Once a year the streets of Chiang Mai explode in a keleidoscopic array of colour as the Flower Festival commences.
Towards the end of the cool season, in early February, Chiang Mai is looking its best. Everywhere there is a riot of colour as temperate flowers such as asters, salvias and marigolds come into full bloom to join the tropical orchids and bougainvilleas.
This is the time when the glorious Flower Festival takes place. Some fifty villages as well as other private and government organizations compete to create the most spectacular floral floats. These are covered overall with flower heads in intricate designs and made in the shape of dragons, castles, mountains and so on. Atop each float sits a beautiful girl dressed in sumptuous northern Thai costume.
The procession wends its way slowly through the streets of the city, which are lined with throngs of people cheering their favorites competitor. When the procession finally reaches Suan Buak Had Park, the flowers and the girls by now somewhat limp from the heat, the winners are announced.
At the Park there are competitions for various categories of flowers, fruit and vegetables, for flower arrangements and miniature gardens as well as hundreds of stalls selling everything you can imagine. The festival is very popular and hotels are generally rather full so be warned to book in advance.