathong or Loi Krathong is the festival of lights and is one of the most beautiful festivals in Thailand. It is celebrated throughout the whole country during full moon of the 12th month in the moon calendar. Most of the times this is in November. The most popular places to celebrate Loy Krathong are Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Sukhothai, Tak, Ayutthaya, Samut Songkram und Ratchaburi.

Yi Peng

In Chiang Mai and northern Thailand Loy Krathong is according to Lanna tradition called Yi Peng or Yee Peng. The background of Loy Krathong and Yi Peng is the wish for good luck for the future.

Mae Jo mass sky lantern release

The mass sky lantern release of Mae Jo is not part of the official Loy Krathong / Yi Peng festival of Chiang Mai. The event is organised by a separate Buddhist group that is specialised in big events. The event and especially the date of the event are causing a lot of confusion. We almost missed it and only read about the event one day before it actually happened.

Dreams come true

Monks release sky lanterns during Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai.

Monks release sky lanterns during Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai.

We feel very fortunate that we have been part of the Loy Krathong / Yi Peng festival and that we have seen the thousands of lantern float into the sky at the Mae Jo mass sky lantern release. Another of our dreams came true. Last New Year’s Eve we have seen the fireworks in Sydney, now we have seen the lanterns float into the sky here in Chiang Mai.

What will be the next big event that we will experience?

12 thoughts on “Loy Krathong, Yi Peng and the Mae Jo Mass Sky Lantern Release

  1. the lanterns look spectacular,but leave a real mess in the country side.the skeletons hang in bushes , trees and fields and can create a fire.hazard.
    love your blog.
    chris and irene

    • Hi Chris and Irene
      The mass latern release is indeed spectacular. We have not seen a mess in the country but we can imagine that the skeletons lie around everywhere.
      In Chiang Mai city we’ve seen people collecting the skeletons from the trees and the ones lying on the streets. The cleaning after the festival was well organised.
      Thanks for reading our blog and so good to read that you love it.
      Best wishes,
      Reni & Marcel

  2. Hey Reni and Marcel 🙂

    Oh wow. I love Loy Krathong, and it looks like you had a spectacular view of it!!

    I saw the lanterns like that in Chiang Mai for New Years Eve. Such an incredible sight. I love that the festival places such an importance on meditation too though.

    I experience Loy Krathong from a different prespective. I was in a small village in southern Thailand and we made beautiful flower arrangements on slabs of banana tree trunk. At midnight we took the boat into the middle of the ocean, lit candles in the designs, and floated them out to sea under the full moon. It was stunning. A bit more low-key than all those lanterns though – they look just amazing!!

    🙂 Martina

    • Hi Martina,

      Loy Krathong / Yi Peng was indeed a spectacular event up here in Chiang Mai.
      We feel very fortunate that we where able to be part of that important event for the local community.
      Chiang Mai is a great place to be for festivals because of the many temples that are scattered all araound the city.

      We have been to Phuket during Loy Krathong a few years ago and saw a lot of Krathongs floating in the sea.
      It’s incredible what effort the locals put into creating these beautyful designs.

      Marcel and Reni

  3. I will be in Chiang Mai in November during Yi Peng. Is there a lantern release event during Yi Peng like the one in Mae Jo, but in Chiang Mai?

    Beautiful pictures, can’t wait to go.

    • Hi Jessie
      Oh, wow. That’s great that you are in Chiang Mai in November during Yi Peng. The mass latern release at the Mae Jo university was the most beautiful celebration we’ve ever experienced. We highly recommend to go to Mae Jo, as it is the best mass latern release during that time in Chiang Mai. There are other celebrations advertised, some of them for tourists where you have to pay an entry fee. We heard that it’s also beautiful but the event at the Mae Jo seems to be the place to be. The actual date of the celebration is not so easy to find out as they publish the date short notice.
      We wish you a great time in Chiang Mai – it’s one of the best places in Thailand.
      Cheers,
      Reni

  4. hello Reni and Marcel!

    I came across your blog when i looked up about mass sky lantern release~
    i’m going to Thailand this November. 22 – 27. but me and my friend only bought return ticket to Bangkok. i was wondering if i can see the mass sky lantern release in Bangkok too..? As the dates hasn’t confirmed yet we were betting on our plane ticket~ :’)
    I hope there is though~ *cross finger*

    Cheers!
    Kathleen

    • Hi Kathleen

      The Mass Sky Latern Release in Chiang Mai is the most beautiful and magical thing we’ve ever experienced. But just to make it more clear, the mass latern release at Mae Jo University – the one we have been to last year – is not the same like the Yi Peng or Loy Krathong Festival in Chiang Mai. The mass latern release we’ve been to was organized by an Independent Buddhist Group and the dates are usually confirmed just a few weeks ahead of the festival.

      If you are flexible it’s worth to stay in the Chiang Mai area. If you miss it in Chiang Mai I would check for events in Bangkok. As far as I know there is not mass latern release in Bangkok city because of safety reasons. It would be too dangerous. But there are other festivities in temples and people gather around lakes and rivers to release beautifully decorated lotus crafts with candles.

      Wishing you a great time in Thailand and safe travels,

      Reni

  5. Hi Reni

    Do you have a more precise idea when the mass lantern release at Mae Jo University happens.. If before or after the main day of Lantern release in Chiang Mai,, which this year will be November 25th.. I wanna be there and was thinking to go to Chiang Mai the 23rd of November… and have no idea if I leave the 26 or so I will be lucky enough to have that chance.. I will be in Chiang Rai for one month.. and will be out of it just to go to Chiang Mai..
    tks in advance
    Maria

    • Hi Maria

      Unfortunatley I don’t know when the mass latern release at Mae Jo University takes place this year. The event at Mae Jo Uni usually takes place before the Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai and other cities in Thailand. This year the official Loy Krathong festivities take place from 24-26 November 2015. As mentioned before the Mass latern release is something different and the date will be announced by the organizer just shortly before the event takes place. The best is talk to locals in Chiang Mai area.

      Good luck and have a great time in Thailand.

      Cheers,
      Reni

  6. Hi Reni

    Many thanks for your great post, can learn many things about the event from it. I’m going to Chiang mai during this year Loy Krathong.

    Did the ceremony at Wat Pan Tao happen the same night as the event at Mae Jo Uni? And at around what time the event at Wat Pan Tao begin? We are not able to attend the one at Mae Jo so we dont want to miss the amazing moments at Wat Pan Tao.

    Many thank in advance.

    • Hi Hong Le

      Thanks for your compliment to our post.

      The celebration of Loy Krathong at Wat Pan Tao temple is a very special event and so magical. Great that you plan to join the event this year.
      Last year the mass latern release at Mae Jo Uni did take place about 10 days before the ceremony at Wat Pan Tao.
      In 2015 the official Loy Krathong date is as far as I know the 25th of November but there are festivities from 24-26 November. There are different events all over the city of Chiang Mai.

      I hope that helps for your planning and wishing you a fabulous time in Chiang Mai.

      Cheers,
      Reni

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