Where to Go: New Year’s Eve in Southeast Asia

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The festive season is upon us. In Southeast Asia we’re preparing for parties and celebrations. Most of the countries such as Thailand and Vietnam find this period a great excuse to light up streets and buildings, decorate bars and restaurants, and play Christmas carols in supermarkets and shopping malls. Although the Gregorian calendar is not the traditional calendar for the Greater Mekong Region, the western New Year is a widely observed holiday. Here’s a roundup of some of the region’s best places to be when counting down to 2014.

Ho Chi Minh City

Travelers in Ho Chi Minh City on 31 December this year can’t miss out on the New Year festivities. The place to be is where Le Noi and Nguyen Hue streets meet. The streets are decorated with flowers and millions of lights, large New Year displays are set up. At midnight the fireworks are stunning. Do advice your clients to get there early though as Saigon traffic gets even worse than normal and these streets are closed to vehicles from 6 pm onwards. Other cool places to celebrate are at the Sofitel Saigon’s Rooftop Swimming Pool and Saigon Saigon at the top floor of the Caravelle Hotel.

Siem Reap

The most known place to welcome in the New Year in Cambodia is probably Pub Street in Siem Reap. Here’s where the city comes together to party until dawn. The entire street usually turns into an open-air club – young and old, locals and tourists all come to enjoy performances, music and lights. Although the capital sees a much smaller crowd, Phnom Penh’s pubs and bars also come up with special events on New Year’s Eve.

Siem Reap's Pub Street © k.d..did

Bangkok

Since time immemorial, the biggest countdown in Thailand – and probably in all of the region – is at Central World Square at the Ratchaprasong intersection. Right in the center of the capital’s shopping district, it is easy to get by BTS (Chidlom station), khlong boat along Saen Saeb canal (get off at Pratunam), or taxi (come early, before 10 pm). Welcome the New Year with thousands of other travelers and locals. Watch count downs from around the world on large screens, see performances of local artists, and enjoy the beer gardens at the square.

Chiang Mai

In what is also called The Rose of the North, Chiang Mai is another great Thai destination to be at midnight on 31 December this year. The venues around the River Ping offer great live music, good food and beautiful views over the water. At Thapae Gate, a short 2km away from the main river bars, a stage has been set up hosting a variety of dance performances. Plenty of food and drink stalls are set up around the square and at midnight a great show of fireworks is displayed. Perhaps the biggest attraction is the letting go of thousands of traditional lanterns, a truly magical sight to enjoy only in Chiang Mai.

Vientiane

Khop Chai Deu restaurant in the Laos capital is where a large crowd will meet to welcome in the New Year. Live music and a DJ contribute to the night’s entertainment. A fireworks show will complete the count down festivities. In other places around the country like Luang Prabang and the 4.000 Islands, there are quieter local celebrations to be found.

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Yangon

The western New Year is a holiday that is not really celebrated by the Burmese. Most residents flock to the beaches to enjoy the great weather and maybe make a campfire in the evening. Those who are staying in Yangon on 31 December can go to western venues around Strand Road, like the Union Bar and Grill or L’Opera at U Htun Nyein Street.

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Photo 2 by k.d..did