In a country that is no stranger to stunning displays of cultural extravagance, the Loy Krathong and Yi Peng Festivals, which take place on the evening of the full moon on the 12th month in the Thai Lunar calendar, is perhaps the best time of the year to view Thai culture at it’s best. Regularly placed alongside the likes of India’s Holi Festival and Brazil’s Carnival, Loy Krathong is widely acknowledged to be one of the world’s most spectacular and magical holidays in the world, and continues to be one of the biggest draws for travelers visiting Thailand.
Summary research may leave you a bit confused as to what the holiday is and how it’s celebrated. That’s because there are essentially two separate but linked holidays, which occur at the same time, and are celebrated in similar but distinct ways. So while enjoying the splendour of Thailand’s most magical holiday is easy to do anywhere in the country, knowing how to celebrate it the “local” way depends on where you are and is made both easier and more rewarding with a bit of background knowledge beforehand.
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Loy Krathong and Yi Peng
Throughout the Loy Krathong holiday period, encountering the incredible displays of floating lanterns released onto the waterways and rivers as well as the skies lighting up with thousands of lanterns floating into the sky is an inevitability. Since these enchanting traditions usually happen around the same time, many visitors are under the impression that both traditions are part of Loy Krathong.
But, in northern Thailand, the annual Loy Krathong festivities overlap with a distinct festival, Yi Peng that draws its roots from ancient Lanna heritage. It’s during Yi Peng that thousands of “sky lanterns” are released as a sign of good luck, often at the same time as floating lanterns are released onto water in celebration of Loy Krathong.
The Buddha and the Water Goddess
Loy Krathong has roots in Thai spirituality and folklore, and the tradition of releasing lotus shaped floats carrying candles and decorated with anything from food, flowers and even fingernail clippings are linked to the water goddess Phra Mae Khongkha. Because of this, most of the Loy Krathong action is centered around rivers, streams and lakes throughout rural and urban. Throughout Thailand, locals believe that if the candles on a krathong continue burning until the krathong disappears from view, it signifies and year of good luck ahead.
Yi Peng, however, is rooted in northern Thai Lanna tradition, with lanterns in northern cities like Chiang Mai taking to the sky rather than the water. The coordinated release of sky lanterns for which Yi Peng is most well-known is both mesmerizing and meaningful. Yi Peng (or the “Festival of Lights,” as it is often referred to) is practiced as reverence to Buddha and the rights performed are a form of merit-making which Thai’s believe will pave the way for fortune in the coming year. Yi Peng takes place in the second lunar month in the Lanna calendar, and not the Thai calendar, and while it most often overlaps with Loy Krathong, its celebrations are distinct and its exact date sometimes not announced until just a few weeks beforehand.
Experiencing the Festival of Lights
Chiang Mai is a well-established favorite for those wanting to see Loy Krathong and Yi Peng up close. As northern Thailand’s largest city, Chiang Mai is best known for its flying lanterns rather than its floating offerings, and visitors here during the few days of the festival will also see some of the city’s most incredible parades, firework displays and traditional performance art in public spaces. If ever there is a time to visit Chiang Mai and northern Thailand, Yi Peng is it.
As the capital of Thailand, Bangkok’s celebration of Loy Krathong are some of the most extravagant in the country. The best places to enjoy the sights are also some of the city’s most significant waterways, with travelers and locals alike gathering at Chao Phraya River and Lumphini Park for festivities. Head into downtown Bangkok to see incredible parades, fireworks displays and shows throughout the festival period, but make sure to book your journey ahead of time — the festival is one of the busiest times of the year in Bangkok.
The ancient capital of Sukhothai is not just the site of some of Thailand’s most incredible ruins, but it’s also one of the most serene locations to celebrate Loy Krathong. The festival in Sukhothai usually lasts around three days, with performances and Muay Thai demonstrations included as some of the city’s central festivities. For the final day of the holiday period, locals gather at lakes and ponds in Sukhothai’s Historical Park, surrounded by ancient ruins to release their krathongs into the water and pray for a fortunate coming year. Sukhothai is the place to be if you want to see Thai culture at its richest and most beautiful.
It’s not too late to experience Loy Krathong and Yi Peng for yourself in the land of smiles. Our journeys through Thailand‘s most incredible destinations are one of the best ways to experience Thai culture and its festivals in an unforgettable adventure. Experience something once in a lifetime with a unique and customized journey through Thailand during its most beautiful festival.