Chiang Mai seems to be ‘the place to be for New Year’s Eve’ in Thailand, which is the main reason I wanted to run like hell from it. Not that I don’t like crowds, I in fact love crowds, I just get really bored and annoyed with the repetitive nature of ‘the party’ by the time it becomes ‘the place to be’. My bias is, by the time something blows up, it tends to morph into the mundane. Chiang Mai? Cancun? Some densely packed ‘place to be’ in any city, in any country, from any decade? Not much difference in my opinion and generally filled with people intent on making it so. How can I put this in music terms….. You’re more apt to find me in a tightly packed, seedy bar in a dark part of town mixing it with people who are exorcising their demons on stage than at a stadium with thousands of people loving the light show, phone-filming the car-sized screens, content to buy the t-shirt to say they were there. I get the latter, it’s just not my scene. I rather stay home and eat cookies.
As Tak seemed to be a fairly sleepy city, I’m glad I made the trek in time for the Taksin Maharachanuson Fair, which runs from December 28 to January 3. New Year’s Eve was neither crazy nor bold (perhaps the bars were, I don’t know), but it was something different, something I had never done, in a way I had never done it, so for me, that was enough. Tak was worth the trip.
Found at the fair, some nights more consistently than others:
- a variety of vendors selling anything from electrical goods, to clothing, to toys, to food
- a health station where you can have your blood pressure assessed, etc.
- traditional Chinese theatre
- a carousel, ferris wheel, castle and other fun things for the little people (children)
- live entertainment, including a band on one stage, dancing girls on another
- reenactment of the historical battles between Thailand and Burma in the time of King Taksin. This is really put together well and a huge crowd develops. Get there early to secure a seat on the bleachers.
- without a doubt the lowest quality muay thai I’ve seen in Thailand. This included gloveless matches (with traditional hand wrapping). Other than a few bouts between some children, which were still of what I would consider very low quality in Thailand, it seemed that a number of the matches were between whomever was up for it. For example, at the end of one night, a number of men, many whom I suspect had little to no training, based on previous nights performances and their physical stature in conjunction with age (i.e. guys in their mid-20s who didn’t look remotely athletic/have the body of even a retired nak muay or even a farmer/labourer) would congregate in the ring to be matched against another for what I’m assuming was the following evening. Although the quality of that which happened in the ring was low, the crowd that congregated was incredibly enthusiastic and supportive as were the participants. That in itself made it a good time, particularly if one is more interested in watching people bludgeon one another (sometimes laughing at one another while doing so) than practice muay thai.
- booths of agricultural goods
Historical Note (as cited in literature provided by the Tourist Authority of Thailand)
King Taksin the Great who returned independence to the Thai nation had his background closely tied with Tak. The people of Tak,therefore, organize a traditional fair ‘Taksin Maharachanuson’ to honour him and publicize his heroic deeds.
Note: The annual Red Cross Fair is held in conjunction with the Taksin Maharachanuson Fair (same location).