Expique’s Guide to the New Year in Bangkok (Updated for 2019/20)

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Published: December 1, 2019

More updates for 2019/20 coming soon. 

While Thailand’s most well known festival is the Thai new year Songkran, with its massive country-wide water fights, the western new year is – much like Christmas – still celebrated on a large scale in Bangkok and elsewhere. In fact, together with Chinese New Year, Thais get in on at least three sets of new year celebrations in the space of 4 months. Call them greedy, call it commercialism gone mad – whatever you call it, it’s still another chance for a great Thai-style party. Here’s some inspiration for your 2017/18 new year celebrations in Bangkok. 

New Year's Eve countdown at Central World, Bangkok - photo by Honou

Countdown to midnight at Central World

Just like many countries around the world, 31 December sees a large-scale and popular countdown to the new year, most visibly on the streets of Siam in the centre of Bangkok. Right in front of the capital’s flagship shopping centre Central World, as many as hundreds of thousands of people pack onto the street to countdown those final seconds to midnight and see in a new year. The event is so popular that ‘countdown’ almost seems to have become a synonym for ‘new year’ among Thai speakers. The high-energy line up includes a series of concert performances by popular Thai artists and appearances by celebrities, in the run-up to the final countdown and an impressive fireworks display.

To get in on the action, take the Skytrain to Chitlom, which is directly connected to Central World by a skywalk. Things usually get going at around 6pm, but you might want to arrive early to beat the inevitable crowds to a decent spot.

New Year's Eve fireworks on the Chao Phraya river - photo by Prachanart Viriyaraks

Cruise down the Chao Phraya

The cruise boats which operate on the Cho Phraya river year round up their game on New Year’s Eve, and put on special Thai and international buffet dinners – or extravagant full-service meals with as many as ten courses – to enjoy with free-flow drinks as their converted barges float ceremoniously along Bangkok’s mighty River of Kings, with its picturesque temples and other famous sights to spot along the river banks.

Certainly a memorable way to see in the new year in Bangkok, expect plenty of bright lights and on-board entertainment including live bands and some of Thailand’s infamous cabaret shows. There are plenty of operators to choose from; on some cruises you will be able to enjoy the countdown to midnight and watch a riverside fireworks display from on the boat itself, while others will dock at a hotel along the river to allow you to finish the night in style there.

Asiatique the Riverfront outdoor shopping complex in Bangkok - photo by Michael Saechang

Eat, shop and party at Asiatique

The arrival of popular outdoor shopping complex Asiatique, has shaken up the New Year’s Eve scene in recent years, meaning Central World is no longer the only top-ticket option for celebrations. Many of the restaurants at riverside Asiatique put on special menus for new year, and failing that there are plenty of more informal restaurants and food stalls where you can settle in for a memorable evening. At Asiatique you have the opportunity to combine an evening of shopping with your meal, and to catch the fireworks over the river too. To get to Asiatique, take its free shuttle boat service from Saphan Taksin pier, which is directly connected to the Skytrain.

Gala Dinners, Restaurants and Bars

Many of the top hotels will have special gala dinners, and bars will have special events. Many restaurants will just operate as normal.

For a list of some of the events going on for New Years Eve I suggest you check out Bangkok Foodies Event Page

New Years Eve at a Temple in Bangkok

Even though the Thai New Year is not until mid-April, a lot of Thai Buddhists celebrate it by going to a temple on New Year’s Eve. In fact, plenty will then also visit each of the nine sacred temples in Bangkok on New Year’s Day! Most temples have a ceremony, known as Suad Mont Kham Pi, that goes on throughout the evening (and at midnight), meaning you can simply pop into the temple nearest you. Alternatively, visiting a temple near the river – such as Wat Yannawa – you will get to see fireworks in the background at midnight, while enjoying the temple ceremony. Another great temple to check out is Wat Saket (The Golden Mount), from where you can get great views over the city. Finally, there is also a big New Year’s Eve gathering at Sanam Luang.

In Bangkok For Christmas as well

If you are in Bangkok for Christmas and looking for ideas of how to celebrate then check out our post on Xmas in Bangkok

Central World photo by Honou; Chao Phraya photo by Prachanart Viriyaraks; Asiatique photo by Michael Saechang.

What New Year’s Eve celebratory opportunities have we missed? Where will you be seeing in 2020? Let us know in the comments!

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