Festivals & Events in Chiang Mai
Bo Sang Umbrella & Sankampang Handicrafts Festival (8 km SE of Chiang Mai).
Takes place around the third weekend of Jan at Ban Bo Sang, Sankampang. The festival is in the form of a "street fair" in which the central road of the village is used, with shops on both sides. Shops are decorated in Lanna-style, most with the well-known umbrellas, as well as with traditional lanterns. In addition there are contests, exhibitions, cultural performances, local entertainment, and assorted shows day and night. There is a grand procession decorated with umbrellas and local products, a variety of handicrafts for sale, northern-style khantoke meals and the Miss Bo Sang pageant.
Staged every year during the first weekend in February (in 2014 it was held Friday-Sunday, 7–9 February). The city is awash with vibrant colours ranging from the electric orange and lilac colours of the bougainvillea to the velvety blossoms of petunias in all shades of pink, white, and purple. The strident red of the poinsettias, bought by many at Christmas and New Year, is echoed by beds of scarlet salvias. Homes and shop owners alike line the city streets with colourful flower boxes. The sheer profusion of colour that the flower festival and carnival brings to Chiang Mai aptly gives the city its name "Rose of the North". On all three days of the festival, prize blooms are on display at Nong Buak Had Park near the city centre. Many types of flower, miniature trees and orchida are put on display for the judges to choose the best of the species. Landscape specialists put on an elaborate display, which includes patios and waterfalls with exotic decorative plants and flowers. The best part of the flower festival is on Saturday. The parade lines up from the train station to Nawarat Bridge so the police close most of Charoen Muang Rd around 08:00. The VIP viewing stand is right next to the bridge in front of the Chiang Mai Governor's home. The parade route goes up Tha Phae Rd to the gate and turns left and follows the moat to Nong Buak Had Park. The parade moves at a slow pace and stops several times so there is plenty of time to take pictures of the colourful floats, pretty girls and hill tribe people in native costume. The paraders hand out roses to spectators lining the road. When the parade finishes everyone heads to Nong Buak Had where all the floats, award-winning flower growers and landscape projects are all on display. There are plenty of food stalls in the park, and in the late afternoon the Miss Chiang Mai Flower Festival starts. The party goes well into the evening until the new Flower Festival Queen has been chosen. This is a great time to visit Chiang Mai, as the air is cool and the evenings fresh and clear. If you want to see the festival make sure you book your hotels and flights well in advance.
Inthakin or Tham Boon Khan Dok
City Pillar Festival in Chiang Mai. This is a six-day festival where the city pillar spirits are propitiated to ensure the continuity of the city. Occurs in May or Jun as part of the Northern Thailand lunar calendar. Very large event focused around Wat Chedi Luang.
Loi Krathong and Yi Peng Festivals (ลอยกระทง)
If you like candles placed in colourful paper lanterns, fireworks, beautiful girls in traditional dress, parade floats, lots of food and parties. Don't miss the Loi Krathong festival, which in Chiang Mai lasts for 3 full days, the last night being that of the 12th full moon of the year (which is usually in Nov). In the small town of Mae Jo, north of Chiang Mai, they start the festival on Saturday night by simultaneously launching thousands upon thousands of hot air balloons calledkhom loi. Loi Krathong coincides with the northern Thai (Lanna) festival known as "Yi Peng" (ยี่เป็ง). Due to a difference between the old Lanna calendar and the Thai calendar, Yi Peng is held on a full moon of the 2nd month of the Lanna calendar ("Yi" meaning "2nd" and "Peng" meaning "month" in the Lanna language). A multitude of Lanna-style sky lanterns (khom loi (โคมลอย), literally: "floating lanterns") are launched into the air where they drift with the winds. The festival is meant as a time for "tam-bun" (ทำบุญ), to make merit. People decorate their houses, gardens, and temples with khom fai (โคมไฟ): intricately shaped paper lanterns which take on different forms. Khom thue (โคมถือ) are lanterns which are carried around hanging from a stick, khom khwaen (โคมแขวน) are the hanging lanterns, and khom pariwat (โคมปริวรรต) which are placed at temples and which revolve due to the heat of the candle inside. Chiang Mai has the most elaborate Yi Peng celebrations, where both Loi Krathong and Yi Peng are celebrated at the same time resulting in lights floating on the waters, lights hanging from trees/buildings or standing on walls, and lights floating by in the sky.
Mae Jo Lantern Release
A huge lantern release (It is often referred to as the 10,000 lantern release, but there are not as many as that) happens near Mae Jo University on the Saturday before Loi Krathong, in 2013: 16 Nov. The DMC Buddhist Sect puts this on and though it is billed as "for local people" this event has no connection with Chiang Mai or Lanna events, and is not promoted by local government officials nor included in their program. The lantern release takes place at the end of a ceremony that begins at 18:30, with the release at 20:00. The event is free of charge, but respectful attire is required and alcohol is forbidden. A tourist-targeted event (which costs about 3,000 baht) occurs in the same location on the following weekend.
Songkran Festival (สงกรานต์)
The Thai Water Festival is celebrated as the Thai new year from 13-15 Apr (though it may begin a day or two early). The most obvious sign that you're in the middle of the festival is when you get soaked by someone pouring a bucket of water over you, or squirting you with a water gun. This tradition evolved from people tossing water that had been poured over holy statues, since this water was expected to be good luck. Now, it takes the form of a free-for-all water fight, and you will undoubtedly be drenched. It's also a way of staying cool during the very hot and humid month of April. Put your mobile phone in a plastic bag.