Just a short five-minute walk from where I live is the largest shopping mall in Chiang Mai, Thailand – Central Festival. There is a dedicated lane way for residents from our condominium block to access the plaza which comprises Central Department Store occupying five floors of the building together with hundreds of international brand name shops and numerous stalls operated by local Thai people. It could be located in any city in the world as it is ultra modern, spotlessly clean, extremely busy and I can buy everything I need at this premier location. There is always something happening there . . .
Festival . . . “an event celebrated by a community and centering on some characteristic aspect of that community”.
Each visit I find something new and interesting to look at. The dozens of small stalls located in the common areas are constantly changing and creating an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation. On arrival I am greeted by a doorman dressed in a black suit/white shirt/captains cap/gold lapels and stripes/white gloves who looks like the captain of an Airbus A380. He stands at attention and salutes everyone who walks through the doors making that person feel welcomed and important. This greeting is performed with such pride and respect.
There is always a central theme to the displays which showcase local culture, traditions and lifestyles. One week, my passion for natural skin and healing products was stirred by hundreds of stall holders displaying and selling their organic merchandise which is made here in Chiang Mai and villages in northern Thailand. Other exhibitions and festivals have been focused on special occasions such as Mother’s Day, Coronation Day and the extremely popular event Songkran, the traditional Thai festival to celebrate New Year.
The outdoor arena at the front of the building comes alive every Tuesday evening as hundreds of mobile markets are erected and stall holders compete with each other selling home-made food, fresh vegetables and fruit, local craft items and everyone’s favourite soft-centred chocolate brownies. Families are enticed by the entertainment, the produce, the laughter, the variety, the fun and the unusual.
Just a simple task of choosing a restaurant or cafe in the mall is a delight. National costumes are worn by staff from a variety of restaurants as they gather outside their venue tempting shoppers with their charm and special offers. Staff now recognise us and will greet us even if we are only just walking past. Customers are welcomed by every staff member in the restaurant on arrival, including staff who are already serving other customers and again thanked as they are leaving. Sunday nights and holidays are peak times and people queue patiently to get a table. In one Japanese restaurant when all the tables were occupied, the staff stopped work and performed a group dance in the aisles between the tables and people were being attracted to the restaurant by the sheer joy and happiness on so many faces.
While enjoying a meal in the enormous Food Park (or Food Court), there is more entertainment to be seen as below this area is the Sub Zero Indoor Ice Skating rink and the young children performing and practising delight in having an audience, particularly as they are currently preparing for a national competition to be held here in Chiang Mai. As I walk past the Education Zone it amuses me that songs such as “Wheels on the Bus” or “Old McDonald Had a Farm” are just as much fun and entertaining no matter what language is being sung.
Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to be part of the most surprising festival I have seen – a MONEY FESTIVAL – yes, that’s right – a MONEY FESTIVAL. Every year Krungrsi Bank organise a money festival and the first floor was transformed by flashing lights, magicians, jugglers, loud music, drum-rolls, prizes, winners, clapping, cheering, glitter, photographers, gifts and a huge crowd. It was very loud and exciting as I squeezed into the crowd to watch the entertainment, to listen to announcements and acknowledgements and clapped as prizes were presented and cameras were flashing. I was oblivious to anything else as I was enthralled by the thrill of this festival and the anticipation of winning.
Central Festival – fabulous, food, fashion, fun, family, fascination, feast, fancy, friends.