Kicking Off 2016 with a Beautiful ‘Bang’ in Bangkok

NYE 2016 will go down in history as the best one I’ve experienced yet. After getting spoiled by Bangkok’s stunning celebration, I’ve vowed to myself that I want to spend every New Year’s in a massive city from hereon out.

Isetan department store: Central World
Isetan department store: Central World

Everything about my vacation was so perfect*, from beginning to end. I took the earliest flight out of Suratthani (because I enjoy getting the hell out of this city as early and whenever I can) and was literally on such a high when I touched down in Bangkok.

*aside from the crater in my foot that was due to a motorbike accident right before I flew to Bangkok. I still managed, and thankfully, no one stepped on my foot in the massive crowds…

Bandaged foot visible
Bandaged foot visible

The high continued when I got to my hostel and walked straight into Riccardo, a fella I had met with his lovely girlfriend Freya, back in 2014 when we did a South Island tour of New Zealand together. They have an amazing blog together and are traveling SE Asia before trying their hand at living in NZ (so jealous). I couldn’t believe that we ran into each other, especially since I’ve been following their travels closely but didn’t even know they were in Bangkok. The fact that we were all staying at the same hostel, and that I happened to be going up the stairs at the same time he was tying his shoes – our timing was impeccable.

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Small world, yeah?!

Our hostel was amazing (the Phrom Phong area is the best). It reminded me of the clean, capsule hotels I stayed in while in Bali and Aonang. It was truly in the perfect location, which I deliberately picked since it was a minute away (walking) from my favorite mall in the world – EmQuartier. Seriously, I would live in that mall for the rest of my life if I could. It’s just so huge and beautiful – everything about it is so aesthetically stunning. Because it was so close, I literally spent every evening hanging out in one of its three quarters, just reveling in its beauty and resting my feet until the mall closed.

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Quartier Water Garden with added enhancements for Bangkok Illumination
Quartier Water Garden with added enhancements for Bangkok Illumination

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Just like a Disney PES event

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Here’s what The EM District looked like (EmQuartier + Emporium + soon-to-be-opened-EmSphere) when it opened earlier this year:

I absolutely loved the opportunity to walk (in my case, hobble) around Bangkok alone, because it was just so freeing. I visited so many malls again and never got tired of any of them – because the design of all of them is just out-of-this-world. I even found a Shibuya mall (not that great compared to the real Shibuya district in Tokyo) and Shibuya GLOW hotel, which I’m amazed I never came across before.

Terminal 21
Terminal 21
Shibuya
Shibuya 19 Pratunam
Siam Paragon
Siam Paragon
Central World
Central World
Central Plaza
Central Plaza
Esplanade
Esplanade
BTS rules.
BTS rules.
Golden Place Plaza
Golden Place Plaza
River City
River City
Siam Square
Siam Square
Siam Square
Siam Square
Center Point
Center Point
Gaysorn
Gaysorn
Siam Paragon
Siam Paragon
Central World
Central World
Terminal 21
Terminal 21
Terminal 21
Terminal 21

Moreover, my vacation consisted of three things: Malls, eating so much spectacular food (the best in Thailand, obviously), and Star Wars. I ended up seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens in both 4DX and IMAX 3D, putting my total count to four times, the most I’ve ever seen a film in only three weeks time. I’ll never be able to watch a film in a regular setting ever again now.

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Nearly died when I found the Sphero BB-8, although I can't afford it
Nearly died when I found the Sphero BB-8, although I can’t afford it
Rey hair for NYE
Rey hair for NYE

4DX is worth a paragraph alone. I had never heard of it prior to stumbling upon it in Bangkok, and upon a quick Google search, was immediately sold. Siam Paragon is the only theater in Bangkok that has 4DX, and it was worth every penny (still cheaper than a regular movie ticket in the states). In sum, it was basically like riding Star Tours for 2+ hours. There were flashing strobe lights, vibrations, water mist, fog, sharp bursts of air, and wind effects that basically immersed you in the film. The coolest part was that your chair was almost always moving, even for the subtlest of movements in the film (i.e. you felt a slight vibration even when BB-8 or Rey walked down a set of stairs). Whether rocking back and forth or tipping forward or backward (especially since the entire Star Wars film is like a slew of non-stop action sequences). The lightsaber battles were my favorite, since the strobe lights and seat vibrations made you feel like you were actually fighting. Apparently, some dude in South Korea invented 4DX, so it’s in theaters throughout Asia, the UK, and I believe one in LA. My only hope is that all cinemas implement this and that this will be the future of all moviegoing experiences, since it was just amazing.

If I lived in Bangkok, I'd be here every day....
If I lived in Bangkok, I’d be here every day….

Either that, or I’m just obsessed with Star Wars. I mean, I’m so frugal with my money and look at what I ended up taking back with me…

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I was in love with everything in Bangkok, much more this time than my previous two visits, because of all the Christmas decor.

Oh my God, the Christmas decorations. They put ALL decorations in America to shame. Each mall (even the smaller, less touristy ones) had a giant Christmas tree fully decorated with lights and ornaments, both inside and outside, and strings of LED lights everywhere on the exterior. When I think back to California, my favorite malls (South Coast Plaza, Newport Fashion Island, and Irvine Spectrum Center) can’t even compare to the mass amounts of lights and decor. I was quite impressed with how much Bangkok went all out, especially since Tokyo didn’t have any Christmas getup when I visited in 2012.

