I first learned about the lantern festival when I saw a picture on Pinterest of thousands of sky lanterns being released into the sky; it was absolutely beautiful. I did my research and found that it takes place in Chiang Mai, Thailand during the full moon in November. It’s their largest celebration of the year

A year later we bought plane tickets to Thailand! I wasn’t sure how reliable the full moon information was, but I took a leap of faith and bought tickets for a few days before and after the full moon. It worked out! We arrived a few days before and after the festival.The evening of the lantern festival we met up with our new friends Chris and Krystal who we met a few days earlier in Lop Buri.

First things first, we needed to get our hands on a-new-latitude-thailand-79some lanterns. Luckily we happened upon a vendor selling some next to one of the bridges. We bought about 15 lanterns between the four of us, I didn’t want to run out of lanterns. The vendor discreetly asked if we were interested in fireworks. David was very interested in fireworks. The guy quickly motioned for us to follow him to a hidden room where he had set up a table full of fireworks. Apparently they were illegal. We bought about $10 worth of fireworks, it felt like we were making some kind of black market purchase.

“The sky was already beginning to look enchanted with early lanterns floating into the sky.”

We had our lanterns and illegal fireworks so we headed to the main bridge. The sky was already beginning to look enchanted with early lanterns floating into the sky. My excitement level was growing.

We found a spot on the bridge among all the other people and decided it was time to light our first lantern. David and I picked up a lantern, lit it, and carefully waited until it had enough hot air to lift off. Just standing there was an amazing experience. Lanterns were gently lifting off around us, people were steadily bustling by, fireworks were jetting over our heads. Minutes passed and soon our glowing lantern would be joining the night sky. We were incredibly happy! This day was finally happening!

We each took turns filling and releasing our lanterns. One per person, one per couple, one with a sparkler dangling from it, one per group, another one because it’s fun. The bridge was packed with people forming little groups, sending off lanterns, and lighting little (and not so little) fireworks. Some preferred to sit back and watch everything unfold.

This was an experience of a lifetime for us and I’m so glad we got to experience it. ♦

Tip: There is a place at a monastery a few miles away where you can buy tickets in advance for a mass lantern release. A few months prior to our trip I tried to buy tickets to that event, just to find that they were already sold out. I was bummed to have missed out on the monastery experience because I thought we wouldn’t be able to participate in the lantern festival. Thankfully though, the public event with the locals is free in the city of Chiang Mai. In retrospect, I’m glad we did it this way instead of booking with the monastery. I don’t know what it’s like to be at the mass release, but for us, it was special to be participating in the event the way the locals do. To participate in this event, make sure to be in Chiang Mai the days surrounding the full moon in November. Once you get there, ask the locals what days the events are going on. Good luck, you’ll have a blast!

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