New Year’s in Chiang Mai-Lanterns and Champagne
January 6, 2017
New Year’s in Chiang Mai was a great experience. Now the celebrations are over and many of the local businesses that closed for the New Year’s Festival are open again. They don’t close much over Christmas, but many closed from Dec. 30-Jan 5.
New Year’s Festival
We found out about the closures when we went to the Air Asia office to pay for our flight home from Cambodia in Feb. We could pay cash, but if we wanted to use our credit card, then that wasn’t available from the 30th to the 3rd. The office was open though. This seems so different to us who can use our cards 24/7, anywhere we want. We could have booked online with our card, but there was a fee of almost $25 to use it. In the office, there is no fee, but it’s not always available. I’m so glad we are not trying to do these bookings during the old work week with a few minutes here and there for errands. We ended up having a good walk to the office then found a wonderful jungle restaurant for dinner that night.
Supper at the Residence
Dr. Smith owns Smith Suites, the newer building where we live, and Smith Residence, the older hotel a block from here. He invited all the guests from both buildings to a dinner in the lobby of the Residence. It is the same place we had the pot luck at Christmas. The entire meal was provided by Dr. Smith this time and included spicy noodles, potato salad, a delicious meat stew that tasted like home and strips of meat on a stick cooked over the grill outside. It was a chance to meet some new people. There was even some dancing after dinner.
We left about 8:30 and walked into the old city. The wats held merit making ceremonies (a Buddhist belief in earning merit for this or the next life) and candles were lit in tribute to the late King Bhumibol Aduyladej and to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun. We saw the lights on the outside of the temples and many people sitting under the lights in the courtyard were quiet and reflective.
3 Kings Monument
The statues of 3 long ago kings are in a large open space in the center of the old city of Chiang Mai. Many special events are held in this area. This space is next to the Sunday Walking Market. Every week, several blocks south and east of the 3 Kings close to traffic and a market takes place. There are many crafts available, as well as food items and is usually so crowded you can hardly make your way down the street. Even though it was a Saturday, the road closed for the lantern lighting and so a market appeared.
We were able to make our way to the monument and heard a wonderful orchestra from a university from Bangkok. They had a small choir with them and accompanied several soloists singing traditional Thai songs. I really enjoyed it. It was filmed and shared on several large screens, although there weren’t as many people there as I expected.
We could see lanterns being released into the sky at Tha Phae Gate, which is several blocks east of where we were…through the market. It took us quite a long time to make our way there. We would just find a clear spot to take a few quick steps and a busker would appear in the middle of the crowd and everyone would have to try to pass them. Some of the buskers were blind or disabled in some way and just trying to earn a living. As people here drive on the left, it is hard in a crowd to know if you should move to the left or naturally to the right to pass those coming towards you. It all depends on what country the opposing person has come from.
We saw lanterns being released in November at Loy Krathong. It was much busier for New Year’s. There were less locations for this event than in November so everyone was crowded into the gathering area around the gate over the moat. It was also cooler at this time of year, so the lanterns rose more quickly and were carried away by the wind. It was serene and exciting at the same time.
Even though the gate area was packed with people, the crowds were not rowdy or drunk. The police had a small presence but we didn’t see anyone causing problems. People were sharing lighters and helping hold the lanterns as they filled with warm air.
We arrived back to our apartment around 11:30. We took our bottle of champagne downstairs along with some disposable plastic wine glasses that we found in the market in Chinatown. At midnight we popped the cork and shared a glass with the night security man, Mr. Dang. There were a few fireworks so we went up to the 7th floor landing for the best view of the city. We found 3 other people with the same idea so we shared champagne with them as well. The views were impressive as we could see the midnight lanterns being released from a couple of km away. The fireworks are usually a much bigger event at New Year’s but were not appropriate because of the mourning period for the King.
New Year’s Day
New Year’s Day was a rainy day, which is very unusual in January in Chiang Mai. It was only 23 degrees which is the coldest day we have had so far. I put a sweater on when I was outside, but the Thais wear light down coats. It seems hard to believe that you can really adapt that much to the heat so that 30 seems normal and 20 seems really cold. The rain meant we had to have mimosas in the lobby. There were 12 of us from the building who shared guava juice and champagne to toast the new year.
Happy New Year to everyone and may you have an opportunity to travel and experience life in a new place in 2017.