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Loy Krathong Lantern festival and the amazing mountains around Chiang Mai Thailand

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Loi Krathong (ลอยกระทง) is a festival that is celebrated in Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.

The Loy Krathong festival takes place on the evening of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. The dates of Loy Krathong change every year. This is always a source of confusion.

Loi Krathong Chiang Mai

Loy Krathong usually falls in the month of November. In Chiang Mai, the festival is also known as Yi Peng or Yee Peng Festival. It last three days. The first day is the lantern festival, the second day is the full moon day and the third day is now the day of the Loy Krathong parade

Over the years the release of sky lanterns (โคมลอย) has become the most popular activity of the Yee Peng or Loy Krathong Festival. Also about the release of the lanterns, there is a lot of confusion. Nowadays the release of sky lanterns is only allowed on the 2nd and 3rd days of the festival between 1900 and 0100 (one hour after midnight). In 2019 this will probably be on November 11 and 12 but these dates are not confirmed.

The vicinity of the Ping River between the Nakornping Bridge and the Iron Bridge is the best place to be to release and observe sky lanterns. This is free of charge.

There a couple of organized sky lantern releases. These are not free but they are worth visiting.

This lantern releasing event in the past used to be free, but ever since 2015, you must purchase a ticket which costs between $100-300 USD per person.

As you can imagine, this event -- the Mae Jo Sky Lantern Release – is now directed at tourists who want to get that iconic photograph for Instagram instead of locals actually partaking in this cultural festival.

Cowboy Army Riding Club

With this event's popularity, there are other paid events popping up elsewhere around the city (another one is at the Cowboy Army Riding Club), and some tour agencies will make it sound like this is the only way to partake in the festival.This is false.

You can absolutely partake in Yi Peng and Loy Krathong without paying any money to a tour agency.

Unless you are a professional photographer who wants to capture the iconic shot, our recommendation is to skip this overpriced tourist event and just go to Narawat bridge or go to a paid event and watch it outside the property.

Yee Peng festival

Mon Cham

On our way to Mon Cham the mountains just outside the city we past Huay Tueng Thao lake for lunch. Huay Tueng Thao lake is a big lake just outside the city with floating huts on the water where you can eat swimming chilling these kinds of places you come across a lot in Thailand and the food is great. Huay Tung Tao is a freshwater reservoir at the foot of Doi Suthep mountain, just a few kilometers northwest of the Chiang Mai city center. The lake is used for swimming and is a well-known picnic area.

Huay Tueng Thao lake Chiang Mai

Loi Krathong Chiang Mai Thailand

Mon Cham, or ‘Mon Jam’ as it is often spelled, is only a half-hour drive from downtown Chiang Mai yet is worlds away with its cooler climate and chilled-out atmosphere.

Nong Hoi Royal Project is the focal point of Mon Cham. The project’s nicely maintained gardens and restaurant together with beautiful views and an escape from the hotter weather in the city are the key draws of a day or weekend trip to Mon Cham. Visitors wishing to stay overnight have a choice of camping or staying at the mountain resorts in the locality.

Mon Cham was formerly known for his great heroin harvest after the king started a program for the people with an alternative to poppy cultivation. Now you can find all kinds of vegetables, fruit and lots of strawberries. The population lives from tourism and the produce of fruit and vegetables.

Onsen at Moncham Chiang Mai

In Mon Cham we stayed in an Onsen resort, a spacious resort in Japanese style the guests walk around in a Kimon so you don't have to worry about your clothes. The resort consists of 16 rooms from lux to super lux and regular rooms.

Onsen Spa Mon Cham

Onsen Spa Mon Cham Chiang Mai

watchin the sunset by the lake

We enjoyed the afternoon in the Onsen Spa. The hotel Onsen at Moncham is located at 1200 meters above sea level in a green landscape in the middle of the mountains, jungle, and between the farms of Mon Cham. In the evening we enjoyed the Japanese cuisine at the open-air restaurant, a spacious restaurant with Thai and Japanese cuisine, the food was so great and definitely recommended if you are in the area and want to eat Japanese, it deserves 5 stars the tuna melted in our mouth so fresh.

fresh fish in the restaurant

A must-do in the mountains is watching a Sunrise a magical sight with the mist rolling through the mountains. After Sunrise we picked some fresh strawberries and drove back to the hotel. The breakfast was great a lot of choices and all prepared by a chef.

Sunrise Mon Cham Chiang Mai

breakfast al prepared by a chef

After breakfast, we drove to the Mae Sa waterfall just 10 min from the hotel I had already been here 5 years ago and came back because the waterfall is really great.

In the 5 years' time the park has deteriorated everywhere you find collapsed and poorly maintained huts lookout points, I wonder where the money goes because the park gets a lot of visitors and that is not reflected in the maintenance. The waterfall has 10 floors nr. 5 is the best for chilling or having a picnic, but we decided to walk a bit to the top to take some photos in peace. Tired and satisfied we walked down again, after which we had lunch somewhere on the river in a hut on the road to the way back.

Mae Sa waterfall

Patara Elephant Farm

In the afternoon we enjoyed the tranquility and nature and the spa on the Onsen.

The next morning we checked out of the hotel and drove to an elephant farm. Pantera Elephant camp is a shelter for elephants where the elephants walk around freely in a nice atmosphere in a large park in the middle of the mountains with Lonelyplanet certification and Natgeotravel recommended it as a good choice. Patara Elephant Farm is unique because of its Elephant Owner for a Day program. Together with the regular caretaker of the elephant, you are responsible for one day for the care of the elephant you get assigned.

