New Year's Eve in Chiang Mai

Dinner, drinks and fireworks

What we say: 4 stars

It’s always any excuse for a party in Thailand (and cynics may say excuse for some merchandising), so Thais are always more than happy to join in a Western New Year celebration, as well as celebrating Thai New Year and Chinese New Year. Here’s a brief rundown on what to expect in Thailand’s northern capital of Chiang Mai for New Year’s Eve festivities in 2012/2013.

Where the action will be

Where the action will be.

Before making any plans for New Year’s Eve, first check whether your hotel booking includes a compulsory gala dinner on December 31 or not. Most city hotels from midrange and up will include a special new year’s eve meal, the majority of which are compulsory — some hotels can be quite discreet (or shifty, some may say) at informing you of this at the time of booking. Being unaware or just not wishing to join in your hotel’s evening gala are not excuses and the meal cost will be added to your bill anyway. Having sold you that gala dinner ticket hotels also have a knack of dragging out the evening — say waiting until 5 to 12 for your complementary glass of champagne or 23:45 for the raffle draw whatever in order to give you plenty of time to up your drinks bill.

uaranteed a few lanterns

Guaranteed a few lanterns.

Note that if you like the look of a particular hotel’s new year’s eve dinner and you feel like splashing out a bit then you don’t have to be staying there to buy a ticket. (Check here for some of the city’s more upmarket hotel and restaurant gala dinners.)

If you don’t have a compulsory dinner to go to or have even decided to forgo it then Tha Pae Road and Tha Pae Gate are where most of the evening’s celebrations will be centered. Tha Pae Road itself will be closed to traffic from dusk onwards when it will be lined with food and drink stalls with various music and dance performances being promised. Chiang Mai municipality will also organise a firework display for midnight so you don’t need to risk adding to the already heavy ambulance and hospital A and E department’s work load by buying your own. (No matter how cheap and readily available fireworks are in the kingdom please remember booze and explosives don’t mix!)

Fun, games and free buffet

Fun, games and free buffet.

Undoubtedly any bars and restaurants in the Tha Pae zone will be consequentially busy and lively but if you fancied something a bit less hectic but still fun you could try some of our regular recommendations: chef Jean-Jacque at La Terrasse French Brasserie is promising some tasty new year surprises (without a compulsory set menu), while many of the town’s pubs will be organising fun and games. Try the Old Bell or the UN Irish Pub while the friendly Archer’s Bar presents “fun, games and a free buffet”.

Last updated: 12th October, 2013

About the author:
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
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