Recently, I went to Chaing Mai for Loy Krathong, which is celebrated throughout Thailand, and Yi Peng, which is celebrated in Chiang Mai and across north Thailand.
On the first day in Chiang Mai, some friends and I did a Thai traditional dress (chut thai) photoshoot. The traditional Thai dress styles were formalized into eight outfits for women attending official functions by Queen Sirikit. The chakkri, which is what we wore, is one of the most famous Thai traditional dresses. The outfit consists of a bodice wrapped in a shawl or sabai draped over the shoulder. The ensemble is then paired with ornate jewelry, like a belt, necklace, earrings, and bracelets.
The next day, we took a cooking class at a farm just outside of Chiang Mai. First, the owner, Da, picked us up and took us to the market to get fresh ingredients. Once we arrived at Da’s farm, he showed us his organic herbs and vegetables, then we started cooking our 4-course Thai meals. We were able to choose from several options for each course, and I decided on yellow curry with chicken, clear soup with egg/tofu/minced pork, stir fried minced chicken with holy basil, and deep fried spring rolls. The food was incredible; my favorites were the yellow curry and spring rolls.
Yi Peng and Loy Krathong
Then, the day of the Yi Peng lantern festival arrived! There are three lights associated with this festival – the sky lanterns, krathong, and Phang Pratheep. The sky lanterns are the signature of the Yi Peng Festival, commonly believed to carry away bad luck. It is also a means to pay respect to the ancestors who rest in heaven.
About Yi Peng –
Yi Peng refers to the full moon day in the second month according to the Lanna lunar calendar (the twelfth month of the Thai lunar calendar). During the festival, floating lanterns are launched into the air. Khomloy are made from a thin fabric stretched over a bamboo or wire frame, to which a candle or fuel cell is attached.
Origins of Yi Peng –
The origin of the sky lanterns in Thailand is connected to the beliefs of the Lanna people. It is believed that they must worship the Buddha relics, Phra That Kaew Chulamanee, on the full moon of the twelfth month. However, the relic is stored at the highest of heaven floors. In order for their prayers to reach heaven, the Lanna people then used the sky lanterns to worship the Buddha relics during the festival.
About Loy Krathong –
Loy Krathong is to express gratitude to the water goddess, Ganga. Some believe that floating the krathong is to worship their ancestors, removing bad fortune from their life, and to make wishes for their future.
The name, Loy Krathong, translates to “float a basket” and comes from the tradition of making krathong decorated baskets, which float on a river. Loy Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the twelfth month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar; hence, the exact date of the festival changes every year. In the Western calendar, this usually falls in the month of November.
A krathong is decorated with elaborately folded banana leaves, incense sticks, and a candle. A small coin is sometimes included as an offering to the river spirits. On the night of the full moon, Thai people launch their krathong on a river, canal, or pond, making a wish as they do so. The krathong’s floating symbolizes letting go of one’s hatred and anger.
Phang Pratheep – The Lanna people believe that lighting of Phang Pratheep is the act of showing gratitude to all their benefactors. The light of Phang Pratheep is also related to enlightenment and prosperity.
Yi Peng experience –
Although there were Yi Peng and Loy Krathong events all throughout the city, my friends and I decided to go to one organized by Chiang Mai Arts and Design. Before the lantern releasing portion of the event, we enjoyed tribal village arts and crafts, like Lanna lantern making, and Lanna Thai food (khao soi, pad thai, northern Thai style pork curry, etc.). There was also a drum performance, candle dance show, and religious ceremony.
Once everyone lit their lanterns and they started floating to the sky, along with fireworks going off at the same time, the ensuing sight was incredible. It truly felt like something out of a movie.