The Chiang Mai Flower Festival is a three day event, taking place across the first weekend in February. In 2017, this covered February 3rd – 5th. In 2018, it’ll be February 2nd – 4th.
When it comes to festivals, Chiang Mai is primarily known for the Loy Kratong/Yee Peng double, and of course Songkran. Undoubtedly in third place, however, in terms of both scale and fame, is the Chiang Mai Flower Festival.
The signature event of the festival is the flower parade, which takes place on the Saturday. Large floats festooned with colourful flowers slowly make their way from Nawarat Bridge to the Tha Phae Gate (the eastern entrance to the old city). They’re also accompanied by dancers, and a large and loud band.
After the parade, the floats and the celebrators make their way to Suan Buak Haad, a public park to the south-west of the old city. Buak Haad is always a pleasant place to visit (it’s one of the few parks in Chiang Mai), but when the Flower Festival rolls in it’s absolutely transformed.
Suan Buak Haad is where the rest of the Chiang Mai Flower Festival’s events take place. You’ll find stunning floral displays, stalls selling plenty of plants and flowers, and a series of contests. The whole area is closed off to traffic, meaning pedestrians can wander around at their leisure.
Another of the festival’s highlights is the Miss Chiang Mai Flower Festival competition. Each float from the parade will have featured a young lady, most of whom are candidates for the contest. The competition begins on Saturday afternoon and carries on into the night, when the coveted award of Chiang Mai Flower Festival Queen is given.
Chiang Mai is known as ‘the rose of the north’ for a reason. Its surroundings are beautiful and the nature is, at times, sublime. The Chiang Mai Flower Festival allows the locals to show off their appreciation for this nature and, of course, gives them an opportunity to do so while incorporating a lot of partying!
The festival is held in February because the cool season is drawing to a close. This is when the nature of the region is at its most bountiful and stunning, and the plants and flowers are in their fullest bloom.
All of the main events of the Chiang Mai Flower Festival take place around the old city (the square area in the city’s center, surrounded by a moat). If you want to take in the parade, station yourself somewhere on Tha Phae Road. It gets busy there, so arrive nice and early to get a good spot.
Suan Buak Haad – where the rest of the events take place – is right in the south-west corner of the old city. Walking there from anywhere else in the old city is easily accomplished or a tuktuk will get you there even quicker. If you’re staying a distance away, get a songthaew (one of the big, red taxis) to somewhere near the park and then walk; the awful traffic around the park itself isn’t worth attempting to navigate.