Yee Peng, (Yi Peng) just outside Chiang Mai, engulfs your senses in a dreamesque state.
Thousands of glowing lanterns drown out the darkness covering the entire temple grounds in a fiery glow.
The crowds hold their lanterns in eager anticipation waiting for the signal to release them into the air.
Suddenly, the signal is given and all at once, the night sky is enveloped with an amber glow of floating lanterns. As people watch their wishes float away, the air is filled with cheers, smiles, and tears of joy.
I shudder to use this “flowery adjective” to describe Yi Peng, but in this case it fits perfectly……Yi Peng is magical. (Slap hand against forehead)
What is Yee Peng?
Yee Peng is the Buddhist festival of lights where lanterns are released in respect to Buddha. Buddhists believe that this washes away bad Karma and makes wishes come true.
Yee Peng festival usually corresponds with Loi Krathong, another festival in which little lotus shaped floats made out of paper are released in a river to bring good luck.
A lesser known fact about Yee Peng is that are two of celebrations.
The first one is in late October. This is the local Yi Peng and is free to attend.
The second festival, in early November, is about one week later and requires a ticket.
The celebrations are practically identical though the second one is geared towards tourists. This is the celebration that also corresponds with Loi Krathong.
Both these festivals take place at Mae Jo University near Chiang Mai.
I choose the local one for a couple reasons.
1- I always want the local experience.
2- The $100 ticket for the tourist Yee Peng wasn’t too appealing to me.
The great thing about Thailand, and especially Chiang Mai, is the friendliness of locals. For example, even though it’s their local festival, a lot of tourists participated. The Thai people were as friendly as ever and if any of them minded us crashing their festival, they didn’t give any indication.
My Experience at Yee Peng
In my paranoia to get a good spot, I arrived way too early. Although throughout the day the grounds of Mae Jo University are buzzing, arriving at 1:30 would have been boring if I wasn’t with a group of friends.
People have stalls giving away free food, ice cream, and cold drinks. The festival starts at 6 p.m. so getting there around 3 p.m. would still give you plenty of time to get a good spot and enjoy the atmosphere.
The festival starts with a massive procession of monks carrying candles through the crowd while, chanting. Once they reach the golden buddha, the ceremony starts. At certain times during the ceremony, you are instructed to bow in a few different ways; all of which they teach you before they begin.
As the service concluded we began lighting our lanterns. Energy was literally felt pulsating through the crowd as excitement grew for the grand finale.
Traditionally three lanterns are lit. Afterwards, fireworks close out the evening.
My Yi Peng experience was one of the most peaceful, glorious, and beautiful experiences in my life.
You are filled with wonderment at the pure beauty numerous lanterns floating around you before drifting up and eventually out of sight.
Yi Peng was on my bucket list for years, and it was more wonderful than I could have imagined. The festival embodies some of the things I love most about traveling in Southeast Asia and Thailand in particular.