A procession of men and women saunter down the streets of Phuket Town, all dressed in the finest clothing of 19th century Asia; the men clad in white western suites pressed to perfection, the women in immaculate silk dresses embroidered with floral patterns, cranes golden crests that shimmer in the mid day sunlight. The procession, an annual parade known as the BaBa Wedding, snakes by, led by a marching band and flanked by spectators also dressed in immaculate suits and dresses.
The annual parade is a celebration of matrimony by the Chinese community in Phuket, where children walk hand in hand with their parents, as their infectious smiles warm the hearts of all spectators, their free hands throw flower petals and confetti, or grip their favourite tattered stuffed toy. The serpentine column passes the facade of the Hongsyok House, a residence with history as long and fascinating as the parade that passes by.
The Hongsyok house was built in the 1930’s by Chin Guan, a man of Chinese and Thai heritage. His was one of six children, born on November 4, 1888. At the age of 14, Guan’s family sent him to China to learn his father’s mother tongue. Upon his return he worked in Phuket’s then thriving tin mining industry. He eventually acquired enough skills and expertise to start his own mining company. After several setbacks, his ingenuity and perseverance paid off and his mining business eventually amassed great wealth. As his wealth increased, Guan embarked on several philanthropic endeavours, eventually gaining the attention of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who bestowed the Royal Thai Decoration of companion of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant upon Guan in 1953.
Being a man of vision, Chin Guan built a family mansion – The Hongsyok House – to provide a home for all future generations of his family. The mansion stands to this day, and is still inhabited by members of his family.
The Hongsyok House serves as the site of the tea ceremony for the annual BaBa Weddings. Several newlywed couples sit within the European Colonial-style mansion, underneath the intricate tile mosaics, underneath the grand arch that stands over the entrance to the magnificent structure.
The ceremony ends with the couples parading in front of revellers in the street, who have waited for the couples to emerge and rejoin the procession which ends at the Thai Hua Museum, a marvellous colonial building housing materials pertaining to the rich history of the tin mining industry in Phuket.
The BaBa Wedding is a beautiful ceremony not to be missed by anyone wanting to witness a view into the traditions of the inhabitants of Phuket.