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.
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.
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.