Sometimes words and pictures just can’t describe events. The Yi Peng Festival was such an event for me. I have many friends in Chiang Mai who have been to Yi Peng before and told me it is one of the highlights of the year. With such an endorsement I had to see this for myself.
[Yi Peng crowd with lanterns]
Yee Ping is known as the festival of 10000 Lantern Release, a Buddhist festival to make merit. In Buddhism, merit is the accumulation of good deeds, which is carried over to later in life (or in the next life). The accumulation of good karma basically (which you may have heard in a Buddhist quote).
With so many people attending, my fellow Yee Ping veteran friends advised to go out early to secure a good patch of grass.
[Hard work waiting around for the evening to come. Drew and Cole.]
By dusk the ceremony begins, which involves Buddhist chanting and meditation. Finally, an announcement is made to light the lanterns.
[Yi Peng – Dustin and Dale lighting a lantern]
When most of the lanterns are ready the signal is given to release the lanterns. By now the lanterns are full of hot air and only require one finger to hold them. Looking up and watching your lantern float away with thousands of others was a beautiful site. All I remember is lots of laughing and cheering, as well as some ridiculously cheery Thai music in the background which would have sounded cheesy in any other context, but here it was wonderful.
[Yi Peng Lanterns]
You are supposed to make a wish when you release the lantern, but in the joy of the moment I completely forgot. Once I remembered that I forgot, I looked out in the sky and wondered which one was mine in the hope of making a retroactive wish. Good luck finding it…
[Yi Peng Sky of Lanterns]
I was so happy from the spectacle that I didn’t feel the need to wish for anything anyway. Besides, I always wish for unobtainable stuff that never comes true, like world peace, and the secrets to Google’s search algorithm.
After the first release, the remaining lanterns are lit and released, keeping the sky alight for a while longer. Fireworks are set off as well during this time, adding more light to the night sky.
[Yi Peng Fireworks]
Yi Peng is on every year around October/November and is held at the Lanna Dhutanka temple (behind Mae Jo University), just outside Chiang Mai. The event is free to attend, and the lanterns cost 100 Baht (about $3). There is also another lantern release event the following week, which is put on for foreigners. The event costs $100, which seems crazy when can see the local one for free.