10 of the Best New Year’s Eve Destinations in South & Southeast Asia

by Mélissa Lesnie  |  Published December 28, 2023

Southeast Asia shimmers with possibilities for an unforgettable New Year’s experience. These 10 cities will dazzle any visitor, each with a unique take on seeing in January 1.

Raffles Grand Hôtel d’Angkor, Siem Reap, with private fireworks at the stroke of midnight (Photo: Valery Khung via melissalesnie.com)

Whether it is dancing on the beaches of Goa or sipping a prohibition-themed cocktail on a rooftop in Singapore, New Year’s Eve in South and Southeast Asia has something for all tastes and budgets. Although much of the local population traditionally rings in their new year in April or May, according to a different lunar calendar or the end of harvest season, they certainly know how to party on 31 December.

From Thailand to Indonesia, the Philippines to Cambodia, NY in this part of the world is about discovering the unique history and customs that each culture has to offer, with great music, food and weather to boot. Many of the hotel dinners and DJ parties sell out, so be sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment on the big night, or simply follow the sound of people having fun for a more spontaneous evening. Whether you’re in the mood for a chic gala, beachside firecrackers or downright debauchery (drinking responsibly, of course), count down to the stroke of midnight joyfully and safely in one of these ten vibrant Asian cities, including TravelMag’s top three picks.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Lanterns released in Chiang Mai (Photo: Alex Harmuth via Unsplashed)

Although all eyes around the world are usually on Bangkok’s epic fireworks and laser shows along the Chao Phraya River, Chiang Mai’s more understated NYE tradition in the north of Thailand is an inspiring, authentic way to let your new year’s resolutions soar. Who needs glow sticks when you have krathong lanterns? Releasing them in the air is a sign of good luck, so head to the Tha Phae Gate (ancient city gate) to procure a paper lantern from one of the countless street vendors. Light it and send it skyward to join thousands of mesmerizing, illuminated fireflies, a ritual culminating in fireworks. Traffic will have shut down by sundown, so weave through the crowds on foot and take in Chiang Mai’s effervescent atmosphere. Chiang Mai is a city that blends the old and the new, so there are plenty of different ways to celebrate, whether enjoying a chic cocktail afterparty on Nimmanahaeminda Road, blending in with backpackers on the east side of Old City, or having a peek at the red-light district on Loi Kroh Road.

Goa, India

A trance party in Vagator, Goa (Photo via Wikimedia Communs)

South India’s undisputed party zone takes New Year’s Eve very seriously, with international bands and DJs performing at most of the luxury hotels, including the Ritz, the Marriott and the Hilton’s Double Tree resort. Mingle with masses to ooh and ahh at the fireworks from Mandovi Bridge, or enjoy them from one of the many ecstatic trance parties on Mobor or Palolem beaches. Head to Titos, the popular nightclub in Baga, for an unabashedly Bollywood soundtrack and fire dancers.

Singapore City

Fireworks in Singapore (Photo: Kent Lee via Unsplash)

Although Singapore would be no one’s choice for a budget-conscious NY night out, the dining, clubbing and partying is top notch. The classic itinerary (and the most kid-friendly) leads to the Marina Bay countdown, with its hourly fireworks up to the big event at midnight, and everything from go-karting to ice slides and merry-go-rounds to enjoy in between. For more grown-up antics, sip a prohibition-themed cocktail at Mr Stork rooftop bar, or trade your sequined Gatsby get-up for a bikini or board shorts at the Sand Bar’s annual beach party, complete with house DJs, fire twirling, and ‘liquid fireworks’ in the form of giant bubbles.

Boracay, the Philippines

Fire dancers at Boracay (Photo by Flair Candy via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Of all the diverse cultures in Southeast Asia, the Philippines is undoubtedly the most enthusiastic about December 31 festivities, with their own set of superstitions to usher in the new year. This is perhaps the one night when the island of Boracay’s reputation as the archipelago’s Ibiza can be truly appreciated, with banging parties springing up all along the white sand beaches. Locals enjoy the media noche (midnight feast) on NYE and visitors can choose from choice seafood at one of the grill restaurants where waves gently lap at your toes. The usual pub crawl along the 4km (2.5-miles) of beach stations takes on almost spiritual significance on this most auspicious occasion, but Exit Bar always has the best DJs and energy on the sandy dancefloor.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Bitexco Financial Tower fireworks at Saigon River (Photo: Marco Verch via Flickr / CC BY 2.0 )

Although Vietnam is deeply connected to the Lunar New Year, December 31 in Ho Chi Minh overflows with joyous chaos – the city is the undisputed place to be if you’re eager for an unforgettable street party. Lined with bars and eateries open to cater to revelers all night, Nguyen Hue Pedestrian Street heaves with a human tide awaiting the countdown by the thousands. The fireworks soar above the Bitexco Tower, strangers hugging down below. Intimidated by the crowd? Book a cruise on the River Saigon to admire the spectacle over water, dine at Villa Song, where they will whisk you over by speedboat, or opt for the panoramic rooftop views from Sohy Sky Lounge or Rex Rooftop Garden.

