Every year in November the sky lights up with thousands of floating (flying) paper lanterns in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This festival of lights is known as Yi Peng or the lantern festival Chiang Mai has been on our bucket list for years and we finally ticked it off.
If you are looking at attending the Yi Peng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai you’ll quickly notice accurate information is hard to find. We’ve put together everything you need in this Yi Peng Lantern Festival guide.
Depending on translation the name of the festival can be written either Yi Peng or Yee Peng, both refer to the flying paper lantern festival in Northern Thailand.
Yi Peng Lantern Festival Chiang Mai
What Is The Yi Peng Lantern Festival?
Yi Peng is a Lanna festival celebrated in Northern Thailand. Yi means “two” and Peng means “full moon day” that is celebrated on the full moon day in the second month on the Lanna Lunar calendar. Yi Peng is celebrated with Lo Krathong.
Thousands of Lanna-style lanterns called khom loi, which literally translates to “floating lanterns.” These lanterns are released into the sky, hence the name lantern festival Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai, Thailand has the largest Yi Peng festival in Thailand, drawing tens of thousands of visitors every year for this festival of lights. Sometimes, Yi Peng is listed as Yee Peng.
If you are in Chiang Mai, make sure to head down to the river for Loi Krathong. Yi Peng falls the day after Loi Krathong. Loi Krathong translates to “to float a basket” head to the Ping River in Chiang Mai to see the river light up with thousands of floating baskets.
Loi Krathong is on the night of the full moon according to the Thai lunar calendar. Gorgeous floating baskets are sent down the river with a candle, resulting in a gorgeous lite up river. Loi Krathong baskets can be purchased
When Is The Yi Peng Lantern Festival In Chiang Mai?
Yi Ping festival dates change every year based on the moon. The Lantern Festival Chiang Mai typically takes place in November. Finding the exact date in advance can be tricky. Previous Yi Peng dates:
- November 25, 2015
- November 14, 2016
- November 4, 2017
- November 22, 2018
Lanterns are typically allowed to be released in Chiang Mai for two days, but the Mae Jo mass release only happens once. If you can get tickets to Mae Jo mass release for Yi Peng, we’d suggest going there and the other night head to Nawarat Bridge the other night for the lantern festival.
Where Is The Yi Peng Lantern Festival Celebrated?
There are a few lantern festivals in Chiang Mai. The iconic picture of thousands of lanterns being released is from a private event at Mae Jo University, which is 15kms from Thapae gate. Another popular spot to release lanterns is at Nawarat Bridge, just outside of the moat and Thapae gate. There are a few bridges in Chiang Mai where tourists will be releasing lanterns for Yi Peng.
We went to the Nawarat Bridge to see the festival of lights and Loi Krathong, as the Nawarat Bridge is over the Ping River. You could see floating lanterns as early as 6:30pm and they continued throughout the night. Note the laws change every year, but it is illegal to fly lanterns before the city has stopped air traffic for the night. The large number of lanterns released can be very dangerous for the busy Chiang Mai Airport. Please respect the rules for the future of this festival, the city of Chiang Mai is extremely close to the airport.
Mae Jo University Address: Bang Khen Alley, Tambon Nong Han, Amphoe San Sai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai
How Much Does Mass Release At Mae Jo University Cost?
Tickets to the mass release at Mae Jo University are generally sold out months in advance for Yi Peng lantern festival in Chiang Mai. The event used to be free to the public but due to the popularity, it is now a private event since 2015. Tickets can be purchased online from many Chiang Mai hotels and start at $100USD. Tickets are required to enter the paid event and are limited to about 500 people maximum.
How Much Does A Lantern At Yi Peng Cost? 90 Baht For A Large Lantern
Floating (flying) lanterns are available for the sale on Yi Peng, but only after a set time based on when the airport has closed for the festival. The price of lanterns will vary based on the vendor. We were able to get one big lantern for 90baht or 3 small lanterns for 100baht. My friend, however, found a vendor that had 10 small lanterns for 200baht. If you see a vendor selling lantern we would suggest purchasing several of them, there will be someone on the street willing to purchase it from you if you end up not needing them all.
Where To Get A Flying Paper Lantern In Chiang Mai?
Vendors selling Yee Peng lanterns had to have special permits and strict legal guidelines of when they could sell lanterns. Yee Peng lanterns weren’t available for sale until 6pm on November 14th and the lines were intense. There were only a few vendors selling lanterns in Chiang Mai near the Nawarat Bridge. The crowds were pushing, shoving, and even a few fights. Each vendor we saw sold out of lanterns within an hour. We didn’t see any lanterns available for sale anywhere in Chiang Mai leading up to Yi Peng. Getting a lantern in advance isn’t an option.
What Are Yi Peng Lanterns Made Of?
The Yi Peng lanterns are typically made of either rice paper or thin fabric, ours were made out of rice paper. The paper is then spread around a bamboo/wood frame OR wire in which a candle or wire fuel cell is attached. On the lanterns in we purchased the circle ring of the lantern was wood but there was a wire across the top attaching the wire fuel cell. We couldn’t help to think of all the wire that would be left to fall from the sky that would end up in the ocean and potentially killing sealife. We both remember watching this video of a sea turtle with a straw in his nose, caution this video is disturbing.
It is reported that the lanterns given out at Mae Jo Univesity are eco-friendly lanterns, but we haven’t been there to confirm this. Biodegradable lanterns are super affordable on Amazon some packs are less than $0.50 a lantern. Consider bringing a responsible lantern from home, there may not be any for sale in Thailand.
Should You Light A Lantern At The Yi Peng Festival?
Lighting a lantern at Yi Peng is something you will have to decide yourself. We personally didn’t launch a lantern as the only ones we had contained wire and were not eco-friendly. We have traveled the world and seen how beautiful it is. Like the gorgeous islands like El Nido Palawan or Wakatobi Indonesia will not look that forever if we continue to dump trash in our oceans. We have seen places ruined by pollution and we try not to unnecessarily add to that.
Impact Of The Chiang Mai Lantern Festival?
For the 2 hours we witnessed lanterns being released, we saw many lanterns landing in trees. Several of the trees seemed to be burning heavily. Lanterns weren’t being launched properly and falling back down into the crowds. We will never know the entire impact of the Chiang Mai Lantern festival but we do know if we had biodegradable lanterns and a safe open area to launch them from it would be much better.
Is it legal to release a Lantern in Chiang Mai?
Well, that is debatable. We witnessed a police officer/military office come up to a tourist and yell at him for trying to launch a lantern…then taking his beer from his hand pouring it on the lantern to put it out. We read several online Thailand newspapers indicating lanterns were only allowed to be launched November 14th & 15th 2016 during set hours. If lanterns are launched outside of this there fines are pretty hefty.
Other Chiang Mai Lantern Festival Information
If you plan on going to Nawarat Bridge to see Yi Peng get there early to secure a spot on the bridge. The traffic to Mae Jo University or anywhere in the Old City will be terrible. Head to both areas early and either leave early or stay late to avoid being stuck in the back of a songthaew sucking exhaust foams. Don’t plan on driving across the Nawarat Bridge, even though it isn’t officially closed, the traffic was hardly moving on the bridge and balloons were literally falling on top of motorists.
If you are flying in or out of Chiang Mai International airport (CNX) during the evening on or around the Yi Peng festival dates your flight times may be altered. They rescheduled flights on November 14th & 15th 2016 due to the lantern festival in Chiang Mai for safety reasons.