Fireworks, merit-making usher in 2016

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Thais and tourists brought in 2016 in a grand celebration mixing music, fireworks and religious ceremonies.

The focal point of New Year’s Eve in Pattaya was squarely at Bali Hai Pier, where this year’s shortened Pattaya Countdown came to a raucous close after three nights of live music, fireworks and revelry.

Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome opened the festival Dec. 29 and, for three days, Walking Street was extended to Bali Hai, where food, drinks and a variety of products were on offer.

Vice Adm. Thanakan Kraikruan, commander of Nawik Yotin squadron, and his wife Pancharin, chairwoman of the Navy Wives Association, lead the alms giving at the Sattahip Nawik Yotin headquarters.

Tight security made for a safe, festive evening as more than 1,000 police, soldiers and volunteers patrolled South Pattaya to keep the focus on fun.

Although Pattaya banned alcohol at the music festival, it didn’t stop hundreds of thousands of visitors from coming to see their favorite Thai rock and pop bands.

Alcohol checkpoints were set up along various routes, supported by bomb squad officers and police dogs to inspect suspicious objects. In addition, medical units and volunteers from The Sawang Boriboon Thammasathan Foundation were on standby with emergency vehicles to help any victim with health problems.

11-year-old elephant Yok draws “Sawadee Bee Mai 2559” in Thai at Nong Nooch Tropical Garden.

New Year’s Eve featured the brightest lineup of stars, including Buddha Bless whose fans were lined up and ready to dance. Just before midnight became magical, as couples, families and visitors waited with excited anticipation for 2016 to arrive.

At a minute until midnight, Kunplome and local dignitaries counted down the final seconds of 2015 and ushered in the new year with a spectacular display of fireworks, with more than 1,000 colorful bursts lighting up the skies over Pattaya Bay for a full 7 minutes into 2016.

A relatively quiet festival also unfolded in Naklua where Lan Po Public Park was the scene for food and shopping booths, as well as folk and country music. The market hosted Pai Pongsathorn on New Year’s Eve.

People make merit in Chonburi by offering alms to monks on New Year’s Day.

On New Year’s Day in Chonburi, Gov. Khomsan Ekachai joined top provincial officials for a New Year’s food-donation event to bring good fortune to people and carry on Thai traditions.

Royal Thai Navy sailors also used the New Year’s holiday period to make merit and bring good luck for 2016.

Vice Adm. Thanakan Kraikruan, commander of Nawik Yotin squadron, and his wife Pancharin, chairwoman of the Navy’s Wives Association, led the Dec. 29 activity at the Sattahip Nawik Yotin headquarters.

Fireworks were going off all around Pattaya as the clock hit midnight. (Photo by Urasin Khantaraphan)

Civilians, sailors and their families joined to give alms to 20 monks from Thepprasit Taotan Temple in exchange for New Year’s blessings.

Thanakan said the event was organized to make merit to end the year and welcome in 2016.

11-year-old elephant Yok drew “Happy New Year 2016” in both Thai and English for tourists visiting Nong Nooch Tropical Garden on Dec. 29.

Local and regional officials lead the cheers to welcome in the New Year.

Park Director Kampol Tansajja said the Najomtien tourist attraction held its own countdown event, this year themed “Cowboy Town”. More than 200 artists performed and free food and beverages were provided for park guests there to watch the cowboy and cowgirl contests.

Nong Nooch featured stage entertainment, cabaret shows, games and more than 30 elephants on parade to celebrate New Year’s through Jan. 2.

The moment in time at Bali Hai when 2015 and 2016 met.

Tight security made for a safe, festive evening as more than 1,000 police, soldiers and volunteers patrolled South Pattaya to keep the focus on fun.

The more devout families welcomed in the New Year at their local temple, praying for good will towards all people all over the world.

Pai Pongsathorn reaches out to his fans at Lan Pho market, Naklua during the countdown.

Superman at Bali Hai chases away the evils of 2015 to make way for a much better 2016.