Vientiane, Laos

Temple Pha That Luang at dusk, Vientiane, Laos (Photo: Molydar Souama via Unsplash)

For those seeking an escape from the debauched throngs around this time of the year, the capital of Laos has just the right mix of jollity and retrospection amid the golden temples. After visits to monuments such as the Pha That Luang stupa and the serene, glinting Buddha of Wat That Luang Neua, you’ll be ready for a little action at the Tiger Beer street party at Nam Phou Square, with live bands and street food from the afternoon until midnight. Dine at one of the long tables and get to know locals as you await the momentous countdown to midnight. Retire to one of the relaxing and affordable boutique hotels (such as Green Park) and spend the first day of the new year reclining, Buddha-like, by the pool.

Penang, Malaysia

With its lively expat community in George Town and an enticing blend of urban jungle and waterfront idyll, the island of Penang pulses with life over New Year’s Eve. For the loftiest views of the end-of-year fireworks, reserve a spot at The Top, Penang’s highest tower and entertainment hub; expect a spectacular rooftop party including buffet dinner, guest DJs, bands and a panoramic countdown experience. If you have vertigo, however, or are travelling on a budget, there’s plenty to do on terra firma. Take a stroll along the Straits Quay, a newly developed seafront marina with a new year’s market, restaurants, bars and live music. It also boasts one of the island’s most impressive fireworks displays. Cap the evening with a luxurious stay at the nearby Jazz Hotel.

3. The Best Fireworks: Manila, the Philippines

Fireworks at Manila Bay (Photo by Rene Bernal via Unsplash)

In the Philippines, the fireworks have the very practical function of startling and warding off evil spirits with their booming racket. No surprise, then, that the capital set a Guinness World Record for the longest pyrotechnic display, with 810, 904 fireworks illuminating the sky during the 2016 NYE celebration at the Philippine Arena. While travelers flock to hotels (the rooftop of the Grand Hyatt or Hotel H2O for an unusual aquatic-themed party) and shopping malls (SM Mall of Asia, Bonifacio Global City) to marvel at the metropolis’ apologetically over-the-top countdown, the best spots to enjoy the show are at Manila Bay or with a picnic at the historic Rizal Park. Just be mindful of locals setting off their own firecrackers in the street which can be a bit alarming to the uninitiated. Don’t expect a quiet affair – not when there are demons to be driven out.

2. The Best Beaches: Bali, Indonesia

A beach party at dusk in Canggu (Photo by Marvin Meyer via Unsplash)

Bali is a paradise on earth on any given day, and at New Year it becomes a paradise on earth taken over by ocean-view raves and exclusive parties, headlined by international DJs, including the likes of Fatboy Slim and Kungs. From Ubud to Canggu, no other beach-hopping hotspot in Southeast Asia offers such laid-back yet electric energy, from boho to luxury with everything in between, all enveloped in sparkling ocean and an archipelago of infinity pools. Desa Potato Head Seminyak offers a sustainable approach to wanton debauchery, right down to biodegradable confetti and eco-friendly fireworks. It’s all aimed at starting the year with a cleaner conscience and carbon footprint – don’t forget the beach yoga and meditation to prepare for or recover from the inevitable hangover. Sundays Beach Club in Uluwatu aims for a serene high, with bonfires and a traditional lantern release ceremony. And at the iconic beach club Cafe Del Mar, you can dance to the most sophisticated trance and lounge tunes without ever leaving the pool.

1. The all-rounder: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Boisterous Pub Street in Siem Reap (Photo by Sumit Mangela via Unsplash)

Why choose between bar-hopping, a chic dining experience and bucket-list monuments when you can have it all in Cambodia’s second largest city? Spend the day exploring the glorious stone ruins of the Khmer empire (the Angkor Wat temple has been classified the 8th wonder of the world), taking in the golden sunset with a steep climb to the top of the Hindu temple of  Phnom Bakheng. Another Siem Reap family favorite that takes on special meaning on Saint Sylvester’s Day is Phare Circus‘ daring acrobatics show in the purpose-built bigtop. For a lavish year’s end, reserve the poolside ball at the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, which boasts its own exclusive fireworks display. If you can bear to leave the lap of luxury, head to Pub Street for a late-night hurrah, rubbing shoulders with locals and tourists along this aptly named strip of rowdy bars, street food stalls and fish spas.