Yi Peng and Loi Krathong are Buddhist festivals celebrated in Thailand on the same day in November (dates aren’t typically announced until just a few weeks before). It is a spectacular event full of light, colour and spiritual energy. The festival has immense spiritual and cultural significance in Thailand, and is believed to cleanse the mind and body of negativity.
When: 22nd to 25th November, 2015
Thailand is home to a vibrant Buddhist culture and is a favourite destination with all kinds of travellers. November is a particularly great time to visit Thailand because of the enthralling Thai festival of lights, Loi Krathong, and the Lanna (north Thai region) festival of Yi Peng. On the full moon evening of the twelfth month of the Thai lunar calendar, thousands of people gather around rivers, ponds and lakes across Thailand, and launch Krathong or ‘floating boats’ into the water. These Krathong are made using banana tree trunk and banana leaves, intricately decorated with flowers, incense sticks and lit candles. People often make a wish while offering these to the river spirits. This beautiful ritual is accompanied by Yi Peng, celebrated on the full moon of the second month of the Lanna lunar calendar, which in fact coincides with the date of Loi Krathong. This festival witnesses thousands of brightly lit paper lanterns called Khom Loi being launched into the sky by revellers, accompanied by Buddhist monks’ chanting and a surge of happiness.
The origin and spiritual significance of the festival
Buddhist monks carrying lanterns during Loi Krathong festival
Loi Krathong is said to have Brahmanical origins. It was later adopted by the Thai Buddhists as a method of honouring the Buddha. The candle is lighted in veneration of the Buddha, while floating or launching it signifies the act of letting go of one’s anger, resentment, past actions and negative thoughts. It is a way of cleansing both the mind and the body of all negativity. It was originally celebrated only by the Buddhist monks, but gradually evolved into a public festival with mass appeal. Loi Krathong is also the common people’s way of paying respects to the water spirits and the Thai Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha.
Modern celebration of an ancient festival
Floating krathong and fireworks during Loi Krathong 2014
The festival has come to be associated with many modern traditions over the years. Today, Loi Krathong has also become synonymous with beauty contests, dance and musical performances, lantern-making competitions, fireworks and delicious food. It is easy for foreigners to find a spot where celebrations are being held: just follow the movement of crowds during the afternoon! Or you could simply look for a water body in the neighbourhood – that’s where all the action will invariably be! It is important, however, to respect the local cultural sensibilities and abstain from consuming alcohol or indulging in raucous behaviour during such a spiritual event. While floating krathongs, you must also make sure it is made of biodegradable material and not contain Styrofoam or plastic. As tourists, it is our responsibility to protect and preserve the cultural and natural heritage of every country and locality we are welcomed into. Because that’s what makes travel both people-friendly and lots of fun!
How To Get Here
All international airlines operate flights to major cities of Thailand. To catch the best celebrations, tourist usually head to Chiang Mai. Flights are available to Chiang Mai’s airport (CNX), but it is much more economical to fly into Bangkok, and from there take a domestic flight to reach Chiang Mai.
Where to stay
The town of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand is the ideal place to stay during Loi Krathong and Yi Peng celebrations, since it used to be the ancient capital of the Lanna kingdom, where the latter festival originated. You will find good accommodation options in Chiang Mai. On the day of the festival, drive to the nearby college town of MaeJo University, where the largest event is held in a vast open ground.
Loi Krathong and Yi Peng together make one of the most enchanting festivals in the world. It is ethereal to watch the light of a thousand lanterns reflect on the joyous faces of the people looking up at them from the ground. It is one experience that’s definitely on my bucket list, and should be on yours too!