I've booked a flight to Chiang Mai on November 28 ...
...and have just discover that's the night of the lantern festival night. We'll be staying in a hotel on Wualai Road, which isn't too far from the airport and the city centre. Our flight doesn't get in to Chiang Mai until 7pm. Will we have time to drop our luggage and join the festival? We really want to see it as it's our first time in Chiang Mai. Thanks very much, Andrea.
Nationwide, the festival is known as Loy Krathong, and this year, as you've found out, it falls on November 28. In the Chiang Mai version, people also send lanterns into the sky, which are known as Yi Peng.
You will have more time to enjoy the festival than you might expect. The festival this year runs from November 27 to 29, so you will see the light from the lanterns as you arrive. If you land at 7pm, you should be at the hotel by 8pm and thus will have plenty of time to join the crowds, who happily release lanterns and fireworks until late, making the city sound rather like war zone. If you want to see the spectacular procession of krathong, head to Tha Pae Gate. Alternatively, you may go to the Navarat Bridge or anywhere along the Ping River to join the crowds releasing krathong on the river and lanterns in the sky.
If you want to rest that day, you can still attend the last day of the festival on November 29, which will see another grand krathong procession in Chiang Mai city as well as plenty of lanterns being released.
According to the website YeePengLanna.net, an event called Yi Peng Lanna International is also scheduled for November 30 at Tudongkhasathan Lanna, a meditation retreat in Chiang Mai's San Sai district. This ritual of releasing floating lanterns into the sky on a full moon night costs US$65 per person. The programme includes round-trip shuttle bus transfer, kantoke dinner with traditional performances, group meditation guided by monks and the release of lanterns.
Hope you enjoy the festival!
I am going to visit Chiang Mai for four nights in early November and would like to visit the Golden Triangle and the white temple too. I realise it might be a bit of a rush but can you suggest an itinerary that would allow me to visit those places. Thanks a lot, Kiki.
There are plenty of travel agents in Chiang Mai that provide one-day tours to the Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai. The programmes are quite similar and include a visit to the Golden Triangle, where the Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet, the Opium Museum and the White Temple, locally known as Wat Rong Khun. The tour usually takes you for a short boat ride, but you have to pay separately for the boat fee, which is Bt500. Lunch is included at a restaurant by the Mekong River. It usually leaves Chiang Mai at around 7.30am and returns around 8pm. It seems quite a long day, but the destinations are interesting.
In my view, it's worth going on a slower trip and spending more time exploring Chiang Rai's unique attractions. You will spend four hours to get to Chiang Rai and another four hours back. This means you will arrive at the Golden Triangle around noon and have around four-five hours to visit all the destinations mentioned above.
If you don't want to join a tour bus with one of Chiang Mai's budget tour operators, you may hire a car with a private driver to take you there and back to Chiang Mai. And if you want to do self-drive, simply hire a car with GPS and find your way to the Golden Triangle and see other attractions along the way. This would be a great way to travel too. Have fun!