Escape to Chiang Mai

The 44th Chiang Mai flower festival is held on the first weekend of February, the end of the cool season when all the plants and flowers of Thailand’s northern growers are at their most spectacular, the climate is perfect. It’s held primarily in Nong Buak Hard Park in the south west corner of the old city just inside the moat.

We had been travelling high in the mountains on the bike and the poly houses were bursting at the seams with flowers and plants, a riot of colours and aromas, ready for the festival. The damask rose is only grown in Northern Thailand and is the symbol of the festival and Lanna culture and tradition the festival is also known as ‘the flower of the North’.

It is a 3 day event but our favourite part is on Saturday morning an enormous parade. The moat road is closed from Thae Pae Gate to the park and all the bridges across the moat, lamp posts and everything else have amazing flower displays. We weaved our way into the city parking the bike just behind the park and sat outside a big hotel on the moat road who’s staff were giving out free juice and fried bananas which were delicious, bonus.

We could hear the parade approach in the distance and a frisson of excitement grew amongst the people sat with us, the sound of the different bands, brass instruments and drums rising above the hum of the gathering crowds; beautifully decorated floats arrived both with traditional and modern floral displays and many many smiling faces.

Marching bands, hill tribe people in national dress, thousands of people taking part. It must have taken an enormous effort and weeks to prepare. There were Traditional Thai dancers giving out flowers, musicians playing and cars with beautiful entrants for the Miss Chiang Mai Flower Festival. Thailand is a very gender liberal country with a full LGBT spectrum represented in the parade and the crowd, its fantastic to see no discrimination and a fully inclusive society happy for everyone to live how they want.

The parade frequently stopped and there were great photo opportunities. Where we sat is almost where the parade turns into the park, the end of a long hot walk in 35 degrees and many hours after they started on their journey. Some of the kids looked exhausted and were losing their smiles, many stopped for a drink where we sat.

The parade took well over 2 hours and snaked enthusiastically around the city eventually ending up in Nong Buak Had public park. There are displays, best plant competitions, agricultural vendors, plant sellers and the best orchids and bonsai I have ever seen.

The Chiang Mai flower Queen is chosen later in the day. It’s a party atmosphere with music, children, picnics and lots of jolliment. Even the policemen are friendly.

Inside and outside the park you can buy food and drinks and everyone is up for a good time sitting around the lake. Thai people really know how to have fun and are very inclusive and want to chat if you sit near them.

The local authority spend 2 weeks preparing the park, it is beautiful and in the evening it has thousands of fairy lights amongst the floral displays, waterfalls, fountains and walls of exotic plants.

We always go back for the evening to just sit and feel like we have arrived in a fairy grotto, it’s a feast for the eyes and senses. The thousands of Lilly’s are intoxicating in their fragrance. It’s our fourth year and we love it! It’s the highlight to our stay in Chiang Mai.

Economically it is good for the city and attracts thousands of people. This year was different though; the corona virus had put a real damper on the event with no Chinese tour buses or Chinese tourists allowed overland into Thailand and the Thai government is really tightening up on Visa’s to enter Thailand generally. The Thai people I’d spoken to seemed really paranoid about being in crowds because of the virus and sadly a lot of people didn’t attend….it was still a fantastic weekend. It is a great advertisement for the friendly hospitality of the Thais and the city and the abundance and beauty of the flora and fauna of this amazing nation. Roll on next year..

”Where flowers bloom so does hope”

Lady Bird Johnson

4 thoughts on “Escape to Chiang Mai

  1. The most stunning pictures yet . A thousand thank yous. We are in midst of storm Ciara. It makes my heart soar to see those flowers. To smell them too must be heavenly . Hugs xxx

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

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