I know that this year (2011) Loi Krathong (Chiang Mai) is on from the 10th to the 12th, but I was just wondering if I can't be there for the full three days, is it best to be there for the last two or the first two? For example, is there an opening ceremony on the 10th / 9th that is something I shouldn't miss or a closing ceremony on the 12th that I shouldn't miss? Based on this information I will organise my travel dates in and out of Chiang Mai..
You definately want to go for the first 2 days. In old Chiang Mai near the gate entrance they usually have the opening ceremony and parade. If you are lucky enough you can get behind stage and help release some of the hige balloons and meet some of the people, Don't forget to make your way to the river and release your floats there as well. Lots of fun and I love seeing the river lit up at night from all the floats, actually this is the real Loi Krathong. The releaseing of the balloons is really another festival in conjunction, this is really a chinese thing called Yi Peng. Chiang Mai is probably the best place to view and participate in this festival, lots of fun and ssome great food from the street vendors!!!