There are a few celebrations that can top those that happen while ringing in the new year. Known throughout the world as an event to sparkle, shoot fireworks, and sing songs with strangers, celebrating New Year’s seems like an endless party where everyone is your friend and only good things are yet to come.
One of the best cities to celebrate the NYE is in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Located in the mountains north of Bangkok, Chiang Mai is the largest city in the northern area of the country and boasts a gorgeous landscape centered around the Ping River.
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Offering historical scenery as well, the city affords several amazing areas that provide tourists as well as locals unique and memorable ways to celebrate NYE.
ALONG THE BANKS OF THE PING RIVER – Best Lanterns Spot
Imagine dozens of people lined along the banks of a river. Many of the individuals are hold large, paper lanterns that are lit up from within.
As the light from each lantern reflects on the water, it seems as though there are more lanterns than people. As the clock counts down to zero, you hear a road begin and see thousands of lanterns released into the sky.
This is the scene along the banks of the Ping River in Chiang Mai during a typical New Year’s Eve celebration. According to Thai tradition, releasing a lantern in the sky symbolizes new beginnings and good luck.
What tradition would be more fitting for ringing in a new year? Locals and tourists alike gather along each side of the river, which stretches over 400 miles. At the stroke of midnight, you make a wish and release the lantern. It is the end of an old year and the start of a new. And as you watch these lanterns light up the darkness, you cannot help but feel a sense of hope and optimism for the new year that is now upon you.
THE NORTH GATE
For those looking for a bit more energy into their NYE celebration, head down to the North Gate. Also known as ‘the gate’, the North gate hosts a vibrant scene of clubs and bars that offer more of a party atmosphere to the night.
The area provides a sea of fine dining establishments, while also housing bars that play jazz and many other types of music. With good food, good music and plenty of people around who are out to have a good time, how can you go wrong? Especially on a night like New Year’s Eve.
At the countdown, there is also a fantastic fireworks display to help ring in the new year. While watching the fireworks, you can catch a glimpse of the many lanterns that have been released by others along the banks of the Ping river. The two combined are a spectacular sight. And once the fireworks are over, the party continues throughout most of the night.
DOI SUTHEP – Best View Spot
If you are looking for a more low key way to celebrate, why not visit Doi Suthep. One of Thailand’s gorgeous mountain chains, Doi Suthep is one of the two main peaks. It is the home to one of the country’s most important Buddhist temples, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Travel to the range may prove more difficult around New Year’s, as buses are not permitted to go to travel there at that time. However, there are still some forms of transport that can be acquired to reach the destination and usually involve some sort of pre-booked private transportation.
If you are one who is looking for a cool daytime activity to end last year or the start of the new year, this may be the perfect experience for you.
VISIT A SWANKY HOTEL CELEBRATION
The city of Chiang Mai houses some amazing 4 and 5 star hotels. Places like the Four Seasons and Le Meridien host their own parties on their premises to celebrate NYE.
These parties often reflect a more western vibe and maybe the way to go if you are looking for a taste of home during your visit.
Some of the hotels begin the celebrations early offering lunch and tea specials throughout the day. This may be a fun and budget-friendly way to kick off the New Year’s festivities.
Just be sure to prepare to walk to and from, as transportation during New Year is quite inundated and you may encounter difficulty finding transportation from place to place if you are looking to hit several spots throughout the night.
The Tha Phae Gate
The Tha Phae Gate is an exceptional place to be for New Year’s Eve. Join the crowd in counting down for the new year while the anticipation of releasing a floating lantern into the sky at midnight grows.
There is live music, excited locals and tourists, ideal weather and hundreds of little tents offering everything you can imagine and more.
There are souvenirs, locally made products, every type of fruit, drinks and sensational street foods. You can enjoy a full-body or a foot massage right on the street.
Watch as the wishes of all the people take flight into the night sky of Chiang Mai. This is a casual, exciting and relaxed celebration you will never forget.
ROOFTOP AT MAYA SHOPPING MALL
The Maya shopping mall is a spectacular place that offers plenty of shops and restaurants to visit throughout your trip to Chiang Mai. While becoming popular throughout the city, some of the coolest and most popular rooftop bars are found at the top of the May shopping mall.
Though each bar is unique and offers a different experience, these upscale bars are quite popular amongst locals and visitors alike. The mall is located on the Nimmanahaeminda road, allow each of the rooftop bars to offer spectacular views of the city and (if the weather is clear enough) of the surrounding mountain ranges.
One of these locations would be the perfect place to take in a Thai sunset before observing the festivities of the city while they ring in the new year. Some of the locations can be a bit pricey, and they often sell out quickly around holiday celebrations. Therefore, it is best to make reservations and book in advance if at all possible to ensure you get to partake in this once in a lifetime experience.
