I experienced the Loy Krathong festival in Chiang Mai last year and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.  I have basically talked about and recommended the festival to every human I have encountered since last November. I’ll do the same here.

I’ll tell you how you can go for free this year by signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

What’s Loy Krathong?

Loy Krathong is one of the most famous lantern festivals in the world.  It is celebrated throughout Thailand and is famous for the swarms of candlelit lanterns released into the river and lanterns released into the sky to symbolize the floating away of past mistakes and the welcoming of hopes, aspirations, and wishes for the upcoming year.  A lot of people write their hopes, aspirations, or wishes on the lanterns.  Ahem.

When is it?  November 11-13, 2019.  But, it depends. Loy Krathong coincides with the date of the November full moon.

Where is it? Chiang Mai is widely regarded as the place to be for the three-day festival.  A lot of tourists buy tickets that can run you $300 USD to watch the lanterns release at the Buddhist Center or Mae Jo University.  After speaking with a bunch of locals, they properly advised me that the Nawarat Bridge is free (first come, first serve) and is the place to be.

The wisdom of crowds beats TripAdvisor 100% of the time.  Here was our spot on the bridge.

You Mentioned Free?  

Step 1: Sign Up and Make Sure to Meet the Bonus Requirements.  The Chase Sapphire Preferred currently has a 60,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 on purchases in three months and provides 2x points on dining and travel.  That means that after spending $4,000 (let’s say $1,000 on dining and travel), you’ll have 65,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (UR).

Step 2: Utilize the Chase Travel Portal on Deals.  One perk of holding the Chase Sapphire Preferred is that when booking through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, your points are worth 25% more (1.25 cents per point).  In other words, a $100 flight would only cost you 8,000 UR points ($100/$.0125). 

Step 3: Book Airfare.  Here’s a current deal from Los Angeles during the festival.  We need to get from Los Angeles to Chiang Mai and there are no direct flights from the states so we need to stop in Bangkok. 

Los Angeles to Bangkok: 37,780 UR

The round-trip flight to Bangkok costs $467 or 37,780 UR through the Chase portal.  That leaves us with 27,220 UR remaining. 

Bangkok to Chiang Mai:  14,921 UR or $113

Now we need to get to Chiang Mai.  Booking the roundtrip flight would cost 14,921 UR leaving us with 12,299 UR for lodging.  Here’s where you’ll probably want to pay cash since the flights on the portal are significantly more than cash fares (i.e., $186.52 vs. $113).  Note: I understand the flights overlap but there is a ton of availability and I’m just illustrating the flights for cost purposes.

Now, trust me. You could easily pay for your lodging for the entire trip in Thailand with the remaining 12,299 UR.  Like, look at this:

The thing is—I’ve been that route and you really, really, really, really, don’t want to do that unless you’re trying to get a Leo DiCaprio The Beach vibe.

Step 4: Book Hotels. If I were to do it again, I would book lodging as close to the Nawarat Bridge as I could.  The 4-star hotel below is a 9-minute walk to the bridge.  Assuming you paid the cash fare to Chiang Mai, five nights at the hotel would cost 24,755 UR, leaving you 2,465 UR for the remaining two nights.

Step 5 (sort of): Seriously, I would personally extend the trip if I were you. An extended 11-day trip would cost nearly the same in airfare and you could visit Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket (i.e., where The Beach was filmed).

Step 6: Let Me Know If You Take the Plunge. Seriously, I would love to hear about your trip. Make sure to come back and tell me about how you had the best experience of your life or if I ruined your life with my recommendation.

Takeaway: This Trip Could Be Completely Free If That’s What You Want, But That’s Not What You Want…

Say What?

First things first, don’t forget to sign up through this link for the sign-up bonus.  (Yeah, we get a referral fee for that…full disclosure here.)

Why don’t you want a COMPLETELY FREE trip? Cause you’re gonna want to do stuff…like eat, explore, shop. First off? Eat everything you see.  You can’t beat $3 Pad Thai.  Drink all the $.50 Red Bulls you can (that is not a legal recommendation).  Buy fifty lanterns to shoot off into the sky.  Visit the Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary for $55 USD.  Do a Phuket island tour for $100 USD.  The experience isn’t dope because it’s free.  It’s dope because when we don’t have to worry about airfare and lodging, we can fully appreciate that life is dope and we should be spending our money on doing seriously dope, um, stuff.

The post The Thailand Lantern Festival Is The Dopest Thing I’ve Ever Done: Here’s How You Can Do It For Free was first published on Coworkaholic.

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