The Year of the Snake began with festivals and fireworks across the region, but Phuket's Chinese Thai community enjoys an even bigger celebration of its distinctive cultural ancestry in the form of the annual Phuket Old Town Festival.
is more famous for its beaches and nightlife
than it is for historical and cultural attractions, the island actually boasts a rich and diverse history that stretches back two centuries when ethnic Chinese workers arrived on the island in they thousands to toil in the thriving tin mines.
To this day, Phuket Town remains the centre of the island's Chinese culture and in recent years, thanks in part to a rise in the number of tourists arriving from China and other Asian countries, enduring traditions such as local festivals, food and architecture have enjoyed something of a renaissance.
The Phuket Old Town Festival offers a fascinating glimpse into the less publicised side of island life on Phuket. For more than a decade, it has been one of the most important local events in the annual calendar, well attended by local residents of all ages and providing visitors with a showcase for the island's unique art and traditions.
The main points of interest during the festival are along the four main streets in the centre of the Phuket Old Town — Thalang Road, Soi Rommanee, Krabi Road and Phang Nga Road, all of which are closed to traffic during the event. Exhibitions, street stalls and activities take place along the streets from 3pm to midnight when people can stroll around the Old Town taking in the colourful sights, sounds and flavours or even take rickshaw tours around the streets.
The festival begins with an official opening ceremony, followed by a spectacular parade through the streets of the Old Town, with local people dressed in beautiful traditional costume, dragon dancers twisting through the crowds. Other highlights include a Sound and Light Show, Chinese stage performances and folk dancing troupes, and of course a vast array of food stalls selling tempting local culinary creations and drinks.
This year, the Old Chartered Bank on the corner of Dibuk Road is hosting an exhibition highlighting HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej's visit to Phuket in 1959, as well as traditional costumes and food from Phuket Town’s colourful past. A theatre troupe from mainland China will also be performing a special magic show and well known Thai singers and comedy acts will also take to the stage to entertain the local audience.
On the final night of the festival from 11 to midnight a candlelight ceremony will be led by local officials to pray for good fortune in front of the Hai Leng Ong Sea Dragon statue in Queen Sirikit Park, which in island folklore is said to be the island's protector.
The Phuket Old Town Festival takes place from February 15 - 17 and is expected t attract around 300,000 visitors over the three day event. The lively, family friendly atmosphere, coupled with a multitude of attractions and performances makes for a fascinating cultural extravaganza, one that also serves an important way to preserve traditions and beliefs on an island that has fast become a melting pot of global influences.
by LVH Marketing