It’s the most wonderful time of the year! 😀
Christmas is right around the corner folks, and I’m here to talk a little bit about holiday celebrations in Thailand.
Average temps this month have been a stifling 93 degrees and the closest thing I’ve seen to a “jolly man” dressed up in suit is this clown that lingers outside the metro station playing Celine Dion on his flute. 😕Just what I always wanted. An iced latte and memories that will haunt me in my dreams. My Heart Will Go On will just never be the same. 😦Any who, I’ve been making an attempt at getting in the Christmas spirit this December, and in Bangkok, surprisingly, you can find plenty of holiday cheer at any and all of the city’s grand shopping malls. 😀
Shopping malls are the best place to find seasonal decor in Bangkok, with garland, lights and ornaments galore!
Check out the adorable little pumpkin at the mall’s ice rink, riding along with her pop and plastic penguin. So cute! 🐧Thais absolutely love all things cute and themed, so it’s no surprise that the shopping centers have turned into a magical winter wonderland. ❄️⛄
Still, being from Wisconsin, the Christmas season here was feeling a bit too inauthentic and commercialized. I mean, sure, maybe if I stick my face real close to this plastic tree, and spray a bit of seasonal Febreze, I can pretend to smell the pine needles. Hah. 😛Well, as the month progressed, I found myself longing more and more for an authentic Christmas experience. The kind I had enjoyed back home, with actual pine trees, and real snow.
My desperation for an authentic Christmas reached its peak last weekend when I went to Ekamai mall, with its newly opened Snow Town. For roughly 300 baht, you can walk around in a Christmas village with artificial snow. While waiting patiently in the line for my ticket and complimentary snow boots, I had a sudden realization.
I said to myself,
“Pull yourself together, man! Are you really going to pay for snow?”
Honestly, I had spent the last 26 years of my life hibernating from the icy cold, dreading the task of shoveling my car out after each snowstorm.Each winter morning in Wisconsin was spent patiently waiting for my car to defrost, hands plastered to the hot air blower, trying to regain feeling in my digits. 😥
I mean, I’m not going to pay for something I could get at home for free. Hah. 😛
Additionally, I plan to spend next Christmas in Wisconsin, so I think I can wait until then for the real stuff. Patience is a virtue. 😉
Anyway, after that moment, I stopped trying to make Christmas in Thailand something it wasn’t, and realize what I did have here was actually a little bit of a paradise. 😀I decided to embrace this tropical December in Thailand for what it was, and feel fortunate for the opportunity I have to be here. 😀Now that my thoughts have turned positive and I’m choosing to have a “glass half-full” attitude about my current situation, I figured that I might as well fill that glass with wine. 😛Pretty easy to come by in Bangkok, considering Christmas here also means drinking your fair share of holiday spirits. 😉To start, I went to a fancy holiday housewarming party with a few new friends, where we enjoyed grown-up snacks and red wine punch. 🙂
On the way to the party, I also stopped for a tasty beverage at my local 7-Eleven, a cultural phenomena in its own right. 🙂7-Elevens are every corner in Thailand, with over 4,000 in Bangkok alone. This convenience culture is easily addicting, since you can satisfy almost any snack craving, pick up common household items, as well as, pay for both your electric and phone bill. Some stores even have their own coffee shop inside, with proper lattes at an affordable price.
Side note: I can also guarantee you 100% of everything you purchase there will also come in a plastic bag with a plastic straw.
Beer…in a bag…with a straw. There’s first time for everything. Typical food at the 7-Eleven I would refer to as astronaut food, with umpteen flavors of MAMA noodles and other pre-packaged goods.Convenience foods are such a big part of culture here, the children at school commonly use the word ‘waved’ as a verb, to talk about foods they’ve cooked in the microwave oven. This convenience culture has even spread onto the avenues surrounding 7-Eleven, turning most sidewalks into walk-thru fast food joints.
7-Eleven is also a great way to meet local street dogs, since they like to hang by the entrance to feel a bit of the air con when the doors open.We’ve nicknamed this girl Bell, and my co-worker is actually trying to see if Pic-A-Pet will help find her an adoptable home. ❤She’s only a pup and has such a sweet temperament. *fingers crossed*
Anyway, yes, back to the holiday celebrations. 🎄
In addition to a fancy holiday housewarming, I also attended an Irish pub crawl, and along the way, found a pretty sweet bar in Bangkok called Cheap Charlie’s. Cheap Charlie’s Bar is the ultimate Bangkok dive, located in a small alley, barely the size of family’s foyer, filled to the brim with rustic chachkies, pumping out lethal mixers, all at the fixed price of $2. Sold!
After the hangover subsided, we were back to school last Monday, where Assumption College had constructed a larger-than-life nativity manger, leading up to their annual Christmas fair. In case you were wondering, although Assumption is a Catholic school, the majority of students are Buddhist and religion plays a minimal role in school life. Other than the occasional posted prayer, the curriculum is provided by the Thai Ministry of Education. The main goal of the school is to have children, regardless of religion, receive a quality education and coexist in harmony. ☮
It’s just that peace and tranquility that I enjoy so much about Thailand. 😀
For example, most Thais introduce each other with a greeting called wai, hands clasped together, followed by a slight bow, given as a sign of respect.
The wai is used to say hello and goodbye, plus there a different levels of wai, depending on the status of that person. The most profound wai greeting is reserved for Buddhist monks, which includes a deep bow, often accompanied by a kneel.
Each morning, outside the 7-Eleven, I see people paying respect to the monks, offering them both food and gifts.
This type of merit-making is a way to bring that person happiness and peace. Basic karma. Do good and good things will come to you. 😀
Karma, peace, honor and respect are all highly valued principles in Thai culture.
In fact, although Christmas and New Year are the big celebrations at the end of December, Thais begin the month with an even more famous national celebration, the King’s birthday. 😀King Bhumibol Adulyadej is the country’s longest reigning monarch, and this month, he turned 88 years old. 🎂
The country organized a nationwide event called Bike For Dad. People across the country joined together on a cycling route to show their honor and respect for the king(a.ka. Dad).
Although I didn’t cycle in the event, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to walk in the streets.
Anyway, now that it’s finally the end of December, all of us teachers will be leaving for a two-week, Christmas and New Year, holiday vacation.
Prior to leaving the country, us foreigners had to apply for a reentry permit to guarantee that our visa would not be cancelled up exiting the country.
Basically, it means we hand over a large chunk of change, and get a stamp on our passport. 😛Near the end of the week, all the teachers headed over to immigration to get their stamp. As you can imagine, a huge group of foreigners in their local office was quite the spectacle. 😛
One woman there had her Hello Kitty phone out, snapping pictures of us left and right. Hah. I thought I’d return the gesture and take a photo right back. 😛Afterwards, we all enjoyed a lovely local lunch.
Everything was written in Thai, so I just pointed to a picture on the menu. 😛Some type of noodle soup with squid and shrimp, seasoned with lots of lime and fish sauce. Pretty tasty. 😀Any who, now my passport is stamped, my bags are packed, and I’ll be leaving for Tokyo in just two days.
I have plenty of must-dos on my list when visiting Japan, and you can guarantee that I’ll be blogging all about it when I return. 😀
Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! Wishing you all safe travels and a lovely holiday. 🎅🎁