The Warm-Up is a café that is extremely popular amongst expats, tourists and locals. Offering a wide variety of great food, tasty spirits, and live music, this hot spot is a staple in the Chiang Mai nightlife.
It is a huge venue that contains 5 tiers as well as an outdoor area. Amongst the areas within the café is a lounge area, a club area, and a small dance floor. A perfect setting to experience a New Year’s celebration, note that you may need to book your seats in advance to ensure your spot to experience a memorable NYE celebration.
DO A FOOD TOUR
One thing there is no shortage of in Chiang Mai is food, particularly during New Year’s celebrations. Along just about any street in the city will have a cool place where you can taste some of the local cuisines.
Chiang Mai is known for its food, and will not disappoint you. Street vendors offering various foods and desserts will keep your belly full throughout any daytime and nighttime activities you may partake in during your celebrations.
The Heart of Chiang Mai
There is no better place to celebrate New Year’s than in the heart of Chiang Mai. As the new year approaches, there are revelers in the streets, a flurry of excitement and new sights and sounds.
You will have your choice of the finest hotels and restaurants in the heart of the city. Enjoy the stunning fireworks displays, dancing beneath the stars and mouthwatering new dishes.
Begin the new year in style with a Thai buffet including fresh blue crab, tiger prawns and decadent oysters. Chiang Mai offers an amazing selection of different foods such as smoked salmon and tuna, lobster, savory cheeses and rack of lamb. Choosing from a wide variety of Thai sweets is a wonderful dilemma.
Dance to a live band and begin the new year with fireworks and a toast to the sensational view of the city skyline.
To the west of the Clocktower, you will find the main celebration in Chiang Mai. This is an excellent place to be when the clock strikes midnight. The main stage is set up directly in front of the Clocktower.
There are special guests and live music. You can see everything happening on the stage projected right onto a big screen.
This is where the exciting countdown to midnight takes place. There are a lot of vendors on the street selling tasty snacks and rounds of beer. The Night Market is east of the Clocktower. The Night Market is spectacular during New Year’s. There are more street vendors offering food here than almost anywhere else.
This is your opportunity to try a variety of grilled meats and Pad Thai. The Chang beer stands are always worth a stop. There are plenty of tables for sitting, relaxing and enjoying a nice meal with your friends or family. There are decorations lighting up the entire street. Live music from the parties on the side streets fills the air.
Even though Phisit Sa Nguan Alley does not provide you with a view of the stage, it is a good place to spend some time. You will be able to relax, hear what your friends are saying, people watch and enjoy your dinner.
THE CITY SQUARE
The City Square in Chiang Mai is at the center of the New Year’s Eve celebrations. The air fills with excitement due to the variety of drinks and food, the music and the dance performers lining the street.
The signs of the new year are everywhere with colorful decorations and stages erected for the entertainers performing for the crowd late at night. The majority of the crowd starts their day in the main area.
This is the time to have lunch at a fancy restaurant, enjoy the street food, go clubbing and enjoy the wide assortment of shopping right on the street.
You can make some amazing purchases and find fantastic deals for just about everything. As midnight draws closer, locals and tourists gather together in the square to wait for the beginning of the new year.
CREATE A DIY TEMPLE TOUR
With the vast crowds that gather throughout the city during New Year’s, starting your celebration during the day is an excellent way to begin. As the city boasts many temples within its borders, you can spend the day taking a tour of the various temples at your disposal.
Many of the temples will have lanterns lit and be decorated in honor of the new year, providing an extra special and even more memorable experience.
Another custom that many temples offer at New Year’s is a midnight meditation session. Anyone is welcome to join in and mediation can last as long as you want.
While the city is used to expats and tourists, it would be a great sign of respect for the culture to adhere to the dress codes that are expected within the temples if and whenever you are planning to visit. Having your shoulders covered, and pants or skirts that come to the ankles are customary.
In addition, you should be prepared to remove your shoes upon entering the temple as well. If you forget, or the temple is particularly strict, many offer sarongs for a small fee that you can drape around you to ensure you are appropriately dressed.
Most times, you can return the sarong when you have completed your visit. In addition, there are many shops throughout the town that can provide you with items that will be acceptable for you to wear when entering one of their temples.
No matter where you celebrate New Year’s Eve in Chiang Mai, you are sure to have a fantastic time. Well known for its elaborate celebrations, the city is full of history and culture and offers entertainment for any type of New Year’s celebrations.
The most important factor to consider when ringing in the new year is to surround yourself with locals. The Thai people are amongst the friendliest in the world. They are extremely warm and welcoming and are eager to share their customs with anyone.
Whether you are flying lanterns on the river bank, dancing the night away in a bar or restaurant, or enjoying some meditation in one of their gorgeous temples, the local Thai people will be happy to include you in their ceremonies and traditions. No matter how you choose to celebrate, if there are Thai people around, you are sure to have an amazing time.