Where to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Thailand

Ages ago, in the juvenile hours of January 1st, I proclaimed exuberantly that due to my body clock and the six-hour time difference between Thailand and Switzerland, it was only 2 a.m for me, rather than 8 a.m, meeting disconcerted looks of Thai people.

Unlike the locals who were visibly tired after a night on the town, I was still wide awake, despite the whiskey, Singha, Chang, Leo, and Tiger beers I’d had that night. Traveling to another time zone has its benefits, I thought to myself and continued to party.

Whether you’re like me and enjoy carousing into the wee hours or going to bed minutes after the countdown, celebrating New Year’s Eve in Thailand guarantees you’ll have a blast. 

You can visit the islands in the Gulf of Thailand and watch the scenery roll past as you ride the train from Bangkok to Suratthani, or bus from Bangkok to Koh Samui, or head straight for the New Year’s Eve hotspots. 

Here are my picks of the best ways to spend New Year’s Eve in Thailand.

Be (and see!) the life of the party in Phuket (Patong)

Now that Thailand’s travel restrictions have been eased and people can opt for slow travel from Bangkok to Phuket, Patong has returned to life again. Patong Beach is well known for its nightlife. You can depend on a big countdown event with captivating shows from cabaret and breakdance to classical Thai dance.

The Patong Beach Road will be closed for an hour as Patong partygoers celebrate New Year’s Eve in Phuket.

Every bar on Patong’s Bangla Road will be packed with an atmosphere as wild as Koh Phangan’s full moon parties. Patong is not for the romantic traveler. It’s loud, messy, and for party animals only. Make sure you arrive early if you’re coming from Koh Phi Phi to Phuket, as the streets will be wedged solid on that evening.

Experience Koh Phangan’s world-famous vibes (Haad Rin)

People flock to Koh Phangan every month to experience the famous full moon. But on New Year’s Eve, Koh Phangan is bursting at the seams, with even the most hidden bamboo shacks on the island rented out. That’s not an issue, though, as it’s just a 30-minute speedboat ride from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan.

New Year’s in Thailand will be epic if you spend it at Haad Rin, Koh Phangan’s renowned full moon beach area on the island’s southern tip. People wear neon dresses and glow in bright paints as they chug buckets of rum and coke.

Aside from the myriad of house, trance, hip hop, and drum and bass parties, jazzed up with games like limbo or fire rope jumping, you can also enjoy beach sports tournaments and light shows. Order a round of beers, watch jugglers deftly spinning balls of fire, and witness the intoxicating countdown festival on Haad Rin. There’ll be tons of fire and foam parties with drink specials galore.

Witness Bangkok’s Khao San Road on New Year’s

Another hotspot for all-night celebrations is Bangkok’s backpacker haven: Khao San Road. While Bangkok for New Year’s is generally an excellent place to let your hair down, Khao San Road is the place to be. A DJ and a colossal screen display the countdown at the southern end, opposite Burger King.

The screen is the only difference from the rest of the year. Because this road, made famous by Joe Cummings, the author of Lonely Planet’s first Thailand guidebook, never sleeps. There are people dancing right on the street, lovey-dovey talking, flirting, and boozing until sunrise.

Some people even travel from Hua Hin to Bangkok for the occasion, which almost feels like Songkran, Thailand’s annual water festival. From 10 p.m, you’ll have a hard time making it from the northern to the southern end of the 400m-street in less than an hour. But, if firecrackers are your thing, street vendors will be happy to offer you their products. In a word—Khaosantastic!

If you want to gape at fireworks, make a beeline for Siam, Bangkok’s business neighborhood, or the riverside.

Enjoy a romantic evening at Bangkok’s Asiatique

Apart from a New Year dinner cruise in Bangkok, one of the most romantic ways to welcome the new year is to stroll along the open-air mall, Asiatique, on the banks of the Chao Phraya River.

Formerly an international trade port, the night bazaar and Asiatique mall are conveniently located near Saphan Taksin BTS station. Repurposed and renovated extensively, the giant replica warehouse complex boasting more than 1,500 boutiques and 40 restaurants.

Combining the best of Bangkok’s shopping malls and street markets, Asiatique is a relaxed way to spend New Year’s Eve in Bangkok. You can buy gifts, devour tasty cuisine, and enjoy evening entertainment ranging from Thai puppets to Calypso ladyboy cabaret shows. Also, couples love the illuminated Ferris wheel, a romantic spot for the countdown. In addition, it offers staggering vistas of Bangkok’s riverside and the sea of lights.

Experience Chiang Mai’s small-town vibe at the lantern festival

Not to be mixed up with the Loy Krathong festival of lights later in the year, Chiang Mai’s lantern festival is also among the Thailand New Year traditions.

Riding a comfortable VIP Bus with reclining seats from Bangkok to Chiang Mai takes about ten hours. It’s enough time to take in the scenery that turns greener and greener.

While new year celebrations can get rowdy and out of control in cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai for New Year’s is the antidote. The candle-lit lantern ceremony is a chilled-out way to count the seconds down until midnight. Expect likable Thais and farangs carrying various types of paper lanterns around the city before letting them illuminate the night sky. 

New Year’s Eve in Chiang Mai also means cool live music and a friendly crowd.

Witness Pattaya’s renowned Walking Street

The bus ride from Bangkok to Pattaya takes barely two hours and is well worth it. 

Spend New Year’s Eve in Pattaya on Walking Street. This one-kilometer road makes club-goers’ hearts leap for joy. Walking its entirety shouldn’t take more than ten minutes. Still, it’s long enough to offer anything from Indian restaurants and portrait pencil drawings to clubs and Russian or Thai go-go bars.

Red lighting prevails in this street that entertains visitors until the clock strikes midnight and long afterward. And rest assured, the beaches in Pattaya and Koh Larn are perfect for getting rid of hangovers, both within spitting distance.

To sum up, the best place to spend New Year’s in Thailand is hard to pin down. And it really depends on how you like to spend it. I’ve barely scratched the surface. 

Of course, you can also opt for New Year’s Eve in Krabi after traveling from Phuket to Krabi. Or enjoy New Year’s Eve in Hat Yai after exploring the dazzling islands of the Andaman Sea. 

Either way, you’re practically guaranteed to end up painting the town red.

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