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.

What to do during the NYE in Chiang Mai

Release a flying lantern

The NYE celebration in Chiang Mai is the good time to release (or watch) hundreds of lanterns floating the sky. 

Unlike the Loy Krathong and Yee Peng floating lantern festival where the main event takes place around Nawarat bridge, Tha Phae Gate is the place to release lanterns. That area is smaller and could probably fit no more than 100 people. As well, the New Year celebrations involving lanterns are smaller compared to the Yee Peng floating lantern festival.

You can also release your lanterns at some of the temples near Tha Phae Gate. Note that you cannot just release your floating lanterns at any temple. Some celebrate the New Year through chanting and meditating.

Enjoy 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.

Visit the local temples

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.

Sightsee during the day by biking around Chiang Mai

It is no doubt that cycling throughout the city during the day whilst it is prepared for the new year is the must-do experience.

While you can walk from one end of the Old City to the other end in about 40 minutes (timed and tested by yours truly!), taking a bike tour to sightsee around the city will allow you to see a lot of different temples and historical monuments without having to waste precious time walking. Unlike Bangkok where the roads are hectic with traffic, Chiang Mai is very chill, and you can easily bike through the small lanes of the old city while feeling safe. 

Warm up with a bar party

Chiang Mai has a wide variety of different venues to offer. Explore the fancy Nimmanahaeminda Road for upper-range bars that serve cocktails and expensive, imported beers or take a stroll around the east side of the Old City for bars that mostly cater the backpacking crowd. Last but not least, you can also visit Loi Kroh Road, in the red-light district of Chiang Mai, for places that are a little raunchier.

Vintage Chiang Mai, Beer Republic, or CNX Rooftop Bar are some of the places to consider.

Where to celebrate the NYE in Chiang Mai

Along the bank of the Ping River

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.

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.

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 firework 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

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.

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.

Warm Up Cafe

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.

The Clocktower

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 in the square to wait for the beginning of the new year.

One of the hotel new year party

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.

FAQs for NYE in Chiang Mai

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
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My name is Jolie, I am a Vietnamese girl growing up in the countryside of Hai Duong, northern Vietnam. Since a little girl, I was always dreaming of exploring the far-away lands, the unseen beauty spots of the world. My dream has been growing bigger and bigger day after day, and I do not miss a chance to make it real. After graduating from the univesity of language in Hanoi, I started the exploration with a travel agency and learning more about travel, especially responsible travel. I love experiencing the different cultures of the different lands and sharing my dream with the whole world. Hope that you love it too!

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