YEE PENG LANNA INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL LOI KRATHONG FESTIVAL DAY 2
The moon pokes through the clouds as fireworks and lanterns ignite the night sky above the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival.
Intro: After almost a week in Chiang Mai, the real inspiration for our Thailand trip finally arrived – the lantern release at the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival.
Hundreds of lanterns slowly float up into the night sky at Chiang Mai’s Yee Peng Lanna International Festival.
Although we ended up having a lot of wonderful experiences during our Thailand trip, the real motivation to visit this Southeast Asian country was for the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival. I’d been waiting years to see this spectacular lantern release, and by the time the day actually arrived, my anticipation and excitement were incredibly high.
Excited to have our Yee Peng Lanna International Festival tickets finally in her hands.
Things didn’t start out so great, however, with our Yee Peng Lanna International Festival tickets having still not arrived at the Twin Peaks Condominium when we arrived back from Mae Wang – the night before the festival! When I checked the front desk to see if they were there, they said “No”, and I became quite flustered, not really knowing what to do. I contacted the company via Facebook to check out what was happening and they assured me that they would be delivered later that night. They were true to their word and they finally arrived, allowing me to relax a little.
A row of minibuses lined up, ready to transport us to Chiang Mai’s Yee Peng Lanna International Festival.
Although the lantern release itself wasn’t happening until after dark, we needed to be at our designated meeting point in Chiang Mai around 3PM for transport out to the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival site on the outskirts of the city. This transport was organized outside of our ticket purchase, so you will need to find your own transportation to the event. We opted for a fairly relaxed morning, having breakfast at Butter is Better Diner and Bakery, followed by a massage at the luxurious Peak Spa.
It was then time to get ready to go and we took a tuk tuk to the meet-up point at the Suan Buak Hard Park. To be honest, I didn’t really know where the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival was going to be held and it had been difficult finding accurate information online. I only knew that in previous years there had been two lantern release festivals – one that was free for everyone and another that was paid and a little more exclusive, geared towards tourists. But this year there was just the one – a paid event that you HAD to purchase tickets for.
The lack of information available, together with the VERY late arrival of our tickets, left me feeling a bit stressed that we weren’t actually going to be in the right place at the right time for the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival. So when our tuk tuk pulled up at the meeting point and I could see a row of minibuses lined up, I finally relaxed a little that everything was going to be okay!
A list of who was going to travel in which minibus from Chiang Mai to the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival.
In addition to our tickets, I had brought a printed confirmation of our transportation booking, just in case there were any more issues. I found our names on the list detailing which minibus we were meant to be on, but after walking back and forth along the line of vans, we couldn’t find it. In the end it turned out that our minibus had left prematurely (only half full!) and we weren’t the only ones that had been left behind. Nevertheless, after a bit of reshuffling we squeezed into another minibus and were on our way.
The view from the back of our minibus which we shared with travelers from across the globe.
In our minibus there were two other couples from Germany who were just as excited as we were and it was really nice to share the experience with like-minded people. Our minibus drove at least 20 minutes outside of town on the highway and I was so glad that I had booked event transportation for us (as opposed to taking a tuk tuk) as it would have been really difficult to find and there was lots of traffic.
A row of minibuses parked along the roadside outside the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival in Chiang Mai.
There was strict security at the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival when we arrived, but thankfully our minibus was waved through. After parking, our driver clearly explained that he would depart 20 minutes after the end of the event, whether we were there or not, and we made a mental note of exactly where our minibus was amongst the all the others.
Red plastic chairs lined up with lanterns in front of them at the start of the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival.
We all loaded off and dispersed amongst the crowds of people who were already there, many of whom had the same idea as me that using the restroom now would be a good idea. As usual, the queue at the ladies was incredibly long, but I was intrigued that they supplied sandals that you had to wear in the restroom (rather than your own shoes) to keep the floors clean.
Handing over our tickets for them to be checked at the entrance to the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival in Chiang Mai.
We then followed the pathway down and finally saw the rows and rows of plastic chairs setup in front of the stage for the official Yee Peng Lanna International Festival ceremony. Ahead of us we could see tons of people congregating at what was the official entrance to the food area and after showing our tickets we were given a commemorative bag. I had read that dinner would be included in the ticket cost, but I was expecting it to be just a light snack. In addition to a box of Pad Thai, there were also different Thai snacks available throughout the area, as well as sodas and even ice-cream.
Participants at the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival eating their dinner before the official ceremony began.
Once inside, I was quite surprised at just how many people were there and how they had all organized their tickets with so little information available. But it also looked like there were a lot of large international tour groups, who probably had a representative taking care of everything.
Having a string tied around my wrist for good luck before the start of the official Yee Peng Lanna International Festival celebrations.
It was quite a nice atmosphere inside, with all these kindred spirits waiting to experience something as magical as the lantern release. There were traditionally dressed Thai women who you could have your photo with, as well as live musicians performing. We also had a string tied around our wrists in a symbolic gesture of good luck.
Rows of chairs and a stage setup for the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival on the outskirts of Chiang Mai.
As the sun started to set, people slowly moved out of the food area to find their designated seats, with different sections ranging from the VIP area at the front (about $300USD a ticket) to cheaper (still expensive at $100) seats towards the back. When booking, I had decided that I wanted great seats, but didn’t need to fork out the cash for VIP. At the side, there was an elevated balcony with a large group of photographers with their tripods set-up, ready to capture all the action.
Our designated chairs and lanterns at the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival in Chiang Mai.
Although the anticipation amongst the crowd was high and the ceremony was meant to officially start at 7PM, nothing actually happened until 8PM and I was a bit worried if our minibus would actually wait for us! Perhaps they were having technical issues, but I think it did put a bit of a damper on things.
Buddhist monks holding candles lead a procession around the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival site in Chiang Mai.
When the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival ceremony finally started, they made some announcements in English, Chinese, Japanese, and Thai and then a group of Buddhist monks made their way onto the stage. They did a prayer and invited everyone to participate in a meditation, before walking around the perimeter of the site three times holding candles.
A staff member at the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival helps to light our gas burner at the start of the lantern release.
I think everyone became a little distracted when some lanterns could already be seen floating above in the night sky, apparently released by a group of people across the road who weren’t at the actual event. This rebellious act was still quite beautiful and increased the anticipation for the official lantern release that was about to start inside.
Getting ready to release our lantern at the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival.
Staff members came by to light our gas lamps, and we had been instructed about some of the safety rules and that we were to release the lanterns at the same time. Although I was really hoping for this to be a wonderful, enlightening experience that we shared with people from across the globe, I was a bit irritated by the selfishness of people as they all grappled to take selfies, rather than just enjoying the moment together.
The lantern release finally gets underway at the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival, with hundreds of lanterns ballooning up into the night sky.
In all the excitement, someone knocked my GoPro off the chair and I became quite stressed that I had lost it in the darkness. But it turned out to be okay and we went back to concentrating on our lantern release. We had two lanterns to release between us, and it was really quite breathtaking watching all the lanterns floating up into the night sky together. To cap things off, fireworks exploded above at the same time and it was such a magical experience.
The lanterns appear like twinkling stars in the night sky about the Yee Peng Lanna International Festival in Chiang Mai.
Once the lantern release was over, we made it back to our minibus in time and returned to Chiang Mai. Despite a few hiccups and frustrations, I thought it was a wonderful experience and well worth the ticket cost. Although the free event has now been cancelled due to safety issues (with the Aviation authority), I hope that they continue this Yee Peng Lanna International Festival for many years to come so others can experience it too.
Fireworks explode above after the lantern release at Chiang Mai’s Yee Peng Lanna International Festival.