A Little Festival… Enjoying Thailand’s Northern Roses

Last updated on November 15, 2021

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).

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 festival is celebrated with varying amounts of gusto and the Flower Festival tips the scales on the high end of gusto-y-ness.

Women in traditional Thai dress at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand
Pretty women parade at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand
Flower dragon at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand
Flower floats 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
Orchids at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand
Famous Chiang Mai orchids

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 Warorot Market for an hour and a half of enormous flower floats and pretty performers.

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

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!

Beauty pageant contestants at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand
Thai man in the festival parade at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand
Thai Ladyboy at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand
What parade is complete without some ladyboys!
School band at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand
A local school band at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand.
Umbrellas and sunlight at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival, Thailand
Dancer smiling 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 thoughts on “A Little Festival… Enjoying Thailand’s Northern Roses”

  1. 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.

    • 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!!

  2. 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!

    • 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?!

  3. 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.

    • 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 :)


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