Feb 04 2013

Chinese New Year in Phuket

Published by at 12:14 pm under Festivals


With red lanterns adorning the streets and truckloads of firecrackers at the ready, Phuket is poised to ring in the Year of the Snake with plenty of colour and panache. Phuket’s large ethnic Chinese population, descended from immigrants who flocked to island for the tin-mining trade in the 1800s and early 1900s, means that the island has one of the most festive Lunar New Year celebrations in Thailand.

Ready for the festivities to begin: the dragon at Queen Sirikit Park Phuket.

Ready for the festivities to begin: the imposing dragon at Queen Sirikit Park Phuket.

Many of Phuket’s Chinese-Thai residents share ancestry with the Chinese of Penang, and still today the two islands share strong family and cultural ties. The Sino-Portuguese style mansions and shophouses built by Phuket’s early Chinese settlers will look familiar to those who have travelled to Penang or Melaka.

Chinese New Year is not a public holiday in Thailand, but it’s still a time for families in Phuket to gather to clean house, feast on specially-prepared foods and take part in merit-making activities. In honouring the Goddess Guan Yin and several other Chinese deities, Phuket’s Chinese-Thais hope to ensure a prosperous and joyful year ahead.

Waiting patiently for your incense offering: Chinese gods at the Shrine of Serene Light.

Waiting patiently for your incense offering: Chinese gods at the Shrine of Serene Light.

Most of the action takes place in Phuket Town, especially in and around the Chinese Taoist shrines that are found in the Old Town historical district. Precise schedules are hard to come by, but there will be street processions, food vendors and a festive atmosphere along all the Old Town streets including Thalang, Dibuk, Phang Nga and Rassada roads and Soi Romanee.

On February 10, the football field next to the Phuket Provincial Court on Damrong Road will feature an evening concert performance of local Thai singers and an acrobatics show by a troupe brought in from China.

Following the New Year celebrations, Phuket’s Old Town will extend its festive mood with the launch of its annual Phuket Old Town Festival from February 15 to 17. In a rare homage to Phuket pedestrians, Thalang Road will be closed to traffic each evening and transformed into a walking street.

Sure to be bustling for Chinese New Year: the Shrine of Serene Light on Phang Nga Road.

Sure to be bustling for Chinese New Year: the Shrine of Serene Light on Phang Nga Road.

On February 15, a traditional parade will wend its way through town starting at 16:00, before arriving at Queen Sirikit Park next to the Tourism Authority of Thailand office on Thalang Road for the official opening ceremony at 19:00.

For the next two nights, the park’s stage will host a variety of shows from 19:30 onwards, and on the final night, February 17, there will also be a candle blessing ceremony in honour of HM the King at 20:00. Other activities include a Sino-Portuguese architecture exhibition, a local food cooking demonstration and a traditional ‘Kor Chan’ Phuket traditional boat sailing event.

Things are looking festive on Soi Romanee.

Pretty in pink: Chinese lanterns and a freshly-painted Soi Romanee shophouse.

If Phuket visitors are somehow in need of more revelry (and firecrackers) this month, the annual Wat Chalong Fair is set to bring in its usual large crowds every evening from February 13 to 20 10 to 16 [Ed note: Apologies, incorrect dates supplied initially.] Though the fair is not Chinese in origin, it always runs during the Chinese New Year, offering up the chance to indulge in more local food, music and festive fun in Phuket.

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