Chiang Mai and the Loy Krathong Festival (2019)

By BangkokCityExplorer | Jul 11, 2021
Asia > Thailand > Chiang Mai

Hello everybody!

Everyone knows Loy Krathong, one would think. If I only mentioned the name to friends, I looked into many unsuspecting faces, after I then named the appropriate picture with the lanterns, then it was clear what was meant.

Loy Krathong is the festival of lights that is celebrated nationwide in Thailand. It takes place on the day of the full moon in the twelfth month of the traditional Thai lunisolar calendar, which is usually November.

The Loy Krathong Festival of Lights is much more than just raising lanterns, because it is not celebrated in this form in every city! The actual festival of lights is celebrated with small, floating flower arrangements. Traditionally, these flower arrangements are handcrafted from banana leaves and decorated with flowers, candles and incense sticks. Meanwhile, on the day of the Festival of Lights, you can find countless stalls with very beautiful "Krathongs".

The floating rafts are launched in many places: on the beaches of the Thai islands, in Bangkok on the Chao Phraya River, but also in the many canals of Bangkok. A popular place in Bangkok is near the BTS station Mo Chit, where the rafts are put into the water on the Bang Sue Canal, in the amusement parks with various lakes, such as the Lumphini Park, is also celebrated.

Of course, the festival also has a meaning. The people symbolically let the rafts into the water, as the rafts drift away, worries, grief and anger drift away and you start your life in the coming year with a liberated soul and hope for better times.

Chiang Mai has a special position on Loy Krathong. There the festival is celebrated according to the Lanna tradition and is called "Yee Peng". While Loy Krathong takes place in most cities, in one city, Chiang Mai celebrates Yee Peng extensively over three days. In addition to an election for Miss and Mister Loy Krathong, parades, there are lanterns going up in many places near the river in Chiang Mai.

Planning - First step, where should I go?


I've been to Bangkok several times, but never to Chiang Mai. I had heard of the Lantern Festival, but I didn't know where I could see it best. The first hurdle was to find out exactly on which day the Lantern Festival would take place. That sounds easier said than done as there was conflicting information for the real shedule. For example in 2019, the day of was stated on Google was incorrect and various websites had taken over this date. I had approached someone from Chiang Mai directly via a contact website (Badoo.com) and got really great help!

Certainly one can orientate oneself by the fact that somewhere along the river (Mae Nam Ping) one can definitely watch the lanterns rise. There are also many sites on the Internet that offer tours that are often associated with quite a high price for tickets. I can not confirm any informations about buy a ticket for a special place to watch the lantern festival in Chiang Mai, but I decided against this way to do. That's why I don't have any further information about whether the crowds can be found at these places that you can see in many photos. There is also talk of the fact that these places are locked areas that can only be entered with the said ticket.

So I was very happy that I had made contact with a Thai directly from Chiang Mai. He told me where I could look at it all very well, recommended certain areas to me where I could easily find a hotel (and that was a real adventure months after my travel planning) and his tip to stay near the old city was worth gold in the end!

The maps shows the old city and where Thapae Road has a direct connection between the place of the "Tha Phae Gate" and the "Nawarat Bridge", so that even a completely disoriented farang in a strange city can find a very easy way to the river.

In conclusion to the planning it should be mentioned that I embarked on a spontaneous adventure and had neither booked a flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai nor a hotel in Chiang Mai in advance. There were very specific reasons for this and then had a major impact on the adventurous implementation on site. It is certainly wiser to book everything well in advance to avoid problems. In the end I was very lucky, almost overused luck, but more about that follows :-)

Link to the website and the dynamic map at OpenStreetMap: https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=17/18.78774/98.99748

Link to Copyright and License on the website of OpenStreetMap: https://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright/en

Start - Second step, buy a ticket and fly to Chiang Mai


By the time I arrived in Bangkok, I didn't have a ticket for an onward journey to Chiang Mai, let alone hotel accommodation! I could now list various reasons, one of which was due to the fact that I wasn't sure until the last moment whether I would celebrate Loy Krathong in Bangkok or Chiang Mai. A possible trip by train to Chiang Mai would definitely not have been possible. On the one hand, I arrived in Bangkok the day before Loy Krathong, taking the train the next day would have been too late for me, and I couldn't get to the evening train the day before. After the long flight, taking a bus was definitely out of the question, the only chance was to try to get a plane ticket.

