Pattaya International Mardi Gras 2009

The Pattaya International Mardi Gras took place yesterday along Beach Road in Pattaya. This was their first attempt at a “Mardi Gras” which I guess was held to help boost tourism in the region. The advertising posters billed it as “Pattaya’s first electrical carnival parade”. They are hoping to make this an annual event though this year it seemed to have been partly sponsored by the Central Group as it coincided with the opening of their new mall Central Festival.

The name “Mardi Gras” is probably more famously linked with the carnivals in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and New Orleans, Louisiana. A Mardi Gras is usually held every year before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Thai people are mainly Buddhists but that doesn’t stop them from celebrating with a Mardi Gras Carnival. In Pattaya, they focused on three themes: Thai Contemporary Arts; Modern Beach Lifestyle and Under the Sea Celebration. Well, that was the plan anyway.

The parade was due to start at around 4 p.m. along Pattaya Beach Road near the Hard Rock Hotel. However, they didn’t start to get moving until after 5 p.m. It didn’t really matter that much. Everybody was all lined up and it gave us plenty of opportunities to take pictures of the participants. The parade was led with a couple of floats sponsored by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) which was the “underwater theme”. Following them were the dancing girls from many of the bars in Pattaya. Personally I think these skimpily dressed girls were very out of place though obviously they were a crowd pleaser. I will post some pictures over at ThailandQA Forums so that you can decide for yourself.

There were certainly many well dressed women wearing outlandish colours that could be linked to what we envision as a Mardi Gras. At the same time there were also many traditional Thai costumes in the parade. In some ways, it was a bit like a normal parade that we often see here but with a more international theme.

The second half of the parade was mainly children from local schools. In some ways they were the highlight as they had more enthusiasm. They had a go at dressing up as dancing ladies, but also they wore more traditional clothes with themes such as Songkran. They had both marching bands and traditional Thai music. The parade seemed to be very long and also very slow at times. I watched it for most of the time from the Hard Rock Cafe. The end of the parade didn’t pass us until about 6.30 p.m. The complete parade route was said to be 5 k.m. long and I would reckon that many of these children would have been very tired once they got to the end.

I think overall it was a great event. It is certainly worth repeating next year. However, I would suggest that they cut out the bar girls as they weren’t dressed up and were mainly doing erotic dances with signs advertising their bars. I will be posting more pictures of this carnival in the Thailand Guidebook forum over at www.ThailandQA.com.

I would like to thank the TAT for sponsoring our trip and also to the staff at the Hard Rock Hotel for being such good hosts and looking after us so well. If anyone reading this has a tourist attraction or event that they would like us to visit then send a press release or invitation to us via www.PaknamWeb.com

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