New Year, known locally as the Countdown is one of the biggest highlights of the calendar year in Thailand, and a huge celebration of the start of the year is held in Bangkok with the main focus of...
New Year, known locally as the Countdown is one of the biggest highlights of the calendar year in Thailand, and a huge celebration of the start of the year is held in Bangkok with the main focus of the evening taking place in Central World Plaza. A light show, fireworks and several hundred thousand people are expected this year for the event dubbed: Hands 2010: Bangkok Countdown @ Central World so it has to be the only place in the city to be as the night of December 31st, 2009 kicks away.
It would seem many people head for the countryside or home over the New Year 2010 holiday period; certainly Soi Sukhumvit 77, just one road parallel to where I currently live, has been a non-stop gridlocked scene of creeping traffic for days now, cars, pickups, vans and buses all rolling out of the city. So along with many of the Bangkok's remaining inhabitants, on New Year's Eve I head into the city centre on the BTS, which is surprisingly quiet, arriving at Siam Station just before 100PM, and the scene immediately creates an impact: it's a huge stream of people. The walkway suspended under the BTS heading back towards Chitlom Station is down to a very slow shuffle and its closed off as soon as one crawls the short section that climbs over the junction of Henri Dunant Road at east end of the station with a contra flow in operation to feed revellers onto Rama I Road. Down the flight of stairs onto Rama I Road and this thoroughfare, one of the city's busiest, has been closed off to traffic and is now a sea of people and food stalls across the well-beaten asphalt that is getting a few hours of breathing space from the never-ending snarling traffic flow. A couple hundred metres further along Rama I Road, the bright neon lights that announce Zen, the department store on the corner of vast Central World come into sight; and the crowds are getting even thicker now.
Moving along the edge of Central World and Ratchaprasong intersection is also closed off: the whole concrete side of the bridge above has been lit up in a shimmering blue blanket with Happy New Year 2010 and plenty of flickering stars. Blue seems to be the colour of the evening as, on facing the other way, and Central World Plaza, apart from being a mass of people, sees the giant blue-tinted Christmas tree towering upwards from the middle of the vast paved deck, complimented by the crown that circles the peak of the hotel that juts out of the top of the mall, a feature that usually flashes through a blending of the colours of the rainbow, but which has been set to show a piercing blue tonight.
Rachadamri Road is also closed off to traffic and far off where the road rises up to cross Khlong San Sabe, the busiest canal thoroughfare in the city, a stage has been set up where bands and singers will perform. The boulevard-wide Rachadamri Road thus becomes a vibrant concert arena for the night. Security is pretty tight, extra police have been drafted in and there is a thorough bag and body check to get up onto Central World Plaza. Once on the square the crowds are dense and one of the large fibreglass bells that have been temporarily put in as part of the mall's lavish Christmas display provides a perfect place to await the action, not least as the bell makes an ideal backrest.
The crowds get even thicker and thicker as the time counts down to midnight. All eyes are focused on Baiyoke Tower, a 309 metre high/85 story hotel which is Thailand's tallest building, and located on the otherside of Khlong San Sabe, as the giant 360-degree LCD screens that that usually play out a nightly lightshow, are tonight providing a huge timer. A well as the dazzling Baiyoke Tower's countdown timer, the Plaza's regular rectangular clock, as well as the clock perched on top of the special Swatch-sponsored Christmas tree made out of ascending circles of golden bells on the square, and several giant screens, all keep count of the minutes to go before it turns into 2010. At one minute to midnight tens or even hundreds of thousands of people begin counting down the final 60 seconds as one voice and on the stroke of midnight the sky erupts into a crescendo of fireworks that continue rapid-fire for several minutes. As they die away the concert kicks off and Rachadamri Road is transformed into a seething mass of dancers, the whole road turning into a flowing movement of partying humanity. Time to head for home once the surge of departing people has thinned out a bit its back to the BTS, tonight running well beyond its usual midnight closedown time, and which again is surprisingly quiet.