Yi Peng Lantern Festival takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In Chiang Mai, this festival lasts for 3 days.
Yi means “two” and Peng means a “full moon day”, meaning the name refers to the full moon day in the second month according to the Lanna (northern Thai) lunar calendar.
During this time locals believe the rivers are filled to their fullest and the moon is at its brightest – meaning it is the perfect time to “make merit” and set your floating lantern off on the Ping River or light your lantern and make a wish for good fortune in the following year.
Lanterns are released into the sky all over Chiang Mai during the nighttime. The most popular place to head is Mae Jo University for the big lantern release at 18:30. It is a big festival for the locals and an amazing sight for the visitors as well. People not only send lanterns to the sky but also decorate their houses with flowers and candles.
Thousands of those rice paper lanterns called Khom Loi are released into the air during the festival. This decorates the sky with a warming glow, giving out an amazing sight.
A lot of people confuse this festival with Loy Krathong. These two are celebrated throughout all of Thailand and surrounding countries simultaneously. Both are light festivals, but Loy Krathong is celebrated by lanterns on the water, instead of the air.
Yi Peng Festival is a smaller part of the Loy Krathong celebrations. The Loy Krathong lasts only for one night (night of the full moon of the 12th month), while the Yi Peng Lantern Festival is celebrated for 3 days.
There’s no need to buy your lanterns in advance: you can buy lanterns everywhere on the nights of celebration. They cost around 50 to 150 baht (~1.5) and there are varied sizes and quality.