1. Where is the best place to celebrate NYE in Chiang Mai?
You must be at Tha Phae Gate to welcome the New Year with the rest of the Thais. Somehow, the crowd will instinctively know when it is ten seconds from midnight. Everyone will get their floating lanterns ready to release at midnight, and the crowds count down the seconds to welcome the New Year. Now that I think of it, no main person or emcee starts the countdown. Someone just starts screaming “ten, nine, eight…” and before you know it, the whole crowd is counting down the seconds in unison.
2. Where to release the flying lanterns?
That said, the main place to release lanterns during NYE in Chiang Mai is Tha Phae Gate and some (not all) temple in the area.
3. Where to buy the lanterns?
You can find these floating paper lanterns from vendors pretty much anywhere around Tha Phae Gate. Most vendors will be holding these bags of paper lanterns next to their bicycles.
These paper lanterns also referred as khom loi are of lightweight paper with a small candle in the center.
Tip: Come prepared! Bring your own lighter! We bought a lighter in preparation for the event (well, we still had one from our Yee Peng festival). Of course, we left it at home and went from one 7-11 to another looking for one.
4. How to release the lanterns without setting anyone hair on fire?
You might laugh at the thought, but the possibility of setting someone on fire is very real during the New Year! So, make sure to read the instructions and do not take this section lightly!
- Check to make sure you are free of trees, buildings, and electric poles
- Light the coil at the bottom of the lantern. If the coil does not catch fire, make small tears in your coil so that it becomes easier to light up
- Extend the lantern and hold it on the ground while you wait for the air to fill the lantern
- Hold onto your lantern for a few minutes until you feel a slight tug. That means the lantern is getting ready to be released
- Slowly lift it from the ground, make a wish and release the lantern
5. How much will everything cost during the NYE in Chiang Mai?
Not much! Almost all temples, including ones with a foreigner entry fee, are free to enter on New Year’s Eve. You can buy small floating lanterns starting at 30 baht ($0.91 USD/ $1.20 CAD). Of course, street food is abundant and as cheap as 30 baht for a main dish.
Here is how much we spent during the New Year in Chiang Mai:
- Floating lanterns: 90 baht for three
- Transportation: 0 baht
- Temple donation: 20 baht
- Snacks: 103 baht
- Chilli shrimp paste rice: 40 baht
- Three buns: 30 baht
- Starbucks cookie: 65 baht
Total spend: 348 baht ($10.50 USD / $13.90 CAD) for two people. 68% of that spend was for food…because we are pigs and like to eat…
6. What is the transportation situation like during Chiang Mai NYE?
As you can imagine, transportation is cray cray during the New Year. In short, good luck finding transportation to get to your destination. You will also have to be careful as road casualties increase during this time of the year due to alcohol consumption.
If you are flying into Chiang Mai, consider booking a hassle-free private transfer from the airport to your hotel for under $13USD as Chiang Mai does not have public transportation. Don’t forget to order a cheap 4G SIM card and have it ready to be picked up at the airport.
7. Where to book accommodation during Chiang Mai NYE?
Following the last paragraph where I wrote about the cray cray traffic and lack of transportation that happens around this time, it is best to book your accommodation within walking distance from Tha Phae Gate. Stay within the Old Town square if possible. Chiang Mai is pretty small, and if you had to walk from one end of the gate to the next, it will take 40 minutes (assuming normal walking speed). This walking time has been tried and tested one too many times by yours truly.
8. What should you wear during Chiang Mai NYE?
Wear white if you can and make sure you cover your shoulders and that you wear something that hits the knees at the very least. There is a good chance you’ll be entering temples, and even though it is dark, the dress code still applies. The Thais will not scold you if you are not appropriately dressed but it a way of showing respect to their culture.
9. How to stay safe during Chiang Mai NYE?
Since you are dealing with fire in a very crowded area, you must take precautions to avoid being set on fire. I am half joking, half not. So many paper lanterns never made it to the sky and would get caught on trees and electric wires before crashing to the ground.
While everyone is careful not to set their fellow lantern friend on fire, you should still be aware of your surroundings.
Here are some useful tips to have a safe time during New Year’s Eve
- Tie your hair because fire and hair do not make a good combination
- Look up and make sure you are not releasing your lantern under something! I cannot tell you how many times I saw people releasing lanterns underneath trees without a care
- Be wary of falling lanterns of fire. Yup, some do not make it to the sky, and they come crashing down
- Make sure to release a lantern properly and check your surroundings so that you do not hit anyone by accident