Thailand celebrates three new years festival each year, with Sonkran in April, the traditional worldwide New Years on January first and Chinese New Year (Trut Chin in Thai).
What Is Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year is one of the most important traditional holidays in the Chinese cultural calendar. Often referred to as the Spring Festival, celebrations run from the Chinese New Years Eve (The last day of the Chinese Calendar) until the 15th day of the first month.
Typically families will gather for meals, cleanse their houses to get rid of ill fortune and make way for good luck. You will see red everywhere, which represents fortune, wealth and long life. Firecrackers will go off everywhere (Which has been slightly disconcerting considering the political troubles in Bangkok at the moment) and there is generally gift giving (generally in red envelopes from older family members to younger ones) amongst families.
Why is Chinese New Year important in Bangkok?
Thailand has the largest expat Chinese community in the world, as well as the most strongly assimilated into their local culture. While it might not be immediately obvious (Chinese immigrants were made to take Thai names before receiving citizenship rights), Thailand has approximately 9 million or14% of the population with significant Chinese descent. Many high ranking people in business, the Military and the Government claim some Chinese heritage.
Thanon Yaowarat, Thanon Charoen Krung & Chinatown
Typically Yaowarat Road (ถนนเยาวราช) in the Samphanthawong District is considered to be the centre of Bangkok’s Chinatown, with the “town” extending to a large area covering various Sois towards Charoen Krung including the Klong Thom market.
The area is one of the oldest in Bangkok, where Chinese traders resettled after the capital was moved to its current location. Traders sailed their Junk boats up the Chao Praya river from Siam (old Thailand) to China. The area is full of vendors selling gold, clothing and fabric, souvenirs, tools, electronics, antiques and food.
Celebrating Chinese New Year in Yaowarat Road
The current political climate and risks of clashes has resulted in many tourists cancelling their trips to Thailand, and Bangkok is considerably quieter at the moment. Still there are thousands of people (but very few Farang faces) celebrating the new year with food, temple visits, prayer, ancestor worship and whatever else they get up to.
Everyone is wearing red, but I’d advise tourists to avoid this like the plague considering the current political situation, apparently gold is also worn, but that represents the other side – I guess us travellers can’t win!
You’ll see drummers and dragon processions and lion dancers, monkey gods, people letting off fire crackers to ward off spirits, and lots of amazing street food. Vendors will be selling paper money, gold and paper cell phones, all of which are used for ancestor worship.
The street is closed to traffic, and generally a member of the Royal Family will visit, which is a very important occasion in Thailand, so please show respect when they drive past and do as the locals do.
Getting to Chinatown
By Boat: Take the Chaopraya Express boat and get off at Rachawongsee pier which is served by all boats on the river.
By MRT (Subway): Take the MRT to the main train station, Hualamphong which is to the east of Chinatown.
By Train: Take any train to them main station Hualamphong.
By Taxi, Tuk Tuk or Motorbike: Ask your driver to take you to Thanon Yaowarat or Chinatown if they speak english.