Thais don't need much encouragement to celebrate an occasion or throw a party, with the trapping of Christmas - the lights, the decorations and the shopping - all embraced wholeheartedly by this Buddhist nation. Bangkok in particular is adorned as brightly and as festively as any Western city, with trees, snowmen and Santa sleighs galore. Western hotels and shopping malls are the main perpetrators, though small shops, marketplaces and even tuk-tuks are clad in tinsel and lights to spread the Christmas joy. Hotels such as The Peninsula and Four Seasons have beautiful displays, but for a one-stop gawk, head to the mega-malls around Siam Square which are smothered in decorations, including Bangkok's biggest Christmas tree outside CentralWorld.
|Pic: Bangkok Post|
While you're unlikely to get a 'white Christmas' in Thailand, the temperature in the north of Thailand does drop considerably in December - so much so that locals complain constantly about the cold and rug up in sweaters and balaclavas. For those of us from less tropical climes, the temperature is just perfect - warm during the day, but a chilly but comfortable 11-15 degrees Celsius at night (jackets required, if not winter woollies!) For visitors who want to celebrate Christmas, most Chiang Mai hotels offer traditional Christmas dinners, and you'll always find an ex-pat willing to toast the festive season with a Chang or two!
|Christmas elephant outside of Le Meridien, Chiang Mai|
GET AWAY FROM IT ALL
Personally, I look for any excuse to get away from the madness of the season ... so why not do it on a remote Thai island? Forget turkey dinners and eggnog - give me a pad thai and coconut cocktail any day, served at a beach restaurant overlooking a tranquil emerald sea. December and January is peak season in the Andaman region - the weather couldn't be more perfect, with cool breezes, low humidity and moderate temperatures, while the mood around Phuket is buoyant and relaxed. Make sure you stick around for New Year's Eve, celebrated in true Thai style with the obligatory fireworks as well as the traditional releasing of lanterns into the starlit sky.
|New Years, Thai-style|