Shannon Did What / Travel + Lifestyle Blog

How to Spend New Years in Chiang Mai

TravelShannon Guerrero2 Comments

Ever since attending the Rise Festival back in October, I put releasing lanterns in Thailand at the top of my bucket list.  Well, to be honest, Thailand has always been at the top of my list.  After I returned from Bali in September, I just could not get my mind off of traveling again.  My work gives us the last 2 weeks of the year off and I knew I had to do something to take advantage of that time off.  I went on the hunt to find somewhere to go for New Years.  I realized this would be the third New Years in a row I was traveling.  (I think that just might become a thing!)  When a friend mentioned being in Thailand for New Years, I thought it was fate.   Then when she mentioned releasing lanterns in Chiang Mai at midnight on New Years - I was sold.

Fast-forward to Chiang Mai just before New years.  My friend and I were determined to find somewhere to release lanterns.  It was December 30 and we still hadn’t pinned down anywhere that was for sure having lanterns.  Research on the internet and pinterest seemed to lead to dead ends.  We resorted to asking the receptionist at the place we happened to be getting massages at because he seemed to speak and understand English better than most we had come across.  He took our map and circled a few places he believed might have lanterns.  Our best bet, he said, was at a market clear across the city from where we staying.

On New Years Eve, we thought, well let’s try this out.  We set off in a public taxi  - literally benches put into the back of a covered pick-up truck - to the market area.  As we were driving, we saw them, those little twinkles of light brightening up the sky in the distance.  Now we had hope.  The taxi driver drops us off and we are literally in the middle of nowhere, not many people and definitely no lanterns.  After finding our way to dinner, we found some wifi to research more in the internet.  We found one article that looked sort of promising, but it was the only information we had, so we were going to follow it.

SO HERE IT IS - where to spend New Years in Chiang Mai to release Lanterns:  Head to Thapae Gate on the west side of the old city.  I believe there was more celebrations inside the city walls in previous years, but since the King died, there were some restrictions put into place.  As we were driving closer to Thapae Gate, the floating lights began to get bigger and bigger.  We knew we were in the right place.  There were people everywhere and tons of lanterns being set off.

All in all, we had found the perfect location.  We bargained with the lantern seller for multiple lanterns for a lower price, found lighters to get our lanterns lit and made some friends in the process.  I really can't describe fully how amazing it was to be there for this.  We released our last lantern literally as the clock struck midnight while a huge fireworks display took place.  It was absolutely magical.  If I were to compare it to the Rise Festival, the obvious difference is that I was in Thailand.  There were definitely more lanterns at the Rise Festival because a couple thousand people released their lanterns all at once.  In Thailand, people were releasing their lanterns throughout the night making the night sky consistently scattered with floating lights.  I think the sentiments were stronger in Thailand, though.  People were writing their hopes, wishes and resolutions for the new year on their lanterns and the excitement surrounding New Years was just something that you can beat.  If you ever find yourself in Thailand for New Years, this is definitely something you have to do!  I heard they even stop planes from flying over the country for a few hours because it's that big of an event!

In thinking about the new year and I began debating what I should make as my new resolution.  It got me thinking about my past two resolutions I created for myself.  Two years ago, when brainstorming resolutions, friends and I discussed having a word or phrase that we would like our year to be.  This would be in place of traditional and typical resolutions.  In 2015, my resolution was simple - Be Free.  In 2016, my phrase was - Make it Happen.  I really surprised myself this year with how well I believe I lived up to my personal slogan.  Among many achievements I accomplished this past year, I made 2 big trips happen.  I went to Bali and then to Thailand.  I used to tell myself that I wanted to make it out of the country once a year, but I’m starting to think I may be able to do more than that, hopefully.  At least that’s the dream.

This year, if you could tell from some of the photos above, my resolution and phrase is Be Bold.  While still keeping both previous phrases in mind, I’m going to make a conscious effort to go out of my comfort zone more.  I have a tendency to become introverted when I’m uncomfortable with strangers or even when asking for things I want at my job.  This is my year to make it happen by being bold.  Something tells me there could be big ways I can be bold this year.

What’s your phrase this year?

Yours Truly // Shannon