One of the highlights for us while living in Chiang Mai was the Yi Peng event we knew we’d have to experience.
Yi Peng (or Yee Peng) is held on the full moon of the 2nd month of the Thai Lanna calendar, usually around November each year. Yi means 2nd and Peng means month in the Lanna language. It is a celebration to give thanks to Buddha.
We gathered early and eagerly claimed spots on the grounds that were lined with tall wicks on stakes. As sunset came and the crowd gathered I hoped we were going to be able to release our lantern soon.
Before we could release our lanterns however, began a meditation that lasted for over an hour. I grew fidgety as my legs fell asleep under me and I felt silly for being so restless when so many Thai people had gathered and were calmly holding up their palms in prayer, repeating the chants when the monks urged them to join in.
At some point I tried to close my eyes and I kept opening them to see what was going on as a procession began and people young and old, including the monks, began walking in a circle with lit candles. Finally, a signal was given to rise and over a loudspeaker, in English, we were told to begin lighting our lanterns.
I was glad to have Mike to help me out with the lantern-which definitely required the help of 2 or more people to be lit. The wick takes a few minutes to properly catch, and the trick is to hold the lantern high enough as to not set the whole thing on fire.
I had a moment of panic when I thought we’d burn ours to bits before it even got released, but with Mike’s patience we filled it with hot air, and when I heard a massive boom- fireworks were being launched- it was the signal we had been waiting for.
It was an incredible moment to see all those lanterns floating away, and as they got further and further they looked like a newly formed giant constellation. In between all the lanterns the fireworks display was beautiful.
Thai music filled my ears as it began playing over a loudspeaker and I watched a thousand lanterns fill the night sky.
The fireworks, the lanterns, the music…magic. It felt magical.
This is not something that we’ll forget. We were so thankful we were able to attend such a special event.
We arrived at the Mae Jo University with plenty of time to spare, and if you have a particular spot you’re after be sure to arrive at least 2-3 hours before the event. It does get crowded and if you are bringing a group you want to arrive early to get a spot together. Please dress respectfully. There is plenty of food and drinks right outside the temple, and the event is free to all. You are only allowed to use lanterns purchased inside the grounds which will cost around $3 dollars.
We drove on our motorbike, and you can rent one if you’d like as well ($3-5 dollars a day) but be sure you feel confident on it as you will be riding about 20 minutes away (about 20 km) and the traffic afterwards is very, very crowded. If you’re inexperienced, you can take a songthaew (taxi) but make arrangements to have one collect you afterwards because they are hard to come by at the last minute.
We’ve put together a short video we took during the release.
Have you also attended Yi Peng? Was it not magical?