Thailand has long enjoyed close links with China and this is reflected in the many celebrations that take place across the country during Chinese New Year, which falls between the 12-15 February in 2010.
The biggest celebrations will take place in areas which boast a significant Thai-Chinese community and although today's festivals often include contemporary elements, they also offer a rare glimpse into the past. Many parts of the country become centres for art, music and dance during this period, providing a colourful reminder of the rich cultural legacy the two countries share.
Bangkok is home to Thailand's largest Chinese community and the China Town New Year Festival is one of the most spectacular in the Kingdom. The event draws tens of thousands of revellers to enjoy vibrant parades, dragon dances, firework displays, opera shows and other traditional performances. This year, on February 14, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhornhe will preside over the opening ceremony and special events will include a concert by top Thai artists and a display of traditional Chinese lanterns. As an added bonus, Bangkok will also host a range of performances from China, organised by the Chinese Embassy. These will include Kung fu from Beijing, Chinese Opera, Chinese Mask Change performances and Tibetan dancing. The special events will take place from February 6-7 at Central World shopping complex in Bangkok, with special shows twice daily at the National Theatre from February 8-11.
Thailand's ancient capital, Ayutthaya, also celebrates Chinese New Year in style with a 5-day festival starting on February 15 that attracts large numbers of international visitors. As well as processions, dragon dances and food stalls, there are several contests during the week including the popular Young Mr and Mrs Chinatown contest, not to mention Chinese Opera performances set around the city's dramatic, historical sites.
Even more diverse, the Phuket Chinese New Year Festival from 19-21 February takes place in the island's Old Town, a recently renovated heritage zone characterised by beautiful Sino-Portuguese architecture. This year, the cultural extravaganza includes Chinese martial arts and acrobatics displays from Beijing, as well as Northern dance from Heilongjiang, (one of the coldest regions in the world), puppet performances from the Guangxi Zhuang in southern China and even astrological readings based on the Chinese horoscope. Drama, music and fireworks, not to mention a wide variety of tempting Chinese delicacies combine in what is becoming a major attraction for visitors from around the world.
Other locations in Thailand where Chinese New Year will be celebrated with gusto this year include Chiang Mai from 14-16 February, where the festivities will include a Miss Chinatown contest, Pattaya on the same dates, which will stage a live concert and food fair, plus Had Yai in the south, which will also host a concert by artists from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and China, as well as Chinese folk games and a Lion Dance performance.
The scope and diversity on offer in Thailand this Chinese New Year, makes it one of the region's top choices for those looking to experience the full colour and excitement of the celebrations. Cultural performances from 10 different Chinese provinces, with food stalls, craft fairs and street parties providing a festive backdrop, guarantee that in Thailand, the Year of Tiger will start with a bang.
By Jules Kay