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Thailand's Year of the Dragon


With floods and political upheaval now hopefully a thing of the past, Thailand is looking forward to a positive year in 2012. In the Thai lunar calendar, 2012 is actually 2555, and as the number five in the Thai language is "HA", the famous Thai smile is at last returning with a vengeance, inspired by a new catchphrase: "Ha, Ha, Ha".

The New Year countdown to 2012 was a spectacular affair, both in Bangkok and in the country's buzzing resort destinations. But with a large Thai-Chinese population living in provinces throughout the country, Chinese New Year was an even more colourful and entertaining celebration this year. The modern version of this ancient festival is a blend of the past and more contemporary elements with art, music and dance which offered us visitors a fascinating glimpse of the cultural heritage that has been passed down through the generations.

The Year of the Dragon began on 23rd January, but in the Kingdom's many Chinese Thai communities the revelry will began on the 19th and lasted until 29th Jan. Bangkok’s Chinatown district, Yaowarat, the ‘realm of the auspicious Golden Dragon' -- is always a centre for Chinese New Year celebrations in the capital said Al our friend in Bangkok who isisted he take us there.

Highlights of the annual festival to welcome the Year of the Dragon included a traditional and most lovable lion dance, the famous parade of the mythical golden dragon, traditional live performances and demonstrations of the Thai-Chinese way of life. We dived into the extensive food festival whichl featured stalls offering Thai and Chinese delicacies and of course there were stalls packed with local handicrafts which make great gifts. Traditional decorations were everywhere on the streets, with Chinese paper lanterns, cut-outs of auspicious phrases, vases filled with plum blossoms, and a stunning display of oranges and tangerines which made our mouths water. Plus a whole host of symbolic items to represent success, good fortune and prosperity, as well as good health and longevity.

This year we were lucky to enjoy, in addition to the usual spirited dragon dances, parades, fireworks and food stalls, we enjoyed a special Sino-Thai cultural festival that brought together China and Thailand and the two countries' traditions in spectacle of traditional music and drama. We are also honouring the 37th anniversary of re-establishment of Thai-Chinese relations in 1975, expalined Al, with a special series of performances, some of which are two centuries old, which we must attend. Called “From the Huang Ho (Yellow River) to the Chao Phraya River Basin” we were glad to be present for the events which are not normal occurrences.

Most western tourists who are beach lovers also enjoyed the more traditional side of Chinese New Year in Thailand. The Old Phuket Festival, another major celebration that includes contemporary and traditional Chinese cultural activities was enjoyed by all. Parades, dances, Chinese opera performances, art and craft stalls and culinary specialities were all part of the attraction in the heart of the Phuket Old Town on Thalang Road. For the visitor there was plenty on offer for both the young and the old.

Thailand is inexpensive and the destination is safe provided you stick to the more touristy areas. Geared towards entertaining the tourist, go with empty bags and come home well stocked and well shopped!

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