Celebrating New Years Eve in Chiang Mai

New Years Eve is usually a big fat letdown. There’s all this anticipation for one night, and it can never live up to all the expectation and hype. Most people just end up hungover with a side of disappointment (and depending on how the night went, possibly regret) the next day.

That wasn’t going to be my New Years though. Not this time.

I was looking forward to celebrating New Years Eve in Chiang Mai, although in the back of my mind I was prepared to be disappointed. After dinner and drinks with friends we went down to Tha Pae Gate, along with the rest of Chiang Mai. The lanterns were already going up, making the sky glow and adding a magical feeling to the night.

One of the things I’ve loved the most about living here are the lanterns. Loi Krathong was a couple of months ago, which is a huge lantern festival in Thailand,and while there were nowhere near as many lanterns let off in the old city as there usually are (the city was in mourning because a monk died or something), it was still pretty amazing to see:

Loi Krathong Chiang Mai


Check out this huge one:

Lantern Festival Thailand


So as soon as I heard there were going to be fireworks and lanterns by the gate I knew I had to go, and I didn’t care how many people I had to elbow out of my way to get there.

And there were a lot of people near the gate. Tha Pae Road was closed to traffic and lined with food stalls and the usual market-type stuff. We set off a few lanterns, with one heading straight into the power lines where it dangled precariously, before finally freeing itself to soar up into the sky.

Sending up lanterns is a great way to say goodbye to the old year and all the ups and downs, and the sky ends up looking like there are thousands of candles lit throughout the city.

New Years Eve Thailand


Lanterns Chiang Mai


We went to a bar near the gate and a had a few more drinks and then went back to the gate for the countdown. Here’s a video of the countdown and fireworks although I was holding the camera sideways for half of it, and I’d had a bit to drink so you’ll have to ignore all the drunken “wow’s”:


I’ve seen better fireworks, but the reason I had such a good time was the atmosphere. There were no drunken brawls, and I couldn’t help but imagine how many burn victims there would be if we were letting off lanterns on New Years Eve in New Zealand. Everyone in Chiang Mai was there to have a good time, and it was a great example of how Thai’s celebrate special occasions.

After the countdown we headed to Zoe’s-well the bar area outside Zoe’s since all the bars were packed. I elbowed my way onto the dance floor at one stage and some Thai guys decided they all wanted a photo with me (I don’t get it either), so I had a dance and looked for my friends although by that stage we’d all lost each other.

A 200 baht tuk tuk ride later (ouch), and I was home.

A successful New Years and I’m a cynic no more!

This year I hope to improve my (admittedly crap) photography, have more time for non-work writing, and even more travel. I also may have a pretty awesome adventure planned for this year, so stay tuned!

For me, the best part of New Years Eve is the countdown. Once it’s officially a new year we can dust off our hands, forgive ourselves for all the mistakes we made last year, and focus on what we want to achieve, and how we want to live this year.
There’s a feeling of hope in the air, and everyone just wants to have a good time. Happy New Year!

2 comments on “Celebrating New Years Eve in Chiang Mai

  1. Elisabet November 18, 2016 @ 4:55 pm

    Hello! Incredible experience. I just want to post a question: the new year’s eve you refer to is ours (december 31st) or the thailandese one (around november)? I’m planning to go this december but I don’t know if this festival is going to be celebrated. Thank you a lot!

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