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Chiangmai's Annual Flower Carnival

Beauty queen on float One of Chiangmai's great tourist attractions takes place in February every year. This is the annual flower carnival which attracts visitors from overseas along many Thai citizens. Early February is the perfect time for this festival because the climatic conditions during the cool of the winter allow the cultivation of not only exotic tropical flowers, such as orchids, but also temperate blooms like roses and chrysanthemums.

Chiangmai city, in February, is awash with vibrant colors, ranging from the electric orange and lilac of bougainvillea to the velvety blossoms of petunias in all shades of pink, white and purple. The strident red of poinsettias, bought by many at Christmas and New Year, is echoed by beds of scarlet salvias. But all this is eclipsed by the sheer profusion of color that the Flower Carnival and Fair bring to the aptly named "Rose of the North".

In 1998 the carnival takes place between the 6th and 8th of February, with the highlight being the city-center parade of lavishly-bedecked floral floats that takes place on Saturday the 7th. Private sector companies and government agencies from all over the province display their colorful entries that vie for the coveted prizes.

On all 3 days of the festival, prize blooms are displayed at the Rama IX park, between the Mae Rim road and Canal Road, to the north of the city. Here can be seen almost 1,000 different wild and cultivated orchid varieties and specimen blossoms of chrysanthemums from farms in the surrounding hills, together with an enormous profusion of other flowers. There are also beauty contests and traditional cultural shows.

parade float For flower lovers this is the best time of the year for a visit to Chiangmai. More than 3,000 species of orchid are in bloom and nearly one-third of these are shown somewhere in Chiangmai's annual Flower Show and Festival These include both the wild orchid species and the cultivated orchids from northern Thailand's many orchid farms and nurseries. The prize winning cultured orchids from Thailand are a prominent part of the show at Rama IX Park, and many of the rarer orchids that are very hard to find and very expensive throughout most of the year are available at this show at reasonable prices. Both full grown blooming planted and hanging orchid varieties are plentiful, as are baby orchids that are only a few years old.

In addition to the orchid, many flowers native to the north can be seen in all their splendor at the annual show, and they can be seen flowering all across the northern landscape at this time of the year. The orchids grace the hills all over Chiangmai Province, especially in the Mae Rim and Samoerng areas just north of Chiangmai, and on the road to Doi Inthanon, to the south of Chiangmai .

marchers in parade In Chiangmai itself, the common rose has been in bloom since December. This beautiful red flower is known as the Damask and it grows abundantly in Chiangmai as well as in the mountains of Chiangrai, Another type of flower grows abundantly at the foothills of Doi Suthep on the north side of the city. This is a beautiful orange gold flower that grows on trees and is called the Golden Shower for its flowing, glitter in the sun. This flower covers parts of the hills leading up to Chiangmai's most famous mount.

There are many other flowers that grow wild in the Chiangmai countryside, and that grow free in the gardens and yards of Chiangmai's homes. The Chrysanthemum is one. Generally thought of as the Christmas flower, in red, in the West, the Chrysanthemum in Chiangmai is most often yellow and white. This is the flower that is used to make the healthful herbal Chrysanthemum tea.

Another yellow and gold-colored flower in the Chiangmai area is known as the Indian Shoot. This flower, having originated in the West Indies, is a rich wetland flower that is usually found near lakes and ponds. In Chiangmai one can see it along the Ping river, along Chiangmai's city moat, and in the damper sections of the outer city near the countryside. Along with the highly aromatic Weeping Lantana, a flower that grows on shrubs and in various colors, including red, pink, yellow and white, the Indian Shoot makes for a beautiful panoply of gold on a lighter floral background.

The list of flowers of many, many species here in Chiangmai could go on forever. It is nearly without limits as new flowers are found each year. Those above are just a sampling of some of the more common, and some that grow in much abundance in Chiangmai City In February, as the winter gradually comes to an end and the weather is very much like spring in the temperate climates, all the flowers of the north are in bloom. The most concentrated location to view these is the flower parade and festival. It's an event not to be missed, and while travelling, in the countryside, either before or after the Flower Festival weekend, we can all enjoy these beauties flowing over the many hills and across the wide green plains.

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