For hundreds of years, Thailand has been home to a large Chinese community who have brought a host of ancient customs to the Kingdom. This means that Thailand is actually a great place to experience Chinese New Year festivities.
If you plan to visit Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket or Koh Samui over Chinese New Year; you can look forward to a cultural treat with vibrant celebrations taking place in all of Thailand's favourite destinations.
Calculated according to the Chinese lunar calendar, New Year 2015 falls on Thursday 19th
February, but the festivities tend to begin a few days before the official New Year’s Eve and in some parts of Asia they can last for several weeks.
Below are a few suggestions if you are in Thailand during the most important festival in the Chinese calendar.
If you find yourself in Bangkok or Chiang Mai over Chinese year, then it's easy to experience the buzzing atmosphere that accompanies the festival. Thousands of crimson lanterns adorn the streets in the Chinese quarters, and delectable Chinese food is offered in abundance, either in on the menus in restaurants or as street food dishes. Dragon dances are also an unmissable attraction. According to Chinese tradition, dragons are the bringers of luck and dragon dances were performed to ward off bad spirits. Be sure to switch your camera of phone to video mode when the performers deftly manipulate poles to lower, raise, dip, thrust and sweep the heads of their mighty creatures, essentially bringing the dragons to life.
Chinese New Year would not be complete without the right food to accompany the festivities, and understanding the symbolism of each dish on the menu is almost as enjoyable as eating it. The classical new year food is Nian Gao
, or traditional Chinese rice cakes, which go back thousands of years and can be served in either sweet or savoury forms. Fish cooked in ginger and light soy sauce is also commonly eaten during the celebrations, as this tasty dish symbolises prosperity for the coming year. Many Chinese families also make dumplings throughout the day on New Year’s Eve. In fact, according to the tradition, the more dumplings you eat during the festivities, the more money you will make in the coming year.
Old Town Traditions
If you are celebrating Chinese New Year in Phuket, the Old Town is without a doubt the place to be. Explosive firecrackers, a rainbow of street processions and street performances guarantee an energetic atmosphere and the chance to experience some authentic Chinese-Thai culture. Celebrations are traditionally held in the Sino-Portuguese quarter of the Old Town, with the dragon dance performance again one of the vibrant highlights. There are also plenty of bargains on offer in the local shops and a sea of delicious street food stalls for you to sample some of the mouth-watering dishes mentioned above, as well as many more local delicacies.
For travellers ringing in the Year of the Goat on Koh Samui, a modest selection of Chinese shrines across the island offer a chance to for visitors to experience the festival. The Chinese Temple to the Goddess Zhao Mei Guan Im is situated in the southwest of the island and is a relatively new addition that is decorated with stunning art and colourful paintings telling the story of this important deity. The island’s Hainanese temple is another brightly-coloured gem, situated in the centre of Nathon with fierce lions guarding its threshold. Seasonal decorations are added for the New Year celebrations when the devout gather to pay their respects to the gods.
Chinese New Year is essentially a time for families, which means a private rental villa is the perfect place to celebrate the festival with your nearest and dearest, particularly if you are travelling with several generations. Those with little ones to entertain can even have a go at making Chinese lanterns make sure the villa feels suitably festive. All you need is some red card, glue and golden glitter and there are plenty of web tutorials online to guide you through the process. Once your villa is all decked out, you can ask the private chef to prepare a few Chinese specials to enjoy with friends and family.