The countries of the East, such as India or Indonesia, are exotic, beautiful lands filled with customs and traditions that are incredibly unique. Each November, Thailand shines light onto just how special some of these traditions can be.
Every year, on the full moon of the second month of the Lanna calendar, skies in Chiang Mai, a region in northern Thailand and the capital of the ancient Lanna kingdom, light up in celebration of the Yi Peng festival. During this festival, floating lanterns are released, lighting up the night sky like thousands of fireflies.
The lanterns, known as “khom loi,” are inscribed with prayers and messages and released to pay homage to the Buddhist deities. The releasing of the “kohm loi” symbolizes the release of the past year’s problems and stress, and the beginning of a new, clean slate.
In the past few years, attendance by both locals and tourists from around the world has grown so high that the Thai people have decided to break the festival into two parts. In order to respect the religious importance and the sanctity of the periods of meditation and prayer for locals, tourists (who range from other Thai people, tourists from other Asian countries and travelers from Europe and the Americas) are asked to attend a second night of the festival.
Culture-seekers are not to worry, however; the second night of Yi Peng will still give travelers the full Lanna experience. Beginning in the evening, they have the chance to enjoy a typical “Kantok” (local) meal and traditional dances. After dinner and the performances, everyone quiets down for a period of meditation, as was done the previous night. It is at this point of the evening where the major difference between the two nights is seen: there is a meditation workshop instead of being in a full state of mediation (a feat difficult to accomplish for those who are not accustomed to this form of prayer). Buddhist monks lead the group in prayer and meditation, and bless everyone to have happiness, prosperity, and health. After this religious ceremony, the lanterns are released. With traditional Thai music playing in the background, you are left to gaze in wonderment at this magical sight.
This year, the night for travelers will be on November 30. You can get your passes here.
So, if you find you have a fancy to experience a new corner of the globe and truly experience all that particular culture has to offer, we highly recommend packing that backpack and heading to Thailand during the month of November to experience this festival of lights.