Chiang Mai Yee Peng (Yi Peng) Festival & Loi Krathong: Lantern Festival Guide

YI PENG/YEE PENG FESTIVAL

Yi Peng is the most luminous festival in Thailand. The sight of thousands of lanterns floating, visually turning into stars, is breathtaking.

It’s a must-experience event if you’re planning to visit Chiang Mai. It is usually held midway through November, specifically on the full moon of the twelfth lunar month every year. Grouped with a side-trip to Chiang Rai and Pai, this northern Thailand itinerary will change how you see Thailand.

Sunset at Tha Phae Rd leading up to the East Gate
HOW TO GET THERE: BY PLANE, BY BUS or BY TRAIN?

BY PLANE

If you’re coming from Bangkok, the fastest way to get to Chiang Mai is via air. The flight takes a little over an hour. The only disadvantage of taking a flight is the cost. If you’re lucky, you should be able to grab a deal from one of the many low-cost airlines in Thailand. If you’re coming from Manila, there are available flights to Chiang Mai via Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.

BY TRAIN

Another popular option to reach Chiang Mai is via train. It’s quite a long journey – around 12+ hours. Definitely cheaper than flying, you may get seats for as low as 800 Baht depending on which class you book. There are second class to first class sleepers with or without air-con. Remember to book in advance especially during the peak seasons like the Yi Peng festival.

BY BUS (THE ONE WE TOOK)

Since we did not pre-book tickets in advance we ended up taking the bus to Chiang Mai from Bangkok. We were supposed to go there via train but the night departures were already fully-booked – the only available tickets depart in the morning and we do not want to waste a full day in transit. Surprisingly, it’s our reco option. Taking the bus is usually faster than taking the train and cheaper than flying. Depending on the class, travel time varies from 8 – 10 hours.

We recommend booking the Deluxe/VIP buses with reclining seats, free snacks, air-conditioning and blanket! Avoid booking tickets at Khao San Road in Bangkok since some agents promise seats/tickets for VIP Buses but are actually booking you to government-ran buses. Our bus departed after dinner, around 8pm, and we arrived at Arcade Bus Terminal in Chiang Mai at 5 in the morning, therefore saving us a night in a hostel. We booked our bus tickets online and just presented the print-outs at the terminal.

Reclining seats with foot rests, air-conditioned. We were provided with blankets, water and snacks along the way.

Make sure to be at the bus terminal early. We departed from Mo Chit terminal. Allot enough time to look for the ticket booth and bus gate. There are a lot of bus routes departing from Mo Chit and the terminal itself can be a bit overwhelming.

WHERE TO STAY IN CHIANG MAI

You will never run out of options in Chiang Mai. Just book ahead especially during the festival season. There are a lot of accommodations that suit every budget – from backpacker hostels to luxury hotels. During the Yi Peng Festival, just stay near the Old City (Walled City around the moat) and you’re all set. The best area is near the Thaepae/ Tha Pae Gate (East Gate) – near a lot of restaurants, shopping stalls and Nawarat Bridge where most lanterns are flown/released. We stayed at Ashi Hotel located at one of the side streets just outside the East Gate. Here’s a list of hotels in Chiang Mai.

Just outside Tha Phae Gate (East Gate)
WHEN IS YI PENG FESTIVAL

Exact festival dates are usually announced months before the festival period. Usually, the festival is mid-way though November. It coincides with Thailand’s Loi Krathong (floating basket) festival.

THE FESTIVAL

Chiang Mai is the largest city in Northern Thailand. Most tourists go here to fly their lanterns or just to experience the quieter side of Thailand. There’s a designated date where tourists are allowed to fly their lanterns. Leading up to that date are numerous events held at the Old City, from various local dances and parades. Most tourists fly their lanterns from Nawarat Bridge. Some releases theirs as early as 6pm and goes on until midnight. There are no words to describe how beautiful it is so here are pictures:

Tourists lighting up their lanterns at Nawarat Bridge

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After flying, just stay at one of the cafes nearby and watch the sky get filled with these beautiful lanterns.

OTHER THINGS TO DO IN CHIANG MAI

Night bazaars and shopping. During the festival inside the Old City, the local government closes down a lot of streets and convert them into ‘walking streets’. Hundreds of stalls pop up at night. There are numerous choices from souvenirs, artworks, clothes, and street food.

Major streets in the Old City are closed to traffic to allow vendors to sell their items.

There are also a lot of temples to visit inside the Old City like Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh, and Wat Phan Tao.

Ruins of Wat Chedi Luang inside Old City
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Lantern installations near city center
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Parade at Tha Phae Road
TIPS
  • When riding the bus, have your valuables with you. There are reports of theft on these buses especially in local ones.
  • Make sure to book everything in advanced especially during the festival season since everything easily gets fully booked.
  • Ride a bike! Bike around and visit other neighborhoods apart from the walled city. Bike rental is cheap and is the best mode of transportation in Chiang Mai.
One of the most visited restaurants in Chiang Mai is SP Chicken which serves roast chicken (if you’re Filipino – it’s a tastier version of Andok’s or Chooks-to-Go). Do not forget to drop by here, lines are long and they only have limited stocks each day.
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