of Festival and Fun
Tapae Gate is Chiangmai's main entrance to the old walled city. In days gone by it was the gate through which traders, diplomats and visiting monks passed when they had business in the city proper. As the main entry route to Chiangmai was from the Mae Ping River and down Tapae Road to the gate, this was the main thoroughfare of Chiangmai. Today, the buildings and growth around the old moated wall have grown and Chiangmai is a much larger city with much more business conducted on the outside of the wall than on the inside, but Tapae Road is still the main thoroughfare and Tapae Gate is still the main entrance to the old walled city. And, it is still today the main center of Chiangmai's public city activities and festivals.
All year round from January to December, there are numerous events held at Tapae Gate. Often these are preceded by parades and floats down Tapae Road from the river itself. These hark back to the old days when all processions and important affairs approached the city at Tapae Gate. A few examples of events centered around Tapae Gate will give you a better idea of how important this center is to the city.
In February every year, there are two events held at Tapae Gate that grab the attention of the whole city. One of these is the Flower Carnival and while parades of flowered floats make their way down Tapae Road the square at Tapae Gate itself is filed with beautiful displays of flowers and blooming plants of the North. Also in February is the Buddhist Makha Bucha Day. For this event, long processions of Chiangmai residents drift down Tapae Road with lighted candles, joss sticks and flowers. This is the occasion of the walk around temple jedees with lighted candles, and in Chiangmai such occasions are city-wide events. Thus, Tapae Road, and Tapae Gate, are important city centers for the Buddhist festivities as well.
April is another good example of the role Tapae Gate plays in the festivals and events of Chiangmai. This is the time of Songkran, the Thai New Year. and Tapae Gate is the center of both the famous annual/ Songkran Festival and parade and the city's water- throwing fun, a most special event of the Songkran festival.
These and many other festivals are only the largest and most festive examples of how Tapae Gate serves Chiangmai and how important it still is today as the city's main entry point. There are many, many more, the most famous of which is the Loy Krathong Festival. Although this festival centers on the f'ing River, the beautiful parades that mark this occasion wind down Tapae Road through Tapae Gate, and on into the old walled city. A very special feature of the Tapae Gate area at Loy Krathong is that it breeches both sides of the city moat and it is in this moat that people set adrift the Loy Krathong boats, as they do also in the river. At Loy Krathong, all of the Tapae Gate area and the surrounding moat is lit up in sparkling lights and fountains rise from the moat through devices installed underwater at various points.
For all of this, however. Tapae Gate offers a great deal more on a regular basis and it provides the visitor with outdoor entertainment choices all year round. This gate and the square around it, especially today, serve as a meeting point for rural and city people alike. In the old days it was here that people met daily - for trade, for relaxation, on official business, or for merely entertainment. Today, it is here that people meet for relaxation,entertainment, and often for the meeting of friends
As Chiangmai continues to grow, we tend to forget the truly rural nature of the area and we forget that rural people all need a city center to meet. This is a function served by Tapae Gate. It was this way before, and it is this way today.
Visitors to Chiangmai can always find some type of entertainment at Tapae Gate on Saturday night. Every Saturday evening a local band performs on the permanent stage at one end of Tapae Gate Square; and on many other evenings entertainment may be a guest speaker on Buddhism, a social campaign against smoking or some of the festival entertainment we discussed above.
An interesting feature of Tapae Cate and the Square where the festivals and entertainment take place is that there are always vendors available to provide you with food and drink. Unusually, beer is not sold by these vendors (except on the really big festival occasions) but you can bring your own beer and whiskey. Most Thais do.
The various events held at Tapae Gate are so numerous that we can't possibly recount them here, but if you re in town at any time of the year, and if you see activity at Tapae Gate, stop and check it out. It s sure to be worth it.