I don’t have a professional camera, so check out this blog for an amazing account of the Kingdom of Light 2, a skywalk of dazzling multicolored lights that flashed throughout the evening. Like I’ve said before, it’s almost impossible to capture the beauty of most things in pictures, though.

Central Chidlom - one of my favorites decked out in stunning LEDs
Central Chidlom – one of my favorites decked out in stunning LEDs
Central Embassy
Central Embassy
Outside Terminal 21
Outside Terminal 21
Kingdom of Light 2
Kingdom of Light 2

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Central World
Central World

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Siam Paragon
Siam Paragon
EmQuartier
EmQuartier
Emporium
Emporium
Central World
Central World

My New Year’s Eve itself was spectacular. I initially had this wild notion in my head that I’d hop to as many different locations as possible and end at Central World (the Times Square of Bangkok, basically) to try and squeeze in as many places and events as possible. But, since everything happens for a reason, I ended up striking up a conversation with a lovely couple from Invercargill, New Zealand and spent my NYE with them at one location: Asiatique.

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Even though we missed out on the insane display of everything at Central World (confetti, panoramic views of fireworks, a massive countdown clock, longer fireworks), that also meant we skipped out on a much more intense, claustrophobic crowd. It was still pretty crazy at Asiatique, but far more relaxed than Central World must have been. I used to get extremely irritated by all the crowds at Disneyland, so I’m sure that Central World would have left me hangry and agitated by the end of the evening. Probably best that I stayed at Asiatique with two extremely friendly souls…

Pheng & Matty!
Pheng & Matty!

It turned out that neither of them drink either (they’re long-distance cyclers, having cycled their way from Vietnam to Bangkok) – it was perfect. I loved exchanging stories with them and getting to know them better as we rang in the new year together.

Frappes and mocktails in a bicycle-themed cafe (complete with bicycle seats as our stools)
Frappes and mocktails in a bicycle-themed cafe (complete with bicycle seats as our stools)

The most special part of spending New Year’s Eve/Day with them was the fact that they had never been to a concert before, nor seen a fireworks display as massive as Bangkok’s, nor been in a massive crowd as crazy as this. Seeing their amazed (and sometimes alarmed) reactions was just priceless. After all, I’m used to this kind of stuff, so it was quite neat to meet people who were experiencing everything for the first time.

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Party rocking hard until we got too tired and needed to escape for air
Party rocking hard until we got too tired and needed to escape for air

The large stage setup featured Thai bands (that thankfully alternated between English and Thai songs, so we at least could sing along to some songs). The scene was reminiscent of my Vegas days, especially with the crowd waving green glowstick noodles around and bopping up and down. I absolutely love dancing, so it was really cool to obviously have friends to hang out with (otherwise I would have been the loser dancing by myself on NYE).

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Tried so hard to get a turn to hit the giant inflatable Chang balls but failed
Tried so hard to get a turn to hit the giant inflatable Chang balls but failed

We ended up watching the fireworks right along the riverfront, since most were being shot off from boats along the river, in back of the main stage, and all over the city – so basically, fireworks were everywhere we looked. I felt a pang of nostalgia for the winter fireworks I used to always see along the beautiful waterfront at Docklands in Melbourne.

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Although it was mass chaos with stampeding people once our 5-minute fireworks extravaganza ended, we scored and got to stand out on the deck of one of the ferries back to the city for a little bit. We watched Central World’s fireworks from afar, as well (those probably lasted a good 20 min.).

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I’ve stolen and linked videos from others below, since I’m far too impatient to wait for my own videos to upload. Here’s a taste of the massive Central World celebration in the center of Bangkok:

I also got my second bamboo tattoo, but it isn’t one I’m particularly proud of – mainly because it didn’t come out nearly as nice as my Koh Tao one, and because it hurt like a b*tch. I wouldn’t suggest going to Khao San Road just for a bamboo tattoo like I did – I only had it done there since Bangkok means a lot to me. I was completely against the idea of Khao San Road, but I had zero luck with finding any bamboo artists around the BTS stations/malls. I ended up having a spectator (I’ve never gotten a tattoo alone, hilariously enough), since a nice fella wanted to watch me get it done. It was quite cool exchanging stories with the first Lithuanian I’ve ever met.

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Nothing great about this place - dashed out of there as soon as my ink was done
Nothing great about this place – dashed out of there as soon as my ink was done

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Additionally, Thailand’s first international lighting festival, Bangkok Illumination, had kicked off – and I was amazed to see all the various exhibits around the city. They looked particularly beautiful at night, and I was thrilled whenever I found a new exhibit waiting to be photographed.IMG_9419IMG_9505IMG_9506IMG_9515IMG_9518IMG_9689IMG_9708IMG_9709IMG_9711IMG_9724

EmQuartier also had amazing image projections, almost identical to how Disney goes all out with their parades and coordinating fireworks. With all the Christmas decor (not in this video), it was that much more perfect:

I’ve never suffered from post-vacation blues within the same country as much as now. I’m just so grateful that I was able to kick off my new year in the best place in Thailand… here’s to 2016! And, as always, I love you, Bangkok – you’re my favorite. 

Keep calm and selfie on
Keep calm and selfie on

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