Wat Pan Tao Ceremony. The northern Thai city of Chiang Mai is the home of hundreds of Buddhist temples. A visitor can spend several days cycling and visiting these diverse temples in this ancient walled city. There is so much to see and do in northern Thailand, check out these Chiang Mai tours. One temple of note is Wat Pan Tao. It resides within the old city and dates back to the 19th century. It is carved from teak wood and had been previously part of the royal palace. Wat Pan Tao is an attractive temple, yet you would not recall it to be a highlight from a trip to Chiang Mai. Unless you were fortunate enough to visit the temple during the festival of Yi Peng and Loi Krathong. And why is that?
Loi Krathong which translates to “float a basket” and takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar (typically November). It is somewhat difficult to plan your visit, since the dates changes every year. On this evening, one launches the krathong in a river or canal as one makes a wish. The krathong floating away symbolizes the release of hated and anger. The krathong contains both incense and a candle.
Thousands of light sparkle and dance down the Ping River. You will see thousands of people praying and then launching the krathongs into the river. Take the opportunity to purchase a krathong (approximately 50 Baht) and be part of the festivities.
The Yi Peng, the Lanna (northern Thai) festival coincides with Loi Krathong. The Yi Peng festival witnesses thousands of sky lanterns or floating lanterns climb into the moon lit sky. The lanterns are lit and heated by a candle. When one launches a sky lantern, one is making merit in the Buddhist religion. Throngs congregate throughout the city preparing and launching lanterns. The crowds are festive and fun, as families and friends gather to propel a lantern into the night sky. Preparing a lantern takes a but of patience and a dollop of skill. You need to light a candle which is attached to the lantern, holding the lantern to the ground, and wait for the heat of the candle to fill the paper lantern. If you launch the lantern too soon, its flight will be aborted, and it will abruptly crash back to the ground. For approximately 100 Baht, purchase a lantern and mix in with the crowds. There are merchants everywhere for you to purchase a lantern or a krathong. So, don’t be shy and join in. Be part of the fun.
Thousands of people descend on Chiang Mai to take part in this magnificent festival of light. While there are many foreigners attending this event, this is truly a Thai festivity with mostly locals. I have been fortunate to attend this festival on two different occasions. If planning to go, make your hotel and flight reservations sooner than later. It is a must-see event.
During the festival a truly magnificent ceremony takes place at Wat Pan Tao with a large group of young monks. The setting is postcard perfect. Lanterns dangle from green trees intermingled with bamboo. A small pond captures the reflection of scores and scores of candles. The young monks, grasping a candle, enter the scene over a small bridge in a single file, their orange robes displayed in the pond. The colors, the lights, the setting represent all that is fantastic of Thailand.
Please be aware that this is a truly popular event. I arrived at 5 pm, two hours before the start of the ceremony to ensure I was in the front row. It is extremely crowded, and the throngs take a bit away from the aesthetics. Nonetheless, this is a photographer’s dream. I would encourage you to bring a tripod and have a camera that works well in low-light environments. My other thought to share with you, is there is a dress rehearsal of the ceremony, the night before. The rehearsal evening is just as spectacular as the real thing, but a tad less crowded. I attended both evenings. It was truly worth it. Wat Pan Tao Ceremony.
If you like festivals make sure you check out the Phuket Vegetarian Festival.