Thailand is still officially in mourning from the passing away of the late king, his majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej. Obviously, a loud, firework fueled, high-profile Christmas celebration would risk seeming disrespectful, so a low-key respectful celebration is needed. However, you may be thinking ‘ . . . but what can I do in Bangkok at Christmas that’s low-key?’ Well, here are a few ideas:
The Christmas Vibe
In Thailand in general Christmas is celebrated only a little and only by a few, but it is not (as yet) one of the most popular holiday periods. In fact, if you walk down any soi off the main tourist tracks/areas, you’ll probably see nothing Christmasy going on at all. So, to get that Christmas vibe and feel good feeling the main shopping malls will help, such as Central World, The Erawan (mall) or the Amarin Plaza for example. In these malls there will probably be a huge Christmas tree with Christmas decorations adorning many shops. Be sure to also check out the The Four Seasons Hotel and the Peninsula Plaza as they always have fantastic decorations at Christmas.
Snow in Thailand?
Yes, there is snow in Thailand, which is only a day trip from Bangkok you may be surprised to hear, at Dreamworld in the Thanyaburi district of the Pathum Thani province. Here you would be advised to dress up warm and hire some Wellington boots inside the ‘Snow House’, which is a building which harbors heaps of snow. When you enter the Snow House you’ll see Christmas decorations (which are up all year round) and synthetically created snow all around you. You can also go sledging, albeit on rubber tire inner tubes rather than on traditional wooden sledges. In the evening, if you want to celebrate in the cold, you can always visit an ice bar, such as the Titanium bar on Sukumvit Soi 22. Again, wrap up warm as temperatures in this bar hover at around -10 degrees Celsius.
Many companies, such as Manohra Cruises for example, offer Christmas dinners or buffets whilst taking you along the Chao Phraya river. You may not see many Christmas lights but you will see glittering temples lit up at night, such as Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn and the Grand Palace. Especially recommended is the River Star Cruise where you will have a candle lit dinner with your choice of foods from the Thai and international buffet.
Khao San Road
In Khao San Road there will be, without a doubt, many of the bars and restaurants making an effort to decorate their premises with Christmasy bits and bobs, plus attempts at creating a Christmas vibe. Most of the people on Khao San road will be backpackers and travelers who will exude the Christmas spirit naturally, making them a good crowd to hang out with socially.
Christmas at Home
Thailand is predominantly a Buddhist country, so it is not surprising that to find the Christmas spirit in Bangkok will be challenging. However, if you celebrate Christmas at home you can do whatever you like, albeit minus any loud music or fireworks. At Christmas in Thailand you also have the option of having a ‘Christmas barbecue’ in the cool but sunny weather. In retrospect, thinking back over past years, it is debatable whether the weather in Bangkok will in fact be ‘cool’, but even if it is hot a ‘Christmas barbecue’ can still be lit.
With Thai friends or loved ones who are Thai, you will have had to adjust and learn about Thai culture. At Christmas time however, it can be your turn to give them a taste of Christmas food and merriment from your culture. Just bear in mind that Thai people eat, on the whole, less meat than say in the west. So if you dish up a large portion of turkey they may find the process of munching through it all a bit too much. Because you cannot be sure whether your Thai friends will like cranberry sauce, stuffing or Christmas pudding, it would be a good idea to put all the dishes in the middle of the table buffet style, where they can help themselves and not feel under pressure to eat everything.