Chiang Mai Flower Festival
In making Chiang Mai a travel destination, people often envision a city saturated with evidences of an age-old civilisation. To be sure, archaeological sites, ancient temples, shimmering pagodas, and time-weathered city walls do play a lead role in giving Chiang Mai its exotic connotation. An equally important and often overlooked attraction, however, is the uncommon natural beauty that the city possesses — particularly in the area of its floral life.
The city’s location allows Chiang Mai to enjoy a large variety of floral species. Besides having a tropical climate suitable for raising of such flowers as orchids, its high-altitude areas and cool winters allow it to be home to cold weather flowers such as carnations. Through the years, as Chiang Mai became more widely known for its magnificent array of floral beauty, it eventually gained the title of ‘The Rose of the North’. Though much of Chiang Mai’s diverse floral beauty can be witnessed in nature, nowhere is it more impressively accentuated than at the Chiang Mai Flower Festival.
The Chiang Mai Flower Festival is similar to other flower festivals hosted around the world such as Taiwan’s In-Season Flower Festival, Japan’s Sakura Festival, and the Netherlands’s and Belgium’s Flower Parades. Thailand’s first Flower Festival was hosted by Chiang Mai in 1977 and was such a success that it was made into an annual event.
It seems that no matter what the festival, one cannot get past parades, beauty contests, shows, stage entertainment, and exhibitions. While it is true that most festivals have the above attractions in common, it is equally true that each possesses its own distinguishing characteristics and individualistic personality.
Perhaps the most interesting highlight of the Flower Festival is found in the many flower floats decorated with a beautiful array of floral species. Each flower, each petal, each shade of colour is carefully selected and positioned on the float to form patterns, words and pictures. Each float conveys a unique
message of its own: some tell of Chiang Mai’s rich heritage, others speak of the lifestyle of the Thai people; some illustrate a religious principle or show some event of Buddha’s life, others look to the past with scenes from history, and still others express a contemporary idea with abstract and modern designs. The beauty of the flowers combined with the creative ingenuity of their arrangement make each float a work of art requiring time-consuming attention from its creator. The reward for all the hard work? Perhaps a place in the judging contest, but, even better, the expressions of delight and awe from the crowds of onlookers.
Beautiful flowers often accompany beautiful women and a second highlight of the Flower Festival is the beauty contestants that sit atop the flower floats. Each contestant wears the local Northern costume, giving visitors and locals alike the increasingly rare opportunity to witness the traditional local dress.
Besides the parade, the Flower Festival also features a display of agricultural produce, an exhibition and contest of several species of flowers such as roses, orchids, carnations, lillies, China asters etc., a flower arrangement exhibition and competition, decorative plants, and mini garden landscapings. In addition, for all those with green fingers, there is a large variety of gardening equipment for sale at more than economical prices.