This year was my first New Year’s celebration in Thailand. Kevin and I were both bartenders for many years and so our association with New Year’s Eve is that of working the holiday from behind the bar. While the financial boon of working New Year’s Eve is absolutely a delayed gratification, as a result of working this holiday for so many years we have both come to appreciate spending the night in as others enjoy the night out.
After training and freshening up I went out and bought some dinner to bring up to the room. It’s been cooler at night and Kevin and I tend to leave the sliding doors to our balcony open once the sun goes down in order to let in the fresh night air. Through the darkness I could see lanterns climbing into the sky and the steady song of Monk’s voices as they chanted from the temple down the street. The rhythm of their chants was punctuated occasionally by an explosion of firecrackers that were lighted from the street just below, the smell of sulfur dissolving long after each burst.
At a few minutes to midnight the firecrackers began their crescendo and we hurried out, down the hall and onto the ship-deck balcony at the front of the building. From there we could see fireworks all across Chiang Mai and the sound of the Monks’ chanting played steadily on (they chanted in the New Year for hours). When the tail of a firecracker from just above us singed my naked arm I decided to take cover under the overhang of the doors. It was a spectacular image to watch the celebration from afar (or from a few feet below, in that case) and blend the quiet-night-in with a momentary burst of excitement outside. Of all the New Year’s celebrations I’ve witnessed and taken part in over my years, this must be the happiest.