Christmas In Chiang Mai

Dec. 19, 2012, Chiang Mai, Thailand: The Thais in Chiang Mai, Thailand, may not understand much about Christmas, but they love to celebrate it.

Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,

This Christmas Vicki and I will be in Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, near where Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand form the so-called Golden Triangle.

Small numbers of Christians and Moslems live in the area, but most local Thais are Buddhists. Thai Buddhists seem to love to celebrate Christmas. I doubt they understand much about the holiday, but what they lack in knowledge they make up in enthusiasm. Some shops, restaurants, and guest houses leave up their "Merry Christmas" and "Happy New Year" signs all year long.

We're in peak tourist season here, with snowbirds from northern Europe filling the guest houses. I'm sure the hospitable Thais celebrate Christmas partly to make us all feel at home.

Our friends Lonnie and Sandi, from Texas, joined us here in Chiang Mai last week. They're traveling around the area until late January. They wrote a Christmas letter to friends back home:

"We will dearly miss eggnog and bubbly with you this year. We're now in Chiang Mai, Thailand, eating noodles in a street stall in front of a Seven Eleven store, hearing 'Frosty the Snowman' waft out into the 87 degree heat.

"(No, I am not making this up.)"

The idea of snow appears to fascinate Thais, most of whom have never seen it. A few years ago our innkeeper stuffed cotton into crevices in his palm trees. "Snow," he said proudly. "Christmas." Think Frosty in the tropics.

A Thai friend, Billy, owns an Italian restaurant here and recently advertised his "Christmas Dinner Menu." He'll offer the menu on both Dec. 24 and 25: glass of sparkling wine, Parma ham and melon, prawns in champagne sauce, roasted Butterball turkey with gravy, mushrooms in cream sauce, and cranberry sauce. For dessert there's panettone with amaretto vanilla sauce, all for 650 baht, or just over US$20. So that's one option for Christmas: turkey dinner in an Italian restaurant cooked by a Thai chef.

Billy advises we make reservations early. He'll likely sell out all 36 seats for dinner both nights.

For our part Vicki and I will celebrate with a small group of American and Thai friends. Due to time changes, we hit Christmas exactly 12 hours before New York, Washington D.C., or Miami.

We'll be thinking of you all in the Western world as we sing our first Christmas song.

Paul Terhorst

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Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.

Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

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