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Loy Khratong 2558

Today, Chiang Mai celebrates the start of the Loy Krathong festival , or Yee Peng as it’s called in Northern Thailand. It’s Chiang mai’s second biggest festival after the Thai New Year festival of Song Kran in April, and lasts over several days. Loy Krathong is a lunar festival and the main day is the full moon night of the twelfth Lunar month which this year falls on 25 November.

yeepeng58

If you’ve not seen it before Loy Krathong is both a fun party and enchanting experience of the old Lanna Kingdom’s culture and tradition. I still remember my first night at Loy Krathong, relaxing early in the evening at an outdoor restaurant overlooking the serene waters of the Ping River. It was a cool, clear night and looking skyward I spotted what I first thought was an airplane, but glowing in a strange way.

I asked my Thai companions about it, they laughed, made some comment about “stupid Farang” and explained it was a Khom Loy or fire lantern. As the evening progressed the sky filled with hundreds of Kom Loy all silently floating skywards and, in accordance with Thai beliefs, taking with them everyone’s bad luck. Slowly the Ping River filled with hundreds of little lights as Krathongs, small banana leaf floats holding candles and incense, drifted downstream.

Krathongs are set adrift on rivers and waterways all over Thailand. Make a blessing or say a prayer as you gently push your Krathong out into the water and all your bad luck floats away. The ritual also appeases the goddess of water. It’s a beautiful sight to see hundreds of little lights bobbing peacefully along the river. Less peacefully, fireworks are let off in abundance in celebration and, In Chiang Mai Kom Loy lanterns, miniature hot air balloons traditionally made from Rice Paper are launched everywhere.

Khom Loy LaunchFloating Khratongs
Launching a Khom Loy Fire Lantern and floating Kratongs on the Ping River during Yeepeng festival

The centre of Loy Kratong activity in Chiang Mai is Narawat Bridge where Thai’s gather in large numbers to float their Kratongs down the river, launch Khom Loys and party well into the night. In years gone past it could seem like a war scene with so many people launching fireworks, and throwing firecrackers. However, nowadays the area is heavily controlled and not as cray as it used to be. Although, the firecrackers have already started a week before and provide the background sound to Loy Khratong from late afternoon to the early hours of morning for the next few days or so.

Other traditional celebrations include the Kratong parades with carnival floats accompanied by escorts in beautiful lanna costumes. Especially not to be missed for those who like the male form are some of the local college floats with handsome northern Thai students walking wearing nothing except Lanna style Sarongs.

Our friend Frank at asiancoop.com has lot’s of Loy Khratong picturs on his blog. Here are a couple of the boys in the parade to give you some idea. Click the pictures for more.

Loy Khratong boys in paradeBoys in Loykhratong parade
Handsome Thai guys clad only in lanna style costumes are a great attribute of the parades

The main days of the festival are 24-26 November with full moon day, 25th being the biggest. The parades are scheduled on 25 Novemeber – small Khratong and 26 November Large Kratong and fireworks display. The parades run from Thapae gate down Thapae Road to the Municipality on the river. They usually start around 19:00 and take some time to progress. Many other events are held around Thapae Gate, Three Kings Monument, around the moat and along the river.

The full schedule of events is below:

Schedukle of Yee Peng Festival 2015 (click for larger view)
Schedukle of Yee Peng Festival 2015 (click for larger view)

In recent years, the Khom Loy lanterns have been raising real safety concerns for aircraft flying from Chiang Mai International airport. This year a ban on releasing khom Loys has been announced, with the only permitted time being after 9 p.m. on 25th November. Many flights are being cancelled as a safety measure.

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