Back to Chiang Mai

Tired of cheap hotels and sleepless nights we return to Chiang Mai for a few days. We love it here – perhaps this is how Bangkok might have been 50 years ago. Full of life, color, good restaurants, markets, night markets, more markets, and fun and all amazingly inexpensive. A hard combination to beat.

While we are here, Chiang Mai holds its annual flower festival; a huge three day spectacular that brings crowds from all over Thailand and around the world. I could tell you that our visit was planned around this festival, but it would not be true. We only found out about it the day before it began as we were walking through their most beautiful park and saw all the preparations .

The big day features a huge parade, which rivals the Rose Bowl. There are floats, costumes, and marching bands that parade along the main road surrounding the moat. But this being Thailand, they don’t stop the traffic. Instead, they stop the parade every now and then and allow the traffic to join in. That and the number of people swarming round the floats make for a long chaotic parade:

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The main attraction are the floats. They are made entirely of,  or are heavily decorated with flowers and are staggering in their concept, design and artistry. They always feature at least one beautiful Thai lady perched on top waving regally to the crowd.

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Some of the floats feature stunning floral displays, dripping with orchids and other tropical flowers

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Others feature scenes,


or themes of birds and animals



Others combine both

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When you get up close, the detail of the work is stunning and you can see that every single flower is held in place either with a pin, or with twine.

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In between the floats there are groups of dancers and costumed couples featuring flowers in one way or another. The Thai girls are all extraordinarily beautiful in a delicate  way:

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Sadly the boys can be too!

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There are many more girls than boys. It appears that the only boys willing to partake are the fey young ones who love to dress up.

or maybe not!


There is a gay group, dressed in white with rainbow flags.

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They are probably the least attractive group of men we see all day (oh dear, that is not kind ). But we are full of admiration for them. Being gay in Thailand (outside of Bangkok), is not easy

We are near the end of the parade route and they are obviously tired as the synchronized flag waving is lacking in enthusiasm, but we cheer them on as they pass by.

There is also a small group of Katoeys (Lady Boys). Just three to be exact.

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While gays are not readily accepted in Thailand, the Katoeys are. Most Thais see them as a third gender and they are never hassled. We are surprised that it is such a small group, and even more surprised that they are not too pretty. Thailand has so many beautiful Katoeys

There are fabulous costumes:

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simply beautiful women

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and romantic couples

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There are also groups from the different hill tribes showing off their native costumes

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And then there is the special girl with her wonderful tribal hat and cheeky smile

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It is a very warm day and the women and men who have been walking for several hours are tiring.

There is a huge traffic jam where the cars, motorbikes and floats all get tangled up and nothing moves for about twenty minute. The participants suddenly all break rank and go and sit on the wall by the moat where there is some shade, some company and they can relax

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It’s my favourite shot of the entire day.

Except perhaps for this one

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Doesn’t she just capture your heart.

She sums up the entire day for me: beautiful, relaxed and enchanting with flowers in her hair and a welcome in her smile.

She makes me want to return to Chiang Mai soon

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6 Responses to Back to Chiang Mai

  1. Pat says:

    absolutely breathtaking.

  2. Mark says:

    I could swear one of those girls was Eric…….. fabulous!

  3. David Hales says:

    stunning photographs many many thanks Andrew

  4. Robin says:

    The fact that a woman from a hill tribe is giving a Yoko Ono-style ‘peace’ sign to camera rather shatters my clearly over-romanticised vision of indigenous people… Fantastic photos, as always. I hope that you’re not going to try to smuggle the chap in the loincloth into your luggage.

    • andrew says:

      Robin, that poor chap was sitting quietly at the side of the road looking exhausted. Someone approached him with a camera (not me) and he immediately leapt up and started posing. He was ready to be smuggled, I think!

  5. David Russell. says:

    Chiangmai soon. Wow! You take beautiful photos and I am booking our flight. We will be there soon.

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