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Chiang Mai's Enchanting Loy Krathong
Loy Krathong is a big festival with many celebrations all over Thailand. It is celebrated on the full moon of the twelfth lunar month and that night usually falls in mid November. In Chiang Mai and other Northern Thai provinces that were once part of the ancient Lanna Thai kingdom, Loy Krathong is also called Yee-peng Festival.

When translated, "Loy" means to "set adrift". And "Krathong" means a small float that can usually be held with one hand. Thais celebrate Loy Krathong by setting adrift traditional hand-made krathongs onto the rivers. The krathongs are made from natural materials, mostly parts from the banana plant and decorated with flowers. One of the meanings behind this ritual is to make offerings to Mae Khongkha – Mother of Waters, to thank her for providing life-sustaining water throughout the year. Another is to beg her forgiveness for their sins in polluting the rivers during that year. In Chiang Mai, you can see this enchanting ritual by the Ping River.

Unique to Chiang Mai's Yee-Peng Festival is the launching of kome loy (Lanna-style floating lanterns) or hot air balloons into the skies. This symbolises the floating away of your bad luck and troubles. Part of the fun of launching kome loys is holding onto the rims together with your friends and waiting till the air inside gets hot enough to lift it into the sky.

It's easy to fall under the spell of these two rituals. There is a certain romance to watching thousands of kome loys disappearing into the night sky and beautiful flickering krathongs floating down the river. Many travellers return to Chiang Mai every year just to see this spectacular festival.

The celebrations last for many days in Chiang Mai, climaxing in a highlights-packed final three days. These three days are on the eve of Loy Krathong Day, the day itself, and the day after. The highlights include: Lanna Thai cultural performances, krathong contests, beauty contest, fireworks and the krathong parades.

The final night of the celebration is the most spectacular. A parade of "Krathong Yai" or giant krathong (street parade floats) will slowly wing their way through the streets of Chiang Mai. These floats are beautifully decorated with designs depicting the story of the life of the Lord Buddha, Thai literature, history or Thai art.

The participants of the parade are also decked out in spectacular traditional costumes. And often, you can see the most beautiful girls and boys of the local universities seated on top of the floats waving to the crowds and attracting lots of shutterbugs. This is a very long parade so make sure you pick out a good comfortable spot early!
About the Author
Jaxon Toh loves to travel and share his experiences with others. More Thai festival stories and travel recommendations can be found on this Chiang Mai travel guide. Get a free Thai holidays calendar too.
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