Loy Krathong and Yi Peng are two of Thailand’s most magical festivals and they take place on the night of the twelfth lunar month (usually in November), at the end of the rainy season when the full-moon lights up the sky.
Loy Krathong is celebrated throughout the country, whereas the Yi Peng Festival is only celebrated in the north of Thailand with the most elaborate festivities taking place in Chiang Mai.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Thailand during this special time you can expect to see thousands of ‘krathongs’ with flickering candles floating on the rivers and canals, strings of colourful lights hanging from houses and temples, fire lanterns floating in the sky and dramatic fireworks displays.
You’ll also see boat races, lively parades, traditional music and dance performances, and other cultural activities.
What is Loy Krathong ?
Loy Krathong is Thailand's 'Festival of Lights' and it is one of the country’s most important holidays, along with Songkran (Thai New Year) which is celebrated in April.
On the evening of Loy Krathong people gather around lakes, rivers and canals to pay respects to the Goddess of Water by releasing small floating vessels called ‘krathongs’ onto the water. People carefully make their own krathongs from banana leaves and they decorate them with candles, incense and flowers, and then they light the candle and incense and make a wish before placing their krathong onto the water.
It is believed that the krathong carries away misfortunes allowing them to literally float away, signalling a fresh start. If your candle stays alight until your krathong disappears out of sight, it means a year of good luck.
In Bangkok the Chao Phraya River is the centre of the Loy Krathong celebrations with cultural performances, boat processions, krathong making workshops, firework displays and many other activities taking place.
Seeing the Chao Phraya River illuminated with thousands of candle-lit krathongs is something very magical indeed. If you’re visiting Thailand’s beaches and islands you’ll find that many hotels and resorts lay on special celebratory meals and activities for their guests culminating in crowds gathering on the beach to float krathongs onto the sea.
What is Yi Peng ?
Yi Peng Festival is unique to northern Thailand. It was originally an individual event in its own right marking the end of the rainy season, however Yi Peng now takes place at the same time as Loy Krathong.
Although it is celebrated across northern Thailand, the cultural capital of Chiang Mai has become synonymous with Yi Peng and the festivities in Chiang Mai take place over three days with religious events, cultural activities, street parades and the release of fire lanterns.
From dusk until dawn ‘khom loy’ (floating lanterns) are released all around Chiang Mai and seeing the lanterns floating in the night sky against the backdrop of the full moon is a truly magical sight. The release of lanterns is a way to pay respect Buddha and also to release bad memories and make a wish for the future. During Yi Peng it was traditionally monks who released the lanterns, but now anybody can do so.
Most of the celebrations take place on the Ping River and the moat that surrounds the old town, and as the event coincides with Loy Krathong it means you can also see floating krathongs on the Ping River. Chiang Mai is a hive of activity during Yi Peng and walking around the city soaking up the vibrant atmosphere and watching the lantern releases, colourful parades, boat races and cultural performances, is likely to be one of the highlights of your Thailand holiday.
These festivals are hugely important to the Thai people, and many tourists specifically plan their holiday to Thailand around Loy Krathong and Yi Peng.
In November 2017 and 2018 Wayfairer will be running private and small group tours which will coincide with the Loy Krathong and Yi Peng festivals. This special trip will start in bustling Bangkok where we will visit the spectacular Grand Palace and Wat Pho and then we will board longtail boats to explore the city’s canals (known as khlongs).
From Bangkok we will travel to Kanchanaburi, staying at a unique accommodation on the river, as well as a day at the sustainable Elephant Nature Park. We will then fly to Chiang Mai to celebrate the Yi Peng festival, along with a stay at a hill-tribe lodge. You can read the full itinerary here.