Yee Peng Festival - Chiang Mai, Thailand.
"Yi Peng" is a Lanna festival celebrated in northern Thailand and some parts of Laos. The festival is meant as a time for tham bun, to make merit. Yi Peng is held on a full moon of the 2nd month of the Lanna calendar ("Yi" meaning "2nd" and "Peng" meaning "month" in the Lanna language) - usually in October or November. A multitude of Lanna-style sky lanterns (called khom loi, literally: "floating lanterns") are launched into the air where they resemble large flocks of giant fluorescent jellyfish gracefully floating by through the sky. People usually make khom loi from a thin fabric, such as rice paper, to which a candle or fuel cell is attached. When the fuel cell is lit, the resulting hot air which is trapped inside the lantern creates enough lift for the khom loi to float up into the sky.
The most elaborate Yi Peng celebrations can be seen in Chiang Mai, the ancient capital of the former Lanna kingdom. The largest is held at the Thudongkhasathan Lanna center outside of Chiang Mai. I was able to attend the festival in 2011 when I took the photos below. The evening started with a formal Buddhist ceremony with many prayers, some in English but most in Thai. As it got dark the lanterns were lit and we released them into the sky. As impressive as it looks in photos, it was even better in person.
I have heard that the Lanna center has started offering two different Yi Peng ceremonies, a large, traditional one attended mostly by Thais and a smaller, more organized (and expensive) one for "foreign visitors" (i.e. tourists). These photos are from the traditional festival and I strongly encourage people to go to the more authentic one. It will be more chaotic and less tourist-oriented, but will be more authentic. The Lanna Center does not publicize the local festival as much and you may need to do some research to find out when it is. Contacting the hotels in Chiang Mai is probably the easiest way to find out the date.
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