The most important date on the festival calendar for Nakhon Sawan is the annual Paknam Pho Chinese New Year Festival which lasts for 12 days and 12 nights. The highlights are definitely the two “Chao Por-Chao Mae” Processions which take place in the evening and then the following morning. I recently attended both of these parades through the city and I must say that it was the most impressive Chinese parade that I have seen for a long time.
Chinese migrants have been settling down all over Thailand for hundreds of years. Many of them came to Nakhon Sawan where they built numerous shrines around the city. The two most famous are Chao Pho Thepharak Shrine and Chao Mae Taptim Shrine. Their popularity started nearly a hundred years ago during a cholera outbreak when hundreds of people died. Devotees of these two shrines burnt sheets of paper with Yantra on them and drank the ashes believing that it would both prevent and cure them of cholera. Amazingly it worked.
Since 1914, the people of Nakhon Sawan have organized the Chao Pho Chao Mae Pak Nam Pho Fair and Procession during the Chinese New Year to bring good fortune, prosperity and luck. The pictures on this page are of the night procession through the town. It features various processions such as lion parade, dragon parade, angel procession and the goddess Guan Yin procession. Thousands of local people and tourists lined the route.
If you have time it is worth going to both the night and day versions of the parade. You won’t be disappointed as they both have a great atmosphere and are distinctly different. The highlight for me was the illuminated dragon dance. It was certainly very energetic and I felt exhausted watching it. The dragon weaved in and out and round and round at a breakneck speed. The carriers of the dragon seemed to have unlimited energy. It wasn’t that easy taking a picture as they were moving so fast. But, it didn’t matter as I kept finding myself just standing and staring, mesmerized by the movement of the dragon.
As well as lions and dragons there were also marching bands, dancers in colourful costumes, acrobats standing on each other’s shoulders and literally hundreds and hundreds of other people. The parade was so long that it took them easily four hours to complete the parade route. I decided it was probably best to stand at the start of the parade as I knew from past experiences that there wouldn’t be many smiles at the finishing end. Just tired faces.
The colours, the sights and the sounds of the parade should prove to be a feast for all of your senses. I think I managed to get some good photos during the night parade but the parade the following morning is certainly easier to photograph. The evening parade started at 7 p.m. and the morning one at 7 a.m. It is best to arrive early as roads will be closed. It will also allow you time to get photos before the parade starts. Of the two parades the evening one had more people watching but I was still able to walk up and down the parade route taking pictures.
The next Chinese New Year is on 23rd January 2012. The Paknam Pho Chinese New Year Festival will take place on each side of that date. I will be posting a full schedule on our Thai Festival Blogs as soon as it is released. I would suggest that you go for at least two nights and three days as there are plenty of other activities going on during the 12 day parade. There are also a number of tourist attractions in the area which I will tell you about another day. In the meantime, check out our free online Thailand Guidebook for Nakhon Sawan.
UPDATE: I have posted more pictures in my Facebook Photo Album