Nine years ago, while living in Bangkok, I was invited by a few of my students (I was an English teacher) to celebrate Loy Krathong at a special dinner event by the Chao Phraya river. Enjoying good food and entertainment, I received my first introduction to the Thai holiday celebrating the rise of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. This year, from November 16-18, I learned that Chiang Mai does its Loy Krathong celebration in a much more elaborate and raucous fashion.
The Loy Krathong and Yi Peng festivals are different festivals, but celebrated concurrently. The Loy Krathong festival is commonly celebrated by releasing krathong, which are elaborately decorated lotus shaped containers, onto a river. It is commonly understood that releasing the krathong is symbolic of letting go of one's anger and negativity. Some Thai also use the krathong to thank the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongha.
The Yi Peng is a Lanna (northern Thai) festival celebrated by launching into the sky khom loy, large lanterns made from a thin fabric such as rice paper. A candle burning inside the lantern fills the lantern with hot air, providing the necessary lift to carry the lantern into the sky. One purpose of the Yi Peng festival is for adherents of Buddhism to make merit.
While my experience of Loy Krathong in Bangkok was relatively laid back, Chiang Mai puts on an elaborate three day festival full of entertainment, fireworks and firecrackers, and launching of krathong and khom loy. Celebrated throughout Chiang Mai, but with the majority of people gathering along the banks of the Ping River, each night of the festival is full of energy and khom loy as thousands of lanterns are released into the night sky. It is an exhilarating and beautiful, albeit noisy, festival. I must say that the Loy Krathong and Yi Peng celebrations are among the best I have experienced in a long time. Below are some images I created while celebrating along the banks of the Ping River.