I have currently planned Nov 14th - Nov 15th in Bangkok, Nov 16th-Nov 19th (4 nights) in Chiang Mai and then Nov 20th - Nov 22nd in South Thailand (Ko Phi Phi probably). I have just read about the big Loy Krathong festival of lights in Chiang Mai on November 20-21st. I am tempted to switch up north and south Thailand so I would be in Chiang Mai during this period. The festival seems beautiful and something worth seeing. However, I am concerned that the swarms of people will take away some of the charm of seeing Chiang Mai for the first time and make it a not-so-pleasant stay. What do you guys think? Is it worth changing my itinerary to be able to see it? I guess if it's too crazy I could always try to get away to Pai or Chiang Rai or go jungle trekking in the surrounding areas?
#1 scythemk has been a member since 3/9/2010. Posts: 23
Have lived in Chiang Mai about 7 years and Loy Krathong is still one of the best times to be here IMO. Not quite the frenzy of western tourists you might expect, but a lot of Thai tourists flock in for the week. No problem finding a room though. The paper balloons in the sky and banana leaf floats on the river plus music and dance performances make it a scenic charming experience. Downside can be the number of fireworks along the Ping river where Thais don't exactly "handle with care". Not uncommon to find a bottle rocket wizzing past your head or a handfull of firecrackers flung by a passing motorbike. I just avoid the riverside on those evenings and the rest remains pretty sane and relatively tranquil. Even if you don't swap your days with the south Nov 16-19 you'd still get a hint of the festival but miss the peak weekend.
Thanks for the info! So if I understand correctly, if you were a first time visitor to CM, in my shoes, and you could make it to CM during Loy Krathong, you would do it?
#3 scythemk has been a member since 3/9/2010. Posts: 23
Mae Jo which is more like a suburb of Chiang Mai, is the scene of a huge paper lantern release on a given evening at the early part of the festival. Just type "mae jo yi peng" into YouTube for plenty of visual examples. The area can be hugely crowded on the evening and it's wise to walk/bike in rather than rely on car/taxi which can be gridlocked in traffic. Definitely a unique experience though and worth being there.