Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Chiang Mai

31 December 2014

I have read that the celebrations in Chiang Mai Thailand is pretty amazing, so I was sort of looking forward to welcoming 2015 with the locals and tourists on the streets of Chiang Mai.

We spent the morning learning how to cook some delicious Thai food and afternoon relaxing in our hotel room till it was time for dinner. Some of the hotels in Chiang Mai charged their guests an obscene amount of money to attend a compulsory New Year’s Eve Gala Dinner but fortunately, not our hotel. In fact, that was one of the reasons why I chose to stay at Express Hotel Chiang Mai. There was a Gala Dinner event at the hotel, but it was not compulsory.

We were dressed on our casuals when we stepped into our hotel elevator and met an elderly couple, dressed in fine outfit. Suit and tie for the gentleman, evening gowns and jewels for the lady. Obviously, they were on their way to a Gala Dinner. For a fleeting moment, I felt so “under dressed”. Then we were on our way, walking along Chang Khlan Road towards the famous Chiang Mai Night Market and Tha Phae Gate where the new year celebrations and countdown event is held every year.

Dinner was at The Whole Earth Restaurant, located on Sridonchai Road at the corner of the night market street.  We sat outdoor and ordered Thai food, even though the menu includes Indian cuisine as well. Can never get sick of eating good Thai Food.

Our New Year’s Eve dinner at The Whole Earth Restaurant


Soon after finishing our dinner, we noticed several flying objects in the night sky. Drifting silently, slowly across our field of views. This was the first of the many sky lanterns that would be flying in the night sky over Chiang Mai on this night. I tried taking videos of the lanterns but my “UFOs” video to fool the folks back home did not turn up well. Now I know why all the UFO videos are so difficult to capture. Always shaky, too small, blurry and unconvincing that people think they are fake even thought it could be real.

We had several hours to kill before midnight, so foot massage was the next thing we did. There were many options and many massage places along the streets of the night market. The typical cost is 200 THB per/hour. We chose to enter a joint that looks decent and well patronised. Combination of pain, pleasure, ticklish and relaxation is what we get as the masseurs pressed, rub, poke and press the various pressure points and parts of the feet and legs. I must say, my feet felt “lighter” after the treatment and ready to pound the streets of Chiang Mai till the next year.


Chiang Mai Night Market or Night Bazaar shopping


We bought some stuff from the stalls at the night market. Bargaining is a must but we were not good at it. No point reducing the price of something already considered cheap but it was just a bit of fun to see how much discount we can get. In the end, it was mostly “happy new year” for the seller as we agreed on a price and found another stall offering the same thing for slightly lesser.

From the night market, we made our way to Tha Phae Road, leading to the Tha Phae gate. Here the road was closed to traffic, more people and there were more food stalls.

Meat on skewers for about 30 to 40 THB at Tha Phae Road night market
Fried Insects for snacks. High in protein.
Foot masseurs outside Wat Buppharam doing brisk business. Not as single empty seat!

More lanterns were floating upwards, some like a continuous stream, almost like tracers shells from machine guns somewhere. We were looking out for a place to launch a sky lantern ourselves and came to Wat Buppharam where locals and tourist alike were launching sky lanterns. There was a stall inside the premises of Wat Buppharam selling sky lanterns for 40 THB each.

Wat Buppharam where locals and tourist alike were launching sky lanterns
The sky lanterns were made of rice paper, on a bamboo frame. It works like a mini hot air balloon.The source of hot air is composed of a waxy combustible material that we lit using a candle. 


We wrote our new year wishes using a felt marker pen on the rice paper, lit the lantern and sent it soaring upwards the heavens, to join the hundreds and maybe thousands already up in the sky.

Wat Buppharam - The little dots in the sky are far away sky lanterns

By now, it was slightly past 11 PM. Still some time to go before the countdown to the new year. The area around Tha Phae gate was packed with people watching the New Year Countdown event on a hugh stage. The songs and commentaries were in Thai.

We made our way to the moat surrounding the inner city as we figured would be a good place to watch the fireworks and sky lanterns.  It was great to see that people were enjoying themselves, launching fireworks and sky lanterns. Saw a fire engine parked at the side, a good precautionary move. Some of the lanterns were seen crashing into the trees, falling onto the moat and one crashed landed on a group sitting about 10 metres away from where we were standing.

Fireworks over the moat near Tha Phae Gate in Chiang Mai on New Year’s Eve


Slightly before midnight and start of 2015, rockets, fireworks were already being launched over the moat. The crescendo happened at midnight, where the biggest and highest fireworks over the sky were set off.

The fireworks continued as we made our way towards our hotel. Once out of the crowded zone, we hailed a Tuk Tuk to take us back to our hotel.

Guess who we met?

The same well dressed elderly couple in the lift. I guess they also had a great time on New Year’s Eve, just like us.




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