The Yi Ping Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai Thailand

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After waiting for many years, I finally got to see the famous Yi Ping Lantern Festival and it lived up to everything I’d ever heard. A truly amazing experience that I will not soon forget. Please note that these shots are pretty noisy and not the sharpest — I was shooting hand-held in the dark.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/29010790@N08/12987270593

Who would have thought a bag of ultra-thin plastic, wire and a wax candle could create such a spectacle?

The Yi Ping Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai Thailand

It takes awhile to get going. I spent about four hours sitting on a plastic tarp on the lawn with a couple thousand other people while monks chanted and gave speeches. There was even a 30-minute teaching on the correct way to pray to the Buddha. This was repeated in Thai (shouldn’t most Thais have this figured out by now?)

The Yi Ping Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai Thailand

Various processions marched up and down the path, passing by the assembled monks. This one with candles right before the action got started was one of my favorites. The announcer kept pleading with everyone not to launch their lanterns yet but some just couldn’t wait.

The Yi Ping Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai Thailand

Let’s get it started!

The Yi Ping Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai Thailand

Things are about to get crazy. And finally, the announcement comes: “release your lanterns!”

The Yi Ping Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai Thailand

Thousands of lanterns begin to climb into the sky as fireworks are set off. It’s an incredible sight.

The Yi Ping Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai Thailand

The first wave. This will go on for about an hour.

The Yi Ping Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai Thailand

Yeah, it was kind of like that.

The Yi Ping Lantern Festival, Chiang Mai Thailand

Once the lanterns reach a certain height, the winds shift they all begin to drift off to the right. It looked like a golden Milky Way.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Jaloola March 7, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Excellent Wes! Love the shot if the people holding the lanterns. I had no idea they were so big! Great photo set.

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Mo March 7, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Awesome shots Wes… Great job!
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Marc March 7, 2014 at 8:34 pm

So nice! One day i will make it in time for the festival! Greets!!

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kelly March 7, 2014 at 8:52 pm

They glow in the darkness beautifully. Thanks for being there and sharing with us.

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michael March 7, 2014 at 11:54 pm

awesome pix! We were in Ubon Ratchathani a few yrs ago for the related Loy Krathong festival, there were a few sky lanterns but nothing like Yi Peng in CM, focus of Loy Krathong is on the launching of good luck candle-lit krathongs onto the Moon River. We enjoyed the festival at a local wat on the river, with dancing, music, tons of food, festive folks and a gorgeous Nov full moon in the sky, very fond memories!
chok dii

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Mel March 8, 2014 at 3:09 am

I always get excited when a new Johnny Vagabond post pops up in my e-mail feed — as always, this one did not disappoint. Incredible shots, thanks for sharing!
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Annie of TravelShus March 8, 2014 at 4:32 am

gorgeous! im dying to go to Yi Ping….
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Kevin Revolinski March 8, 2014 at 7:35 am

One of my favorite travel experiences in recent memory. Felt like I was falling when they all went up. Hoping to go back next year. Save the date.
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Jen March 8, 2014 at 7:36 am

Beautiful photos, some of the best I have seen if this festival. It looks like it was a great experience for you and well worth the long wait!
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apol | Wanderful Together.com March 8, 2014 at 11:08 am

Whoa…. amazing photos! I love the one with the fireworks especially.
This is one of my dream too, to go to Chiang Mai and participate in this festival.
Wonder when that would be!
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wes March 8, 2014 at 11:16 am

Do it! :)

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apol | Wanderful Together.com March 9, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Have to wait for now… i’m 3 months on my way and have to focus on our preparation for our 1st baby… :D we’ll be a traveling family soon! ^_^
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wes March 9, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Congrats!

Rachel of Hippie in Heels March 8, 2014 at 6:54 pm

Beautiful, I’d love to make it to one! I never had enough time to get North.
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Thomas Dembie March 8, 2014 at 11:50 pm

Photos are amazing. What a wonderful experience. I love Chiang Mai and can’t wait to go back one day to see this festival.
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Daniel March 12, 2014 at 6:55 am

Nicely done!
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Kevin Revolinski March 14, 2014 at 1:03 pm

I am making 10 million old Turkish lira per day working from home making macrame underwear! Follow my link to find out how you too can take advantage of this opportunity. You’ll need your bank account number and a frontal lobotomy. Act now! I am finding what bloogging platgform you use and you make some spelling errorrs good joob! impress her last for hours! Winner!
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Jonathan Look, Jr. March 14, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Nice shots amigo!
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Mccaire March 17, 2014 at 4:50 am

NICE!

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Pamela Loh March 18, 2014 at 12:03 am

I love the shot which caught that wee bit of fireworks. It must have look really magnificent. With so many people lighting up their lanterns, it must be a warm night…

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Jasmine Brown March 18, 2014 at 4:20 pm

This is a great event! Never been to a lantern festival, I hope in the future I could witness one.

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Bama March 23, 2014 at 1:44 pm

What an incredible sight! This festival alone might be the strongest drive for me to visit Thailand again one day in the future. When you were there did you see any lanterns which didn’t make it to the sky?
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Carm April 27, 2014 at 11:49 pm

Lovely pictures Wes! I haven’t been to the Yi Ping Lantern festival but I once went to a Guinness World Record Event of most sky lanterns simultaneously released and it was nothing short of spectacular. Can’t wait to go back to Chiang Mai sometime this year..

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Milena Yordanova July 9, 2014 at 8:06 pm

What a spiritual experience! Amazing photos.
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Juan - Myanmar Travel & Food September 17, 2014 at 6:14 pm

These photos are AMAZING!!!
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wes September 18, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Thanks :)

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I really appreciate people like you! Take care!!
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แป้งโฟม September 27, 2014 at 2:06 am

Hello there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my zynga group?
There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content.
Please let me know. Cheers
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wes September 27, 2014 at 4:39 am

Please do. Thanks!

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rebecca October 7, 2014 at 7:28 am

incredible! I really want to see this
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