The 2016 Yi Peng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai will be held from November 13-15. These dates have been confirmed by the Chiang Mai Municipality office. There is also another privately arranged sky lantern release at a temple in Mae Jo which often takes place around the same time and gets confused with the Yi Peng Festival. The date for the Mae Jo event has yet to be confirmed. Please take some time to read the articles in the links below which provide more information about the two separate events:
Yi Peng Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai
Mass sky lantern release at Mae Jo
In view of the death of His Majesty the King, please also read the information in this link:
News and updates on the Loy Krathong and Yi Peng Festival, 2016
novice monks release sky lanterns during the Yi Peng Lantern Festival at Wat Phan Tao in Chiang Mai
Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai, 2016
The official Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai usually takes place over three days with religious events, cultural activities, street parades and the release of sky lanterns. The event always takes place at the same time as Loy Krathong which means if you are in Chiang Mai you can also see floating krathongs on the Ping River. The dates for the 2016 Chiang Mai Yi Peng Festival are November 13-15 with the main night for releasing sky lanterns and floating krathongs being Loy Krathong/Yi Peng night on November 14.
Sky lantern release at Mae Jo, 2016
For a number of years, the Lanna Dhutanka temple in the Mae Jo district of Chiang Mai province have arranged a mass sky lantern release to celebrate Awk Phansa, the end of Buddhist Lent. The lantern release is the culmination of a kathina robes offering ceremony and is usually held in November. The Mae Jo event is not the Yi Peng Festival although many travel websites and blogs continue to get this basic fact wrong. The event organisers must take some of the blame for this because they have deliberately tried to associate their event with the Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai for their own gain.
The Mae Jo lantern release used to be open to everybody and free to attend. As the event became better known there was a surge in the number of overseas tourists attending. Unfortunately, this also meant a sharp rise in incidents of poor behaviour. In response, in 2011 the Mae Jo temple hosted a ticketed event aimed at tourists in addition to the free event. In 2015, the Chiang Mai authorities instructed the Mae Jo temple that they were only permitted to release sky lanterns on the night of Yi Peng/Loy Krathong. As a result, there was no free event at Mae Jo in 2015. Instead, overseas visitors attending the Mae Jo event last year had to buy tickets in advance with prices advertised in US dollars and ranging from US$100-300. It’s possible the same may happen again in 2016. If that is the case, then the ticketed event may be hosted on November 14. However, that is not definite and there is no guarantee that a sky lantern release will take place at Mae Jo this year. Confirmation one way or the other probably won’t happen until September or October*.
I’ve been advised by local contacts in Chiang Mai that there is no free event at Mae Jo in 2016. There is a ticketed event scheduled at Mae Jo for November 14, but apparently that has already sold out. The Mae Jo temple, which describes itself as a ‘non-profit organisation’, sold tickets ranging in price from US$100-300 via a few hand-picked tour companies.
I want to stress again that the actual Yi Peng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai is (and always has been) free to attend and is where you will see local people enjoying the festivities.
Contact event organisers »
Yi Peng Lantern Festival versus Mae Jo lantern release
Having attended both events numerous times over the years, I always enjoy the actual Yi Peng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai far more than the Mae Jo event. I understand why people who have seen video clips or photos of the Mae Jo event want to go, but whether it’s worth paying US$100 and more for tickets is another question.
Unlike the privately arranged Mae Jo event, the Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai is spread over three days, is free to attend and is always a good mix of local people and tourists. Tens of thousands of sky lanterns (far more than at Mae Jo) are released in and around Chiang Mai city throughout the duration of the Yi Peng and Loy Krathong Festival. With street parades, religious services, beauty contests, cultural displays and fireworks, it’s a great time to be in Chiang Mai. And if you head down to the Ping River you will also see a steady stream of hundreds of krathongs being launched on the water on Loy Krathong night.