Yeepeng is a local level cultural festival because it has cultural values and characteristics typical of places in Northern Thailand, such as Chiang Mai (Guiu, 2008). There are two versions of Yeepeng history derived from local narrative, which was not recognised by scholars. The first publication of both narratives is unclear. One tells about a plague in the Lanna area, 1068 years ago, which locals considered bad luck. Many Lanna people moved out and only some returned to the area when the disease disappeared. Kom Loy was a symbol of two things, Phī (spirit) and memento. Phī were thought to be a spiritual manifestation of recovery from plague. Simultaneously, Kom Loy represents mementos of people who did not return home. Another, purely religious, Lanna story was about one of the Buddha's other lives combined with Brahman practices. According to Chotsukrat (2010), though there are differences in Yeepeng history, the religious practice has continued. Furthermore, the study traces the festival back 100 years to the religious practice and it is as follows: make merit and go to temple during the day; float a handcrafted Kom Loy in the day time because it presents a collective activity within the village; float Kra Tong and have a fair at night.
Duffy and Waitt (2011) state that festivals help to sustain past narratives. But recently the way to celebrate Yeepeng has changed. The creation of a new celebration in 2014 has been for mass tourist consumption. The festival lasts for 3 days with a number of activities held by private organisations and the government. The highlights are government organised Kra Tong parades and Yeepeng Lanna International (held by private organisation). Most created activities took place around Chiang Mai city.
The change was created, possibly, because of inter-interactions and influences within festival phenomenon, which were created to profit the tourism industry. There are several factors, such as commodification and tourist behaviour, that influence cultural festivals which influence local perspectives, heavily impacting society and culture.
These annual festivals' celebration days are based on a lunar calendar. Yeepeng day was invented by The Kingdom of Lanna (Chotsukrat, 2010) when it was an independent kingdom in northern Thailand. Meanwhile, the Sukhothai Kingdom to the south of Lanna invented Loy Kra Tong day. Both festivals were invented at slightly different times, but Sukhothai used to be the capital city of Siam (Siam changed its name to Thailand around World War II). Yeepeng can be considered hidden history when it compares to national festivals such as Loy Kra Tong (Hall, 1991).
The way to celebrate Yeepeng has changed. Capitalist living has taken old practices away from the insiders and left only a fun festival. Locals’ lack of understanding about why they do things the way they do hasn’t provided much understanding to outsiders. The change, in all likelihood comes from inter-interactions and influences within the festival phenomenon, which are created to profit the tourist industry. There are several factors, such as commodification and tourist behaviour, that influence cultural festivals which influence locals’ perspectives, heavily impacting society and culture. Insiders and outsiders have contributed to that change from the past to a commodified product.
Most local people don’t participate simply because it creates fire. Every year the lanterns that were lit up have burned locals’ houses and forests. Last year, the lantern got into an airplane engine. It delayed and created an extremely unsafe situation for air traffic. This happened in Chiang Mai airport while the airplane was parking on the bay.
Tonight, the local government allow lanterns to be released from 19:00 (7pm) of the 14th to 01:00 (1am) of the 15th of November, local time.
Chiang Mai, in the city and all around
Basically, this festival will be hosted by local government, which means you can experience it in most places. However, there are two places that are the main destinations.
The first one is hosted by a private organisation is called "Lanna Dhutanka" located near by Maejo University. It will be hosted for two round. The first one will be hosted a little earlier than the one posted online which people call "the local round". For this one you do not have pay the entrance only if you want to light the lantern. You have to buy from them (in another word, you can bring lantern from else where to the event). However, the day and time for this round will not be anounced. The other one, called "Yeepeng Lanna International," is the one you can book in advance and you have to pay. Of course, you will get the nicer service in this round such as a free lantern.
The second will be in Chiang Mai city by Nawarat bridge. Ideally, the event will last for 3 nights with a parade and floating the lanterns and the Kratongs.
To participate the event you might have to do really good research on when and where it will take place. Lack of management by the Thai government about giving information is a concern. Moreover, date and time slightly change every year because they use a lunar calendar.