Ringing in the New Year Thai style

The countdown began a week ago when Thapae Gate was transformed into a temporary night market offering up food for every palate, and a large variety of stalls selling everything from clothing to key chains.  Live music and cultural shows provided nightly entertainment on the large band stand that was set up in the middle of the square.  We went to the market almost every night this past week, enjoying the amazing street food – sushi, dim sum, corn on the cob, grilled fish, pad thai – there was so much to choose from, and everything was delicious and cheap.

The “Countdown to 2013”  festival culminated on New Year’s Eve where thousands of people congregated around Thapae Gate and the  immediate vicinity.  Closed to traffic, the surrounding streets sprouted even more markets on this final night of festivities.  The atmosphere was charged with happy energy as people released floating lanterns into the night sky as a way to show respect to Buddha, to release bad memories and to make a wish for the future.

These paper lanterns came in a variety of sizes and colours and could be bought from hawkers on the street for 30-50 Baht apiece.  Most were white and quite large, about a metre high and a half a metre in diameter.   At the base of the lantern, held in place by thin wire, was a disk that when lit produced a strong flame.  After a few moments, the heat from the flame created a pocket of hot air trapped within the lantern that caused it to rise and float away much like a hot air balloon.

Chris and I set our lantern afloat early in the evening and we both found the experience to be magical as we watched our lantern get swept away high in the sky joining a myriad of lanterns that already dotted the horizon like a new constellation twinkling in the black sky.   Not all lanterns were released successfully – some got caught in tree branches and turned into balls of fire that just burned out quickly, while others were released prematurely and lacking sufficient heat to rise, fell to their demise in the waters of the moat below.  But these were the exception as most were carried up and  away swiftly by a gentle breeze.

Fireworks kept going off all around us, in every direction throughout the evening.  Children shot fireworks from tubes that were sold by street hawkers, creating little pops of light and sparkles.  Others had purchased fireworks earlier and set these off in random places.  The official fireworks went off after the final countdown to midnight, a dazzling, beautiful display that lasted for about ten minutes. Just past midnight, we released another lantern with our new friend Monique who we had befriended earlier in the day.  Monique is staying at our guesthouse too and up until today we have simply exchanged courteous greetings with her each morning at breakfast.

But today was different and for some reason we had an extended chat with her.  One thing led to another, and before I knew it, she was telling me about her recent trip to India where she volunteered at a school for a month.  It turns out she runs a non-profit association, Petit Plus, and she has been searching for a new project to support through her association.  This school has captured her heart and her passion. Her enthusiasm was infectious and when I learned she didn’t have a website for her association, I suggested this was something I could perhaps help her with……and so Monique and I released our lantern wishing great things for this school in India, for her association, and for our new found friendship and collaboration.

Best wishes to all our family and friends, new and old, from Canada and around the world.  We wish you all a new year full of peace, happiness, and prosperity….with a little adventure thrown in for good measure.

 Video:  New Year’s Eve in Chiang Mai, Thailand.


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7 Responses
  1. Andrew says:

    Happy New Year and Greeting from New Zealand.
    Hope you have another super year of travels where ever it takes you.


    • chris says:

      And happy new year to you as well! Hope you’re enjoying your travels too Andrew!

      Warmest Regards,

      Chris and Christina

  2. Julie says:

    Happy New Year to you both!! Wow I think of all the places You have been this is the one I love the most!!! I want to be there with you! Thank you so much for sharing this, it has truly been so appreciated, I love this culture!
    And your new friend Monique, I would be very interested in being a part of what she does and to learn how I could get involved and get the kids involved. Maybe we could figure something out, seriously this just feels right, so right that it has brought tears to my eyes. Anyways you guys enjoy the rest of the day!! Love you lots! Ju oxoxo

  3. Angus says:

    Wow, that was really special, thanks! Looks like the perfect way to bring in the New Year…NO SNOW. Janet and I will have to try it sometime.

    We took Laura and Raf down to Portland Maine for the next phase of their medical school and were able to spend New Years Eve with them and some of their friends at a dinner on a boat in the harbor. It was very nice and we really enjoyed Portland although it was a bit cold and a long drive from Ottawa.

    Happy New Year and best wishes as you plan what should be another exciting year.


  4. chris says:

    Yes Julie, you’d truly love this place! Christina and I are convinced that we’ll spend another winter here at some point… ‘snow birds… Chris and Chris style’… who needs Florida when Thailand awaits! We’ll make sure to have a couch or two for you guys to come crash on!

    We’ll keep you posted with regards to getting the kids involved with Monique’s project… Christina has been working with her for the last couple of days attempting to get a website design in place… stay tuned!

    Love you lots too!


  5. Julie says:

    Hi you guys! Sounds fantastic!! Can hardly wait…ox

  6. Jurgen Portz says:

    Happy new year to both of you! Safe and fun travels. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    FYI, it looks like the RSS feed is no longer working