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A very Chinese Spring Festival in Thailand

By Erik Nilsson | China Daily | Updated: 2017-02-14 07:42

Enter the dragon.

Then the lions.

Cue the opera performers.

Indeed, it was a very Chinese Spring Festival - in Thailand.

My wife, kids, parents and I were observing China's Lunar New Year family-reunion tradition in Ayutthaya, a stunning city of ancient ruins.

We weren't in China. But China came to us.

The Spring Festival fair along this Thai city's main road made its vibe like a Lunar New Year celebration in China, our home for 10 years.

A dazzling dragon sparkled as it slalomed over the road.

A very Chinese Spring Festival in Thailand

A small cart of pint-sized percussionists brought up the rear like a caboose.

Lion dancers staged stunts - jumps, handstands and back flips - atop poles on the street.

The creatures spit oranges into the crowd, who in turn stuffed money into their jaws. They later paraded from tent to tent, dining on donations.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

A stage hosted Chinese operas. Red lanterns swayed above.

We saw other signs of Spring Festival around town.

Hundreds of rooster statues perched in temples, tempting my 1-year-old son to tackle them.

I played defense.

But in a flash - I took my eyes off him for a split second - he ended up stuck between the feet of a two-meter-high cockerel.

It looked like he'd just hatched.

Firecrackers grumbled in the distance.

This wasn't the first year we've stumbled upon Chinese New Year celebrations overseas.

One Spring Festival, we watched fireworks bloom like glittering flowers beneath searing stars and above the flickering fireflies of Malaysia's remote jungles.

We chanced upon lion dances in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Indeed, the Chinese festival increasingly belongs to the world.

This year, performances, workshops and lectures were staged in cities from Warsaw to Washington, where about 7,500 people partied in front of DC's Smithsonian American Art Museum.

People - rather than dragons - blew fire in Yangon, Myanmar.

More than 1,300 joined Brussels' parade. Fiji, Brazil and Nigeria also staged events.

Our planet sparkled in celebration.

I prepared to leave Ayutthaya aboard a train that inexplicably jerked into paralysis in the countryside around 9:30 pm outside of Bangkok, where I was due to catch a plane back to Beijing at 1:25 am.

After an hour and a half of motionlessness, I realized my only chance to make it home that night was to disembark and hike by the moonlight to the nearest road.

A long shot, indeed.

I scuttled over stones in the shadows, searching for a hole in the barbed-wire fence.

Upon escaping the barricade, I plodded along the remote road, eventually - miraculously - arriving at a metro station.

A few transfers later, I was at the airport, where a barricade erected for an arriving Korean pop band blocked me from the ticket counter.

The next line flooded up the paused escalator to the next floor.

Still, I caught the flight.


If I were superstitious, I'd say it's a sign this year will end well, no matter where we find ourselves and whatever bumps await in the road.

The plane jolted into the sky.

Exit the dragon.

Enter the Year of the Rooster.

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