Yi Peng Lantern Festival 2012 Chiang Mai, Thailand

Magic! I came to Thailand for one reason. Normally, that reason would be food. But this time it was to attend the Yi Peng Lantern Ceremony in Chiang Mai. When I first saw a video of the Yi Peng ceremony, I was immediately moved by the images of 10,000 floating lanterns caressing the sky. I knew I needed to experience it.

The Yi Peng Ceremony is held near the ground of Mae Jo University and is the largest lantern ceremony in all of Thailand. It’s part of a week of festivities surrounding the Loi Krathong festival, a festival that occurs around the 12th full moon every year.

It was suggested that we arrive by 5 pm. We negotiated a rate with the songteow driver for our group. A songteow is a truck with seats along the sides of the rear bed. We piled/smushed 26 people into one songteow and left for the Mae Jo University grounds.

Before entering the festival, there were guards ensuring everyone was dressed properly. No shoulders or knees can be shown on women. I borrowed a friends scarf and wrapped it around my naked shoulders and had to buy a pair of hugely oversized pants at the gate to cover my knees.

We were greeted by a beautiful song ending with “Clear your mind and open your hearts”. It set the tone for the evening.

The place was packed, but we found a spot near the waaay back, which worked to our advantage since our group had 12 young children that appreciated the space to run around and play. We were unable to see the buddhist monk procession from there, but we did enjoy the beautiful chanting of the monks.

There were troches set up evert few meters to help light the lanterns. I kept thinking that this beautiful ceremony could never, ever happen in the US. There is just too much fire-hazard.

Lanterns were available for sale for $3 each. They were a lot bigger than we expected.

The ceremony was beyond words. Since words and images are all I have to share with you, here are a few to describe it:

Peaceful.  Romantic.  Energetic.  Awesome.  Magical.  Unifying.  Tear-inducing.

Perhaps even life-changing

During the Yi Peng, people light large rice paper lanterns and set them adrift into the night sky. The lanterns represent sending your troubles and negativity away.

I looked up into the sky, gazing upon 10,000 lanterns each released by individual hands, uniting to form a constellation of harmony on the black sky. I am reminded of my individuality while being connected to everyone and everything at the same time. The feeling of unity and individuality was overwhelming and the entire scene was magical.

The festival was special because we weren’t there to be entertained, we were a part of it. I was able to just sit for a minute alone. meditating like the monks.

There was a lot of love in working together to light the lantern correctly. It was fun in seeing it fill up with hot air. The joy in releasing it and watching it rise into the sky to meet others was profound.
Seeing the glow of light on my children’s faces, I couldn’t help but be filled with overwhelming love for this life, their lives, and this incredible experience of life.

I will forever have this image and emotion imprinted in my mind as a lesson on purpose and worthiness of the individual. And how, as a collective whole, we need each other.

Amongst the sea of people and lanterns, I meditated on all the events of my life that led up to this. Like the individual lanterns floating in the sky, each event was part of a bigger plan, unbeknownst to me. Who could have ever imagined I’d be standing in Thailand looking into the night sky, mesmerized by floating lanterns? Who could have foreseen that my children and husband would be such blessings and enormous lessons of how to appreciate individuality? Who could have ever know that the friends I’ve made along the journey of life and those who join me now were intended to be with me for the moments they were?

I could have never imagined this.

I just don’t dream that big.

All night long the city was filled with bangs, fizzles and fazzles as fireworks, sparklers and anything that glittered showcased itself.

Our ride home was a 2 hour traffic nightmare ride in the back of a songteow. We were tired, hot and thirsty. But our own smiles glittered throughout the night. I’d do this every year.

Enjoy the video of this event set to the chanting of buddhist monks. It still does not capture the beauty of Yi Peng, which can only be truly experienced in person.
(I suggest you watch this video full screen).

Put this event on your bucket list and go next year!

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15 Responses to “Yi Peng Lantern Festival 2012 Chiang Mai, Thailand”

  1. Anne November 30, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Jennifer Pearce November 30, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

    Tears are currently streaming, Sabina. It was great to relive those moments through you blog post and video. Wow. Incredible to think back and reflect on such a beautiful ceremony and experience. Thank you!

  3. Tess November 30, 2012 at 9:14 pm #

    So beautiful! This really looks like magic and is defiantly on my bucket list!

  4. Living Outside of the Box November 30, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

    Awesome! I love the video you caught of the big release…it’s still stunning, even in video!

  5. Allison November 30, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

    OMG, Sabina – just watching your video made me weep… I can only imagine the overwhelming feelings of being physically present at this beautiful event. It’s on my list… want to be there with you guys to experience it.

    And the music was wonderful…. Buddhist monks and David Wilcox. Love them both.

  6. Travel with Bender (Erin) November 30, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    Beautiful pictures. My favourite of the back of your head and I’s as you look at the sky. So happy to have shared the moment with you.

  7. Travel with Bender (Erin) November 30, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

    GREAT VIDEO! So talented!

    • S King December 2, 2012 at 3:19 am #

      Thanks Erin. Now, only if I had a super fancy camera like your photographer husband ;)

  8. Mary December 1, 2012 at 7:19 am #

    Pure magic is the best description I have:) You worded it beautifully! So amazed to have shared it in some part with you and your family!

  9. Mary December 1, 2012 at 7:41 am #

    I just watched the video and am just in tears. That is amazing , you did such a beautiful job with it! I am keeping that forever! Thanks so much!

  10. Emily December 1, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    Totally amazing! I have seen this on TV but one day hope to see it in person. Thank you for the lovely write up and photos!

    • S King December 2, 2012 at 3:20 am #

      Emily…you can only imagine how much more powerful (and fun) it is in person.

  11. Shareen February 25, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    Wow! This must of been an incredible experience. It’s so beautiful you got to experience it with your family – amazing video.

  12. Lorena - A Life Type March 11, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

    Sabina, thanks for sharing this beautiful experience!
    We are panning to start our nomad life in the 2013 festival. We are anxious to start traveling!

    • S King March 12, 2013 at 1:27 am #

      Lorena, starting at Yi Peng would be an incredible welcoming to travel. Enjoy…perhaps we’ll be there again.

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