It was clear to me beforehand that not only would it be adventurous to even get a ticket and hotel accommodation in Chiang Mai, and I also had to accept significantly higher expenses, but in the end I tried it when I arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport to get a ticket. I was also quite confident, because even if the most famous airline Thai Airways was out of the question with their departure time, there were other small airlines at the airport that still had a few tickets to Chiang Mai days before I started my trip. At the Vietjet ticket counter, I definitely thought I would get a ticket, but they were completely occupied for all flights. But without any complications, they gave me the tip to try Bangkok Airways. My hope of getting a ticket was very small at the time.

In order not to make it too exciting, I was successful! I was very lucky, I actually got the very last ticket, no lie. There was no ticket at another time, and with the departure time at 6:45 a.m. the following morning, a flight time of 1 hour and 20 minutes, I would be in Chiang Mai in time to find a hotel room with enough time. Of course, the fun had its price, the ticket was significantly more expensive than if I had booked it online weeks beforehand. It gets even more exciting / crazier, I only bought a ticket for the outward flight because on the one hand I wanted to keep an open mind about when I would fly back and on the other hand whether there would be an inexpensive option for the return journey and I would then with the bus or train, but more on that later :-)

The travel day to Chiang Mai was a bit exhausting. After buying my ticket yesterday I arrived at my condo late in the evening, among other things because the taxi driver hadn't found the way, but that's Bangkok, you have to expect surprises. I slept relatively little, so I was at the airport very early to check in. Then the security check was a bit picky and I had to dispose of my hand cream. Only 100ml are allowed and my hand cream jar would hold 200ml. The fact that the can was only half full and that I would not exceed the limit was not accepted.

For me it was the first domestic flight in Thailand. Suvarnabhumi Airport is very well signposted and it is very easy to find your gate. The great thing about the service from Bangkok Airways was shown in the "Passenger Lounge". Even before the flight there was free breakfast with an extensive selection of pastries, croissants, muffins and drinks. When you consider that you have to pay 100 Baht for a bottle of water not far from the lounge, I think that's a fantastic service that Bangkok Airways offers its passengers! With a very good feeling I finally went to the gate and could hardly wait for the departure.

Fly to Chiang Mai - The journey started


Welcome aboard :-) finally it starts... now I was finally sitting in the plane and was looking forward to the start. I think many people feel the same way, when you sit in a plane and the take-off is imminent, the joy is great. I feel like this with every flight, I find flying as such a very pleasant and exciting part. For me, flying itself means that the anticipation grows, the long-awaited journey is finally becoming a reality.

What can I say? I was extremely happy that I had even got a plane ticket. I didn't expect that it would be a window seat!!! I love to fly and whenever I can try to sit by the window. I think it's nice to be able to look out of the window not only during take-off and landing.

Today is the day Loy Krathong was celebrated all over Thailand. And Bangkok Airways celebrated with :-) The flight attendants were dressed in a special "uniform", which was very beautiful to look at and increased the joy once more. The flight time was 1 hour and 20 minutes. A small meal was also served for breakfast on this flight. But what is more worth mentioning is the Loy Krathong dessert that was specially served on this flight. I think it was a nice idea.

The flight was great, pleasant, calm. Now for the exciting and stressful part. When I arrived at Chiang Mai Airport, I first asked the airlines about a possible return flight ticket. In this case, a flight to the second airtport in Bangkok, Don Mueang, would have been okay. To my amazement I find that the flights were booked out for the next two days. I was sweating a bit, because at this point I wanted to plan my return trip at least relaxed. Puff cake. What can I say? Of course I also asked Bangkok Airways for a ticket and they had a ticket, again only exactly one ticket, at least for the day of departure that I had planned. I didn't have a choice, in the meantime I had the information that it shouldn't be much better on the trains, so I had to make a decision immediately at the airport and I bought the ticket for the return journey.

Now only ONE thing was missing, I needed a hotel room. And I needed someone who knew their way around and would drive me there. At Chiang Mai Airport there are various exits and various places where you can look for transport to the city. On the one hand there are the many tuk tuks, I made up my mind and paid 150 Baht for a taxi. The good thing is that you can always find someone who speaks English at the taxi operator, and so could my driver. So I could tell him where I wanted to go without much contortion.

