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:
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.
Some of the floats feature stunning floral displays, dripping with orchids and other tropical flowers
Others feature scenes,
or themes of birds and animals
Others combine both
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.
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:
Sadly the boys can be too!
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.
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.
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:
simply beautiful women
and romantic couples
There are also groups from the different hill tribes showing off their native costumes
And then there is the special girl with her wonderful tribal hat and cheeky smile
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
It’s my favourite shot of the entire day.
Except perhaps for this one
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