Chiang Mai – The Festival of Light
We’ve already been to Thailand last time around, but this time we weren’t going to miss the Yee Peng festival in Chiang Mai! This legendary festival was on both our bucket lists, so we couldn’t wait to get here! The colorful festival of light is actually a combination of two Thai holidays; the Yee Peng festival (celebrated only in northern Thailand) and the Loi Krathong festival that are celebrated on the same day. The first being the “lantern festival” and the second being the “floats festival”. Thousands of lanterns are set to the sky and thousands of Krathongs are being released into the Ping River nearby, supposedly banning bad luck and bad spirits. Every temple in Chiang Mai is decorated colorfully and there is a festive atmosphere throughout the small town. An amazing spectacle we were happy we could attend!We took a flight with Lao airlines in the early afternoon. There is nothing like a tiny propeller plane to get my heart racing! After an uncomfortable hours flight we arrived safely in Chang Mai. The amazing festival of light takes place every year, based on the moon cycle. This year it is from the second till the fourth of November. After our eleven days of relaxing in Laos we were ready for some excitement!
We arrived late on the first of November so we decided to take it easy and explore the area near the hotel. The hotel comes with a small pool and has a great location, just outside the moat that surrounds the city and next to the Ping River, where most of the festivities take place. We celebrated our arrival with some ice-cold coconuts!
The next morning we slept in and had a good breakfast around the corner. Decent salads are extremely rare in Asia, and lucky for us, around the corner there is a place that has really good salads, wraps and healthy fruit-juices. Only in the late afternoon we made our way to the festivals opening ceremony at the three kings monument in town. As you would expect, we were not the only ones there, but we managed to get a good spot to watch. An amazing candle lighting ceremony took place with 300 dancers, candles and colorful chanting monks that opened the festivities! After the ceremony we got some locally crafted candles and placed them on the altar at the monument for good luck. The whole square was decorated with hanging lanterns, candles and statues. The perfect place for a festival opening! In the evening we strolled through town and walked by the moat enjoying the atmosphere and the lit candles. We also walked to the river and secured us some lanterns for the following day. While watching colorful flower krathongs being let into the river and other people lighting up their lanterns, we decided to set one lantern up ourself. An amazing experience!
Exhausted, we woke up late the following day and went for breakfast before heading back into town. The 3rd of November is the main day of the festival with ceremonies all over town. The main festival site is by the river where all the locals and most tourist go to see and participate in the festival. In the early evening we watched a ceremony at the Wat Phan Tao Temple under a large decorated tree where novice monks were meditating and chanting. The trees and statues around the temple complex were decorated with colorful lanterns and candles were lit at the altar. After the ceremony we made our way into the direction of the river when we came across another golden temple. At Wat Buppharam Temple local monks helped people to light the lanterns and release them into the sky. Set against this dreamy background with friendly monks, we set off our lanterns.
We continued our way towards the wide river where thousands of excited people gathered to send off their lanterns into the sky. Thousands of lanterns decorated the full moon sky, a festival of epic proportions! We got ourselves some Krathongs from a stand and released them at the Ping River. This is said to ban bad luck and bring good luck. We were certainly feeling lucky to be able to be here during the festival!
The next day we were off to another late start and relaxed by the pool until the next activity started. In the early evening we made our way to the moat at the East Gate, where the Krathong parade started. Endless beautifully colored floats came by. They were joined by music, dancers and traditionally dressed folks from all over Thailand. The parade passed by the river where we crossed to the other side. We found a fancy hotel with a rooftop bar overlooking the river, where we enjoyed seeing the lanterns and firework in the night sky with an ice-cold Thai beer. An amazing ending to the festival.
The following morning we rented a motorbike to visit Doi Suthep, the largest temple in the area, set on top of a nearby mountain overseeing Chiang Mai. We cruised over the dwindling roads to the top of the mountain, stopping several times to enjoy the view. Once at the top, the dragon stairs took us to the temple. Loads of tourists and monks wander the area. Doi Suthep is a dazzling golden temple surrounded by Buddha statues of all sizes. We signed our names on a cloth that will be wrapped around the temple before making our way back to town. We grabbed a quick dinner and went to the Chiang Mai Market, a gigantic market with amazing souvenirs!
Early next morning we made our way to the Chiang Mai Train station. To avoid yet another flight and more importantly to see a bit more of the country, we decided to take a day train to Bangkok. Twelve hours of green forests, elephants, buffaloes, tiny villages and rice-paddies later we arrived at the train station of buzzing Bangkok! As we only arrived in the late evening and were flying out extremely early the next day, we decided against staying in a hotel. After all we wouldn’t have stayed there longer than a couple of hours anyways! We spend the night on some comfy chairs in a crisp 10 degrees air conditioned room.
Early morning we took a flight with AirAsia to beach central – Bali, Island of the gods.