On the drive to the old city, the driver stopped at the first hotel where he thought there might still be a room. I got out and could easily leave my things in the taxi. However, I was unsuccessful, this hotel ran out of rooms. But I got the tip to try another hotel. I told the taxi driver the name of the hotel that was recommended to me. It was reached quickly and I went back to reception and what can I say? :-) I was lucky again. A room just became available. The guest only had to leave and the room to be cleaned. I could leave my luggage at the hotel reception, went on a first tour of discovery, had something to eat and three hours later I was happy and satisfied in my hotel room :-)

Chiang Mai - My first trip


On the day of my arrival there was enough time to have a look around the area before the Lantern Festival began in the evening. I got my first impressions in the vicinity of my hotel, because it is right on the moat of the old city fortifications. And as I mentioned at the beginning, the tip from the Thai to get me a hotel room nearby was great. The place at the gate of the old city wall was decorated with many lamps and from here it was a stone's throw to the Nawarat Bridge, where I wanted to see the Lantern Festival.

In Thapae Road, which leads to the Nawarat Bridge, there were of course plenty of shops for tourists. In most of the shops you could buy t-shirts and other clothes, but there were also some other shops for souvenirs, for things for decoration. And if you are interested in the temple complex, you will find at least 2 very beautiful temples on this street. The closer I got to the bridge, the more I saw the preparations for the evening party. Now I saw the small floating krathongs, the flower arrangements, for the first time. Photos can only give a rudimentary impression, I found the atmosphere very pleasant, colorful and beautiful at the same time.

Yee Peng & Loy Krathong - Lantern Festival and floating Krathongs


My hotel room was just a few minutes from the old city gate, which is adjacent to a square that has been used for public holidays. And from this place, it wasn't too far to the Nawarat Bridge, where I wanted to see the Festival of Lights. In order to get a feeling for the surroundings, I went to the bridge during the day and was able to roughly estimate how long it would take from my hotel room to the bridge.

In the evening it is of course a bit different, because there are a lot more people on the way and I didn't want to run to the bridge in a sprint. So you should take enough time and get on your way in good time, ultimately also because the later you start, the fuller it gets. On Thapae Road you can find some Thais who still sell lanterns. So if you haven't buy until now, you should be able to still find some. And right on the bridge there are numerous stalls where you can buy the beautiful floating rafts at a really cheap price.

When I got to the bridge there weren't many people there, but there were already numerous lanterns in the sky. I was already thrilled :-) The bridge was divided into two areas: on top of the bridge people let their lanterns go up, and on the river bank you could drop your krathongs into the river. I was first on the bridge and watched the people raise their lanterns. I saw happy and laughing faces everywhere. For me it was the only moment when I got a little thoughtful, because I was alone in Chiang Mai. It is wonderful to see the festival, the lanterns rising into the sky and the floating krathongs, but alone it is very awkward and impossible to raise a lantern.

A tip at this point: in Thailand the temperatures are very high, also in Chiang Mai and in the evening it is still pleasantly warm. In order for the lanterns to rise into the sky, the air in the lantern is heated. That may sound banal and where is the tip now? I have seen many people who were very impatient and tried to raise their lanterns even though the air in the lantern was not heated enough at all. Consequence: the lanterns did not rise properly. Some lanterns only flew horizontally and just barely passed over the heads of others. That can be very dangerous at times. So if you want to raise a lantern in Thailand, you should take your time and not get impatient!

At some point I went from the bridge to the river bank and watched how people poured their krathongs into the water. That is also a great thing and with the symbolism behind it, really nice. But then there were too many people for me and I decided to go back to the hotel. I came back to the square at the old city gate and saw an event. There was a choice of Miss and Mister Loy Krathong. Although I think the competition must have started beforehand, maybe even on a different day, because what I saw were mainly finals, where the favorites were chosen little by little, until finally one woman and one man remained.

At the same time I decided to buy at least one krathong and let it swim in the water of the old city moat. Swimming is said too much, because there is no flowing movement in the trenches like in the river, but I was glad I did it anyway. At the end of the evening I got something delicious to eat at a street food stand and was happy about a really nice day :-)

Temples in Chiang Mai - My second day in Chiang Mai


The festival in Chiang Mai lasted three days, on the first day I was still in Bangkok and yesterday on the second day I had seen the Lantern Festival and let a floating raft swim in the old city moat. These were all very nice impressions that far exceeded my expectations. When you let a lantern rise into the sky, not only is the first moment a wonderful experience. The lanterns rise very far into the sky and with the many lanterns that you can see in the sky, it looks like a starry sky. Here, too, photos or videos can only give a rough impression, it is much more to experience.

