Thailand is actually home to the largest overseas Chinese communities in the world, where Thai-Chinese are said to account for around 14% of the population, although some towns and cities have more settling Chinese than others. One of the more populated destinations would be the somewhat obscure city of Nakhon Sawan, which is known not only for its large Thai/Chinese population and Chinese shrines, but it is also renowned for its annual Pak Nam Pho Chinese Festival, which originates right back from 1914. A festival which lasts 12 days and 12 nights in total (from the 9th to the February in 2018) and during this time the city centre will be dressed in red banners and lanterns, to host various markets, of street food, games stalls, and just a whole load of carnival-like excitement. But the last days of the Pak Nam Pho celebration would be by far the more exciting, when a traditional Chinese procession takes place both at night and the following morning, with the famous parades of the ‘Golden Dragons of Nakhon Sawan’.
Travel to Nakhon Sawan
Nakhon Sawan is found roughly 250 kilometres north of Bangkok and takes around 3 hours to reach by minivan or bus. And on our we visit we opt to be stuffed into the back of a minivan following a slightly disappointing dragon-free Chinese New Year in Bangkok. So we go in search of dragons in the small city of Nakhon Sawan, with the annual Pak Nam Pho Chinese New Year Festival (Trut Chin) travelling, and after 3 hours squashed in the van we arrive to junctions and roads decorated in cute light ornaments and streets draped in red to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Nakhon Sawan. We arrive in the late afternoon of the 2nd last day of the 12 day event, when the first of the two parades takes place that coming evening, and of course the second parade would then take place on the following morning. We check in at our hotel (nearby hotels here) then arrive at the Pak Nam Pho area of Nakhon Sawan at around 09:00PM to watch stages being dismantled, carpets being rolled up, and the streets are being cleared. The road ahead of us quickly empties, and only stragglers and gremlins are left behind.
Year of the Snake
In an attempt to salvage the night we poke around in search of Chinese stuff. Nearby we find another main street filled with carnival games, street food, people and packed side streets set up with market stalls. After roughly 5 minutes of fun we accept defeat and follow the main street in search of a way out. And this is when we walk direct into the side of a dragon parade in full march, and booming sounds and excitement, which somehow had eluded us until now. We stumble right onto the parade of the Golden Dragons of Nakhon Sawan, alongside lions, acrobats, and gatherings of the local Chinese communities. And by far this is most local and traditional Chinese New Year celebration I have come across in Thailand, still with very few tourists. But we don’t quite make the second parade the following morning (06:00AM), as this visit was very much a hurried visit, so we are back on the bus to Bangkok again. But in no way was this a wasted visit, as the previous night’s Chinese New Year celebrations were infinitely more enjoyable than any we have experienced in Bangkok.