Advertisement

'Buzzing' Bangkok celebrates Lunar New Year

Millions of Thai-Chinese marked Lunar New Year with parties, family meals and visits to many of the shrines dotted around Chinatown (Lillian SUWANRUMPHA)
Millions of Thai-Chinese marked Lunar New Year with parties, family meals and visits to many of the shrines dotted around Chinatown (Lillian SUWANRUMPHA)

A riot of scarlet lanterns hung over the red-clothed crowds offering candles as they murmured prayers at a traditional temple in Bangkok to celebrate Lunar New Year.

Millions of Thai-Chinese marked the occasion with parties, family meals and visits to many of the shrines dotted around Chinatown.

The old streets in the capital's downtown came alive on Saturday afternoon, with thousands of curious tourists and happy devotees such as Watcharin Parichatwuttikoon, 70, enjoying the occasion.

"It's very sacred. I have attended since I was young," he told AFP outside Wat Mongkorn, among the city's largest.

"I like to make merits, wash away bad deeds. Today, it's refreshing because it's raining."

There is a long history of Chinese migration to Thailand, with Thai-Chinese people accounting for roughly 10 percent of the population -- including some of the kingdom's most prominent business families.

Temple-goers found a moment for quiet reflection as they lit candles and made traditional offerings in Wat Mongkorn -- sometimes referred to as the "Dragon Temple" -- before returning to the bustle outside.

Chawanakorn Arunthanachotikul, 31, had travelled with his family and friends to be there.

"Today is a good day for Thai-Chinese people," he told AFP.

"I pray for luck and ask for this year to end smoothly."

While many in downtown Bangkok were from the kingdom, the celebrations are a busy and highly lucrative time for tourism in Thailand as well.

Between January 1 and February 8 Thailand welcomed more than 730,000 Chinese visitors, a Thai government spokesperson told local media on Saturday.

It follows last month's visa waiver agreement between Bangkok and Beijing, which Thai officials hope will boost the kingdom's vital tourism sector, which is struggling to bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Chinatown tourists were perusing the many stalls that had set out vibrant merchandise, with vendors often dressed in red cheongsams.

Among those visiting was American-Chinese tourist Cassandra Branson, 22, who had travelled from Beijing.

"I wanted to come to Chinatown during Chinese New Year because it feels like home," she told AFP, saying she usually celebrated in New York.

"I spend it with family at home and it's like more quiet, less buzzing. It's very festive here," she said.

"It's a lot more lively."

tak-sl-rbu/leg