Chinese New Year celebrations sprawl across Pattaya

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Mayor Sonthaya Kunplome is joined by city hall officials and employees to make offerings to the Eight Immortals and Gods at the Sawangboriboon Thammasathan Pattaya Foundation in Naklua.
Mayor Sonthaya Kunplome is joined by city hall officials and employees to make offerings to the Eight Immortals and Gods at the Sawangboriboon Thammasathan Pattaya Foundation in Naklua.

In a city that has become so dependent upon Chinese tourists, Pattaya’s annual Chinese New Year celebration has become one of the biggest events of the year.

Always a big deal for Naklua’s Chinese-Thai population, the lunar new year is now a sprawling festival, ushered in by top Pattaya officials and celebrated in separate and simultaneous shows in tourist hot spots.

Former Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome and Former Deputy Mayor Poramet Ngampichet pay their respects at Chonburi’s City Pillar Shrine.
Former Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome and Former Deputy Mayor Poramet Ngampichet pay their respects at Chonburi’s City Pillar Shrine.

The Year of the Pig got off to a traditional start Feb. 4, with Thai-Chinese residents bringing whole ducks and chickens, pig heads, pastries, stuffed dough pyramids, sticky rice cakes, fruit and others food to shrines to pay homage to their gods.

Revelers dressed in brilliant red and gold “qipao” dresses, happily offered up by five Naklua shops for 200 baht or more. Fueled by directives from government offices, hotels and restaurants to look the part for New Year’s, sales of the Chinese dresses and shirts were brisk across the city.

Worshippers also assembled outside Pattaya City Hall, praying at the King Thaksin Monument for prosperity in the coming year, but they found themselves alone: No Pattaya executives showed up, instead holding off their appearances until the next morning.

On Feb. 5 at the monument, Mayor Sonthaya Kun­­plome welcomed in the new Chinese year, along with top city officials, who then moved to the Prince Chumphon Monument atop Pratamnak Hill followed by moving to the Sawang Bori­boon Thammasathan Foundation – the epicenter of the Chinese-Thai community – in Naklua for religious rites.

The real celebration, however, began after dark at both Central Festival Pattaya Beach and on Walking Street.

A telling of the history of Thailand’s Chinese New Year festivals in Thai, English, and Chinese kicked off the party, followed by a guzheng musical-instrument performance. Sonthaya made his appearance, welcoming Chinese tourists who – although arriving in much smaller numbers than last year – are Pattaya’s No. 1 tourist group.

The dragon breathes fire on Lunar New Year.
The dragon breathes fire on Lunar New Year.

At 8 p.m., dances by Chinese dragons and lion characters preceded an acrobatic performance with limber performers assembling human pyramids and climbing and flipping from poles. At 8:30 p.m. Chinese cultural and arts performances unfolded on the stage with music taking over at 9 p.m.

Finally, at 10:30 p.m. musical act Gesunova performed, with fans joining in on its big hit “Krai Kae Nui kua Kai”.

A similar schedule played out on Walking Street, with the guzheng artists moving down the road after finishing their Central Festival show, followed by the dragons and lions, acrobats and stage performers.

A contestant walks the isle in the Miss Hanbok (traditional Korean dress for semi-formal or formal attire during traditional occasions such as festivals, celebrations, and ceremonies) contest at Central Festival Pattaya Beach.
A contestant walks the isle in the Miss Hanbok (traditional Korean dress for semi-formal or formal attire during traditional occasions such as festivals, celebrations, and ceremonies) contest at Central Festival Pattaya Beach.
Chinese actors in traditional dress pose at Royal Garden Plaza Pattaya.
Chinese actors in traditional dress pose at Royal Garden Plaza Pattaya.
A beautiful and talented young woman plays the guzheng, an ancient Chinese musical instrument, at Bangkok Hospital Pattaya.
A beautiful and talented young woman plays the guzheng, an ancient Chinese musical instrument, at Bangkok Hospital Pattaya.
Talented young dancers perform an ancient Thai-Chinese dance at Central Festival Pattaya Beach.
Talented young dancers perform an ancient Thai-Chinese dance at Central Festival Pattaya Beach.
Thai guests put money into the dragon’s mouth at Friendship Supermarket in South Pattaya for prosperity.
Thai guests put money into the dragon’s mouth at Friendship Supermarket in South Pattaya for prosperity.
Acrobats thrill the crowd with their dangerously high pole climbing.
Acrobats thrill the crowd with their dangerously high pole climbing.
“Eng Kor” fighters add excitement to the festivities with their traditional performance.
“Eng Kor” fighters add excitement to the festivities with their traditional performance.
Gesunova performs their big hit “Krai Kae Nui kua Kai”.
Gesunova performs their big hit “Krai Kae Nui kua Kai”.
Officials opened the normally closed beaches for umbrellas and chairs on Wednesday for the Chinese New Year holiday.
Officials opened the normally closed beaches for umbrellas and chairs on Wednesday for the Chinese New Year holiday.