Chiang Mai Flower Festival
Global Grad’s aim is to get students to interact with the culture rather than being a tourist. Therefore, outside of the road trips there is slow travel, so we don’t just get to look at the place, but explore it in more depth.
HOW CAN THIS BE DONE?
One way to get involved with a place is to see what it has on offer. An event Chiang Mai hosted during the five weeks we stayed there is their annual Flower Festival, held on the first weekend of February. Known as ‘The Rose of the North’ in Thailand, it’s fitting that they hosted such a beautiful event.
The flowers appeared a few days before the festival so we began to get excited and curious about what the event would involve. Thailand has the most floral biodiversity in all of South-East Asia, so there were high expectations. Despite this, we were still in awe at the preview pinks by the blind school, where we’ve been volunteering.
WHAT DID THE FESTIVAL INVOLVE?
To kick the week off was a parade, and students were very lucky with this. Apple, the hostel owner, also owns a jewellery shop right on the street where the parade went through so she had set up benches in front of her shop for us all to sit by and watch. The whole group went as did a few friends who we’ve made in the hostel.
The parade included floats adorned in flowers made up into different shapes. These varied from a huge gorilla to an AirAsia plane all made of living plants which left us on our toes about what they’d be seeing next. Some had people sat on them in clothes just as beautiful as the floats, with people such as Miss and Junior Miss Thailand making appearances.
HOWEVER, IT WASN’T JUST FLOWERS!
There were also marching bands who were playing a mix of local sounds and some tunes our Western group recognised and bopped along to. The bands all came from local schools and colleges giving a real community vibe to the place.
Between these were groups of people walking and talking while wearing almost identical clothing. While it confused us who they were when they first saw them, Apple explained that they were from other areas around the Chiang Mai region and were representing their villages. The city only has a population of around 130,000, but the region itself has a population of 1.7 million and so many, many groups passed through in pastel attire.
After the parade finished a few hours later, we were allowed to explore Apple’s shop. The work was incredible. In the back, we got to see Apple’s husband at the table where he crafts the jewellery before having a look around the displays up front. Thanks to the helpful signs, we got to find out our birthstones and the perks of wearing them. Some members of the group made purchases and made profuse compliments about their buys.
SEEING THE FLOATS AGAIN
In the Old City is Chiang Mai Park. Some of us wanted to visit it during Fresher’s week but it had been closed because of Flower Festival preparations. While the place was packed because of this, myself and the five others with me were really excited to see what it was like after another visit to the blind school.
Outside of the park was a small market, a regular sight around Chiang Mai. Just as the six of us were getting to the outskirts of the park, we got to see the floats once again as they’d been left on the road siding the park. Molly and Louella had not seen the festival due to volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park, but got to see what they had missed, including getting photos.
CHIANG MAI PARK
After looking through the floats and some of the group freaking out because of a clown hanging amongst them, we entered the park. It was relatively small but plenty was making up for it. There were two large lakes, one of which was by a large stand which we presumed was for musical performances.
But the thing that got us all staring the most was a yoga session by the other lake. Couples were holding each other in positions which we noted must have involved a lot of strength and trust.
The park itself was covered in just as many flowers as the parade with lots of new colours lining the flower beds and in hanging baskets. There was a lot of crowds especially near the entrance but the place itself was picturesque.
Despite how hyped the event was, there was a surprisingly chill vibe. The parade itself got busier with time but there was plenty of breathing room and the park wasn’t drowned in people although it attracted a large crowd. The flowers were gorgeous and added to the beauty that is Chiang Mai. It was also interesting for us to see how festivals are celebrated in Thailand compared to back in the UK.
About the author
Jasmin Dawling is one of Global Grad’s January 2019 students and is completing a full-time Bachelor’s degree with the Open University in International Studies. While this is her first time formally blogging, she has had plenty of writing experience in the past, from novel writing since the age of six to working on the school newspaper. Apart from seeing the sights of South East Asia and working on her degree, Jasmin spends most of her time either procrastinating or writing down her novel ideas, be it on her travelling-inspired new ideas or the 7-part series she’s been toying with for almost ten years.