Yi Ping is a lantern festival that takes place annually in Chiang Mai, Thailand. There are two festivals, one that is primarily for tourists and fairly pricy, and one that is privately arranged and free to the public. The non-tourist lantern release can be quite hard to pin down the date on, and is usually announced about a month before the event. I was fortunate enough to be there for the non-tourist celebration held in Mai Jo. This mass sky lantern release is quite simply-magical. The night begins with quiet meditation led by monks in reverence of the Lord Buddha and ends with everyone releasing their lanterns into the sky. I read that the lantern is significant because it represents stepping out of the darkness and into the light. I think that many people see the lantern release as something very spiritual- a release of negative emotions and feelings, of any resentment, and a chance to begin anew. The whole experience was very emotional and I walked out of it feeling grateful for everything in my life.
The Not-So Magical Rush of People Beware- getting out will take at least an hour of being stuck in slow to not moving masses of people making their way towards the exit. Once you finally make it to the parking lot, cars are backed up in a hellish traffic jam. If you are confident in your motorbike riding skills, save yourself the sweaty songthaew ride home and skip the lines by weaving in and out of traffic.