Dec. 31 - New Year's Eve in Patong Beach

It's hard to describe the scene here in Patong Beach. Tens of thousands of people crowded here to celebrate, and we were two in the sea of humanity. After joining 24 other cruisers for dinner, we finally left the main group of them about 10:00 PM and decided to experience the walk up Bangla Street, famous for all its bars, "massage parlors", and X-rated shows. It was a Herculean task. Picture a narrow street, with thousands of people coming down it in one direction (towards the beach.) Then, picture same street with the minority of us going the opposite direction, like salmon swimming upstream, and attempting to go towards town. What a madhouse. Drinking, canned confetti fights, firecrackers, and (mostly) happy yelling surrounded us. It was a controlled chaotic (very) slow dance, joining masses of people who didn't seem to mind the crowd! After about 30 minutes of this, we jumped on some empty bar stools at an available table right next to the street, ordered a few beers, and watched the stream go past us. Fantastic! At about 11:30 PM, I figured we had better get going to make it to the beach before midnight, and we lucked out by pretty much diving behind two uniformed and helmeted policemen escorting some dignitary and his family down the street! Way to go! The trip back to the beach only took about 10 minutes, with plenty of time to find a spot on the beach for the midnight fun. The custom here, besides fireworks, is to light off Chinese lanterns. These are about 3 feet tall and about 18 inches across, made of paper, with a circular incendiary device in the bottom center that's lit off. The lantern is held down long enough for the inside to get full of heat, enough to drive it skywards to catch the prevailing wind eddies and, in most cases tonight, to go out towards the anchored boats! Some of them lit and flamed out near the beach; no boats that we know of were hit or had close calls with falling flames! Now, picture the sky lit up with hundreds of these lanterns, with a backdrop of fireworks going off, loud music playing, and the aforementioned tens of thousands of people all along the was an amazing way to spend New Year's eve! We hope everyone reading this also had a memorable New Year's and send along our best wishes for a wonderful 2013!

Pictures: Lighting the Chinese lanterns; the sky filled with lanterns.

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