A Little Festival…Thailand’s Northern Rose

If you’ve ever wondered what Chiang Mai, Thailand will feel like during the zombie apocalypse then hit the streets of the old city, inside the moat, around 9:00am on the Saturday of the city’s Flower Festival Parade. The parade starts at 8:00am just outside of the moat, near Warorot Market, and the rapid exodus of city inhabitants leaves the streets inside the moat uncommonly quiet.

Early morning food prep at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand

Food vendors set up for crowds in the early morning hours of the Flower Festival

As the Rose of the North, Chiang Mai’s sweet nickname is never more applicable than the first week of February, when the city is flooded with colors and sweet scents for the Chiang Mai Flower Festival. The Flower Festival is an annual event – which is really no surprise because Chiang Mai likes festivals (cue the montage music for the Bo Sang Umbrella Festival last month).

Women in traditional Thai dress at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, ThailandPretty women parade at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand

I can’t help but love these local Chiang Mai festivals; it’s as though the locals are vying for the title of  “most enthusiastic city in the world.” Each fesitval is celebrated with varying amounts of gusto and the Flower Festival tips the scales on the high end of gusto-y-ness.

Flower floats at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, ThailandFlower dragon at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand

The three day festival permeates every aspect of the city for the weekend—even the Chinese New Year was rolled right into flower festivities and the joint celebration double the city’s number even . Plant vendors plant their stands on the roadsides around the moat for three days and city’s large east entrance, Tha Pae Gate, is overrun with a stage, food stalls, flower showcases, beauty pageants and people.

Oh, lordy, the people.

Both breeds of tourists descend on Chiang Mai for the three day festival, foreigners and Thais, and the clogged streets are a stark contrast to that zombie-apocolypse I mentioned earlier.  Locals on motorbikes mazing through the city, going about their business and artfully weaving through instant road blocks and darting around slow-moving tourists.

At the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand

Prettily dressed woman carry signs and flowers in the parade

The morning of day two though starts with an early morning mad dash (and that’s a dawn dash to anyone hoping for a seat in the risers) to the stage outside Wororat Market for an hour and a half of enormous flower floats and pretty performers.

Orchids at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand

Famous Chiang Mai orchids

The shining glory of the weekend are the orchids, healthy, beautiful, and deeply hued Chaing Mai orchids; the city is world renowned for their breeds of orchids the climate .

Beauty pageant contestants at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, ThailandThai man in the festival parade at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand

My friend Claire was visiting for the weekend and we were both surprised by the school bands parading through the streets – they added a nice element of pep and enthusiasm to the festivities but I had no idea Thai schools had traditional high school style bands as well!

Thai Ladyboy at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, ThailandSchool band at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand

What parade is complete without some lady boy action and dancers?

Dancer smiling at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, ThailandUmbrellas and sunlight at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand

The city swells in size like a puffer fish for the annual Flower Festival and the freshly planted flowers and artful arrangements are a testament to how a city can transform itself in just a matter of days with the right impetus. Chiang Mai is a decent sized city (and that means a fair bit of smog, traffic and garbage to accompany it) so I fell in love a bit more when I saw her gussied up and outfitted to the nines with fresh flowers in the city’s gardens,  streets cleaned of garbage, and dressed up in first-date attire.

More photos and a thanks to Claire for allowing me to use some of her shots!

, , , , , ,


20 Responses to A Little Festival…Thailand’s Northern Rose

  1. Rebecca February 25, 2011 at 4:02 am #

    Beautiful photos!

    • Anonymous February 26, 2011 at 6:59 am #

      Thank you so much Rebecca! :)

  2. zablon mukuba February 22, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    it looks like a very beautiful festival to go to. isnt it great when you stumble upon such a festival

    • Anonymous February 23, 2011 at 12:51 am #

      I really do feel quite lucky to call this town my home right now, they have
      some wonderful festivals – all the time! :)

  3. Monica February 22, 2011 at 5:05 am #

    Looks like a gorgeous festival and you’ve captured some amazing photos! I’m heading back to Chiang Mai next month but I’m gutted I missed out on this flower festival.

    • Anonymous February 23, 2011 at 12:53 am #

      Thanks for the kind words Monica, and for stopping in and commenting! :) I
      just realized I commented on your site about coming to CM – glad you’re
      coming, I’ll still be here so we’ll have to meet up!!

  4. Peter West Carey February 18, 2011 at 6:59 pm #

    Love the capture of the captures and the layout.

  5. Vewe February 17, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    wow! those orchids are beautiful!!!!

  6. Sofia - As We Travel February 17, 2011 at 2:06 am #

    We missed that festival, would have been so nice to see.

    I love the dresses the Thai women dress up in during festivals and beauty pageants!

    • Anonymous February 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

      Me too! I especially love that every single Thai festival includes a beauty pageant one of the days, it means all of the woman are dressed up in gorgeous clothes and makeup :) No chance you guys are passing back through Thailand is there?!

  7. Alice February 16, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

    Southeast Asia, definitely had the most beautiful festivals in the world=) Nice shots!

    • Anonymous February 17, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

      Thanks Alice! They really do know how to use color, music, and costumes to put on a great festival over here! :)

  8. Natalie - Turkey Travel February 16, 2011 at 5:47 am #

    Looks great. I have not had my breakfast yet and the first photo looked so yummy. Very colourful pictures and from the looks of it, very happy go lucky people.

    • Anonymous February 16, 2011 at 5:58 am #

      The north of Thailand is incredibly friendly…and they have some of the, hands down, tasty food I’ve had in the country! Enjoy breakfast :)

  9. Sarah Wu February 16, 2011 at 4:50 am #

    The Chiang Mai festival looks so fun, and those girls looks so pretty. Loving the umbrella, I want one too!

    • Anonymous February 16, 2011 at 5:58 am #

      I agree Sarah! I haven’t bought one yet, but might just have to before I head back to the states!

  10. Michael Hodson February 15, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    looks like a lovely time in Chiang Mai

  11. Anonymous February 15, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    Beautiful photos! Looks like an amazing time!

  12. Andi Perullo February 15, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Oh wow, the air must have been so fragrant! What a gorgeous festival!!!