Building the Milky Way: Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai

Did you know that you can build your own Milky Way?

It’s simple, really.

You need a field, a crowd, a few candle wicks and some pale paper lanterns. These will be your baby stars.

Working with a massive group of stranger works better for the ‘wow’ factor, but a tighter group of friends will still put up a constellation or two.

And if you happen to be around during the full moon in Thailand, it helps to come to Chiang Mai for Loy Krathong.

(They’ll have everything you need in ample supply.)

Loy Krathong, also known as Yi Peng, is an annual Thai full moon holiday, celebrating either by sending hot-air lanterns into the sky or candles in bamboo and flower floats down a river. Though the official holiday only usually lasts three days, every night in the week around it will be constantly lit up by points of light where-ever you look.

So if you’ve ever wanted to create your own starry sky, this is the time to do it.

There’s just a few steps.

When night falls, light your candles and gather your lanterns. Some people will choose to turn theirs into messengers, writing wishes or hopes or words to live by on top.

Light the wicks of your lanterns, and let them slowly fill with air.

Once full with hot air, you’ll start to feel the lantern pulling away from you, ready to fly. But don’t let it go just yet!

Wait until everyone else is ready. Wait until as many other lanterns as possible are full. Wait until a firework blasts loud and sharp directly over you – the signal to begin.

Wait until just the right moment, and let go.

And watch as the Milky Way rises up right above your head.

(If a picture says a thousand words, what about a movie? Check out the video below from Dayn, who was at the same Loy Krathong celebration I was – it’s the next best thing if you can’t be there!)

Lanterns from Dayn Arnold on Vimeo.

What is Loy Krathong / Yi Peng?:
Loy Krathong and Yi Peng are two names for almost identical holidays in Thailand, which usually occur on the November full moon. While Loy Krathong is celebrated throughout Thailand by sending candle-lit bamboo floats down rivers, Yi Peng is the name of the Lanna (northern Thai) festival which celebrates with all those brilliant paper lanterns.

Where can I see the lanterns go up?
Chiang Mai is the best place. People will be flying paper lanterns during the entire week around Loy Krathong / Yi Peng, but the biggest (and most spectacular) concentration of lanterns tends to go up at the annual celebration at Maejo University. This year, it hosted two – one for free, on the Saturday before the full moon, and one for a fee, on the Saturday after. I recommend the free one ;)

Even just a week before this year’s celebration, details were hazy on when and where the lantern release would happen. Contact your hostel, hotel, or (if you don’t mind listening to a pitch) a tour operator in Chiang Mai for the latest dates!


25 Responses to Building the Milky Way: Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai

  1. Marco Fiori 16 December, 2012 at 01:12 #

    Some special photography there, especially the last one. One day I’ll get there to see it.

    • na-o-mi 18 December, 2012 at 17:49 #

      Thanks, Marco! I wish I’d had a wide-angle lens on me but oh well…maybe next time?

  2. Jill 16 December, 2012 at 15:19 #

    That last photo is breathtaking. I can only imagine what my photos of the event would have looked like… a big blurry mess!

    • na-o-mi 18 December, 2012 at 17:50 #

      Why not come by next year and see for yourself?? ;)

  3. Ryan 16 December, 2012 at 22:29 #

    Wow those are amazing pics Naomi.I think you inspired Eunsuk cause she finally got a DSLR. Looks like you’re still killin it! Fighting!

    • na-o-mi 18 December, 2012 at 17:52 #

      Sweet! She’ll love it!

  4. Elizabeth 17 December, 2012 at 13:05 #

    Seriously amazing photos Naomi! And that video is brilliant! Definitely going to be spending next Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai!!

    • na-o-mi 18 December, 2012 at 17:53 #

      It’s truly astounding to see those lanterns go up right above your head. You’ll love it xx

  5. Oleah 18 December, 2012 at 15:21 #

    Amazing. I would love to go there one day.

    • na-o-mi 18 December, 2012 at 17:53 #

      Hmm, are you anywhere close? There’s always next year ;)

  6. Jessica Wray 24 December, 2012 at 01:48 #

    Beautiful photos and thanks for adding some description too! I’ve seen so many posts with just pictures, but I know nothing about the festival itself! Next year….fingers crossed! :)

    • na-o-mi 27 December, 2012 at 20:57 #

      It’s quite interesting, actually – never knew there was a difference in the celebrations around Thailand!

  7. Kate 4 January, 2013 at 07:56 #

    This looks so cool!! Sounds like it was an absolutely wonderful night!

    • na-o-mi 11 January, 2013 at 18:16 #

      It was truly something else – even the photographs I’d seen couldn’t prepare me for it!

  8. Craig 4 January, 2013 at 23:29 #

    Wow, fantastic pictures. This festival is beautiful, I’m adding it to my bucket list!

    • na-o-mi 11 January, 2013 at 18:17 #

      Definitely, definitely recommended!!

  9. Kaleena's Kaleidoscope 10 January, 2013 at 03:43 #

    Wow, brilliant photos and I LOVE the video! You’ve got some excellent videography skills. :) I’d never heard of this before and now I definitely want to try to make it next year if I can squeeze in a quick trip down from Korea. Thanks for sharing!

    • na-o-mi 11 January, 2013 at 18:36 #

      Oh, that’s not my video!! I wish ;) Was done by a guy who went to the same celebration that I did that night – isn’t it amazing?

  10. Wil 22 January, 2013 at 13:49 #

    Looks amazing! This festival is defiantly on my bucket list and if everything goes to plan I might be in Chiang Mai for Loy Krathong in 2013

    • na-o-mi 27 January, 2013 at 12:48 #

      DO IT!! It’s so spectacular in person :)

  11. Simo 27 January, 2013 at 17:22 #

    I did the same on Koh Tao last year…. not as many people though… your pics are fantastic…

    • na-o-mi 27 January, 2013 at 18:01 #

      You did it on an island?! That sounds so beautiful!! Next year, I’ll try the same ;)

  12. Katherina 3 May, 2013 at 02:48 #

    What’s Happening i’m new to this, I stumbled
    upon this I’ve discovered It absolutely helpful and it has helped me out loads. I’m
    hoping to contribute & assist different users like its helped me.
    Great job.

  13. This American Girl 27 February, 2014 at 13:07 #

    Gahhh amazing. I was there this year back in November and it was easily the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I will definitely go back :)


  1. Broken bones, insane travels and life-upheaval: 2012 in review | - | Thinkworth Magazine - Travelling, Eating, Living WELL | - - 31 January, 2013

    […] And then, it was off to Bangkok, to begin the Southeast Asia backpacking adventure I’d been dreaming of for almost three years. I spent the month meandering up through Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pai, and was even in time for the festival of lights, Loy Krathong! […]

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