Today is the third day of the festival and at that time I had no idea what was going to take place that day. My return flight was planned for tomorrow, so after breakfast, which was very generous in the hotel, I started my second tour near the old city. I wasn't in Chiang Mai to go shopping, I didn't really need any souvenirs and since I got a few brief impressions of the temples in the area yesterday I decided to spend a little more time with them.

The first temple I visited was just a few hundred meters from my hotel. Wat Saimoonmuang. I'm not an expert when it comes to temples and I have to learn a lot about that. I could now probably consult Wikipedia to tell more about this or the other temples. But that would go beyond the scope of a blog. Outwardly, many temples look very similar to me. There are only a few buildings on the Wat Saimoonmuang temple complex, but the building that appears to be the main building from the outside has two guardian statues at the entrance, as I had already seen at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. In this building itself there are some beautiful pictures hung up next to statues of Bhudda.

On my way back towards Thapae Road, where I wanted to see the next temple, I met the man from the hotel reception whom I had met when I checked in the day before. He was just taking a lunch break :-) Not exciting in itself, BUT here I should now find out what I really should see in the evening. While talking with the Thai, I learned that there would be a parade in the early evening! I didn't know anything about it up to that point and of course I was pricked up my ears. The Thai told me a few details about where and when the parade would start and that I shouldn't miss it. Best of all, it would start near Thapae Road. My hotel room, which is only a few minutes away, was once again the perfect starting point for another event :-)

But now I made my way to the second temple: Wat Mahawan. This temple seems a bit bigger than Wat Saimoonmuang, I could see more buildings. And at one point there was a tower that looks very similar to Wat Arun in Bangkok, but much smaller. This temple complex is also very beautiful. The third and last temple that I visited that day was Wat Buppharam. Tourists have to pay 20 Baht entry, but it's worth it, they could ask for more! The temple complex has some very beautiful buildings to offer, with many beautiful statues and beautiful ornaments. In the main building you can hardly see enough, it is very splendid with gold decorations on the windows, on the railing, actually everywhere. The steps lead to a central room where there are several Bhudda statues. I was lucky, at the time when the sun was slowly going down there weren't that many visitors to the facility, but with the light of the setting sun, the golden building shone in an impressive glow!

The trip to the three temples was great and is definitely recommended. Now it was getting dark and I made my way back to the hotel because I didn't want to miss the parade :-)

Parade - My second evening in Chiang Mai


The (final) parade for the Yee Peng Festival started in the early evening. I was in the Thapae Gate square around 6:00 p.m. and saw the first participants on Chaiyapoom Road, which leads into Thapae Road. Many people had come much earlier and looked for a good spot on the side of the road to be able to watch the parade passing by. I don't know if there was an official start time, they started at around 6:45 pm.

As expected, the parade started moving and there was really a lot to see. The Thais were festively dressed, the colorful, traditional robes were varied and very beautiful to look at. The parade itself consisted of countless small groups, some of them were students from universities, various representatives of handicrafts and arts, representatives from the Chiang Mai consulate and some foreign consulates. In addition to the countless people on foot, there were also wonderful wagons on the parade, which were wonderfully shown off with their lighting.

I was very happy that I heard about this parade and was able to witness it. I was there for over 3 hours and I didn't even notice that so much time had passed. In between I had strengthened myself with something to eat, there are one or two street food stands at the roadside. So I finally noticed two wonderful days in Chiang Mai :-)

If you want to see more!


Take your time, take enough time to visit Chiang Mai. I only visited Chiang Mai for the Yeepeng Festival, but there are many interesting, charming places in Chiang Mai. Stay there for a while if you can :-)

Thank you for reading my blog, enjoy your next travel to Bangkok !

Thailand Planning Festivals Things to do Temples Loy Krathong Culture Chiang Mai Asia

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Written by BangkokCityExplorer
Make My Bangkok Holiday Make My Bangkok Holiday is a holiday planner to help you plan your own holiday and gives you informations about the top sights in Bangkok and beyond, for an individual, special and unforgettable holiday in Bangkok and around. We dont offer booking tours to you, we only give advices about possible things to do in Bangkok and beyond, show you many impressive places and how you can easily find them. You are the first time in Bangkok? We give you basic informations about the public traffic system, other usuful informations or just some easy hints for one or another situation. You still visited Bangkok and have visite... Read more

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