Patara Elephant Farm combines conservation with education and limited tourism. It breeds elephants,

The current use of elephants in Thailand is hotly debated, both locally and internationally. In 2005, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) called for a tourist boycott of Thailand to protest “the ritualistic torture of baby elephants by the country’s tourism industry,” and many in the animal rights community argue elephants shouldn’t be forced to work, either for farming or for the sake of tourism.

Defenders of working elephants, whether for farming, performing or trekking, point out that they’re expensive to keep — an adult elephant consumes 130 kilograms of fruits and vegetables each day — and Thailand is a poor country. The Thai government maintains that elephants entertaining tourists in regulated parks is a legitimate and pragmatic way of conserving the animals.

That said I think you all can do some research before you go to an elephant farm if an elephant is chained it's a no go if riding the elephant is only for entertaining the tourist it's a no-go.If the elephants are only kept for fashion shoots and tourists taking selfies it's a now-go.

In the pics you see us riding an elephant for exercise on the way back to the farm and believe me its no fun I was hurt everywhere

Patara Elephant Farm

The nice thing is that they choose an elephant that suits your character, we got a very quiet elephant because Ho was afraid of big mammals. After we were a little accustomed to the elephant and had given him to eat we had to work the elephant had to be washed and scrubbed in the river. After that, it was time for a little movement and we drove back with the elephant through the mountains in the jungle to the camp a really nice day.

The alarm went back early to see the sunrise at Doi Suthep (I become a morning human ) a great sight to see the sun rise and set the temple in a nice soft light.

Sunrise Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep temple

Zoo Chiang Mai

Panda Chiang Mai

After breakfast we visited the Zoo from Chiang Mai where you can drive your car through, we were especially interested in the Pandas. Arriving at the pandas it was not so special, one was sleeping and the other was eating something uninterested.

Yee Peng, we were picked up or we would be picked up after lunch but never saw anyone for the commercial Yee Peng festival at the cowboy army riding club where a mass release of 10 thousand lanterns is held. Because there was never a van or taxi appeared to pick us up, we went by ourselves with a taxi and we were not the only ones, it seems that hundreds of people had to arrange their own transport and paid more than 100 dollars for the tickets including transport from the hotels. The festival itself was so busy and poorly organized that this is not really recommended, there are two commercial events organized one by the Cowboy army riding club and the other is Mae Jo University We had paid 70 euros at the Cowboy army riding club for a VIP ticket and included a Thai dinner, Thai boxes, dancing, and a Loi Krathong ritual but because it was so badly organized we got nothing to see and the food was worthless no one had a place to sit. The Thai ceremony was so uninspiring, that I think they did not really know what they were doing or just don't care, but fortunately, we did not come here either for this. We had come for the mass release of the thousands of lanterns and this was indeed a great sight that I will not soon forget. To experience the mass release, you do not actually have to buy a ticket. You can also see it just outside the fence and make even better pictures. We had VIP cards and were completely in the front, a Chinese woman made an attempt to light her lampion and at the same time her chair a whole row of lanterns, and the neighbor set it on fire. After this, it looks safer to run out of the VIP area with lots of Chinese who don't know what they doing because they never listen to someone. We looking for a place in the back to take some pictures in peace. A great sight to be able to experience this.

( Update, after we complain on PayPal about the transport we get all our money back and the organizer, say sorry for the lack of transport it was there the first time to organize a big thing like this)

mass release of thousand of lanterns during full moon

White Temple Chiang Rai

On the next day of Loi Krathong we visited the white temple in the morning (Wat Rong Khun) and the blue temple (the Wat Rong Suea Ten) in Chiang Rai it's a 2,5-hour drive from Chiang Mai. I had been here about 6 years ago and the temples were not finished at that time and not touristy at all. Now we arrived and you could walk over the heads so busy 50 Bath was the entrance that was the only thing that remained the same.

After the white temple, we visited the blue temple here also too busy. I notice that Instagram actually does more harm than good, a few bloggers make some pictures and the crowd follows them here and thinks they can take those photos too but this is usually not possible or you just have to be on the spot just after sunrise when there is no tourist to be seen. Back in Chiang Mai, we visited a natural Onsen Spa where you could sit in different pools very good for your skin, some water was so hot that you could cook an egg. I decided to retreat while enjoying a Thai massage.

Blue temple Chiang Rai

In the evening we took the Taxi to the Ping River where they held the Yee Peng festival at the Narawat bridge in Chiang Mai. We left our lanterns between locals and tourists. We bought a floating flower bouquet to float in the river. The candle and the incense sticks are lit and the Krathong is launched. It is believed that the longer the candle burns, the better your happiness will be in the coming year. The Thai couples also often let their krathongs together. The longer they stay close together, the longer and nicer the relationship between the living. Some couples smuggle by connecting their krathongs with a small string. Then we walked to the bridge to light our lanterns, it was busy but I must say the police and volunteers kept everything sharp in mind that it is so much better here organized as the commercial events.

Yee Pen Chiang Mai

Things to do in Chiang Mai

  • Doi Suthep

  • Mon Chaem farms

  • Old city temples

  • Visit an Elephant farm, check before ow they threaten the elephants

  • Doi Inthanon, the highest peak in Thailand

  • Visit theKaren and longneck tribes

  • Huay Tueng Thao lake

  • Mae Sa waterfall

  • Loi Krathong in November

  • Bo Sang handicraft village


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