“Tis the season” and all us expats and tourists in Thailand are getting ready for Christmas and New Year’s celebrations! But this time of year can be a mixed bag of emotions for many of us. We sometimes think about what we miss back home and wonder what the holidays in Thailand will be like this year. One can even feel very alone in this often-strange land full of complications and uncertainty. But the future surrounds us every day and we are all very lucky to have the opportunity to dive in and find out what will happen! Thailand is full of fun and adventure and December is one of the highlight months of activities across the country.
Holiday Season in Thailand 2019
Thailand is a Buddhist country, so Christmas is not celebrated as a holiday. But there are still plenty of places to go and things to do to make this time of year unforgettable. New Year’s is a big holiday here, actually one of three- the calendar Near Year, Chinese New Year, and Songkran. During the time of the December holiday festivities, Thailand becomes a wide-open world of eat, drink, and be merry. The malls and shopping areas go all out with decorations and special sales. The hotels throw glamorous gala events and host lavish buffets. And the bars and clubs are literally crawling with revellers drinking and dancing the night away. The height of the tourist season in Thailand packs a lot of party during the season to be jolly!
What is Different about Holiday Season in Thailand?
The big difference between here and there at the holidays is the traditions. In the Christian west there is a big run-up to Christmas and then a week-long build-up to New Year’s. In Europe, there are big feast days and many Christmas markets in all the towns and cities. Latin America celebrates with processions, daily chorus singing, and special foods. North America goes wild with shopping and has Christmas themed plays, shows, and movies to enjoy. And all over the Christian world “Presepio” or, nativity, displays representing the birth of Jesus are everywhere. Thailand is Buddhist, so there is none of this kind of “spirit” around this day. New Year’s is also different in that not much time is spent going over the events of the past year. Instead, Thailand goes all out with a hopeful fervour for the coming new year.
What Does Thailand Have for the Holidays?
Thailand has the escape from classic western holiday tradition! The weather is great this time of year, warm and dry almost all over the country, and certainly no snow. Thailand opens its tourism arms for all to come and get a getaway, offering something for everyone. There is so much to do at the beaches, the big cities, and all the unique places throughout the country. Expats can be a tourist again and go to places they normally don’t go in their daily lives here. It is especially cool to host friends and relatives and go touring around with them. Thailand puts on many special events for the holidays just for this reason. There are special activities, parties, concerts, and events just for the people getting away from their traditional boundaries.
Five Things to Do for Christmastime in Thailand
1- Go Shopping!
The places to be at Christmastime in Thailand are the shopping malls with all the wonderful decorations. There aren’t lights and trees everywhere, but the malls put on excellent displays that are fun for the whole family. In Bangkok, Icon Siam- a relatively new mall, and Asiatique are great spots to go on the waterfront. Chatuchak weekend market is fantastic, and further downtown, Siam Paragon and MBK Plaza are too. But Central World is the best mall for Christmas spirit. They have the largest Christmas tree in the city, light tunnels, dazzling lasers, and even an ice-skating rink! Yes, Christmas in Thailand is commercial just like the rest of the world. Things are pretty well priced and there are sales but don’t expect deep discounting like in the USA. You don’t necessarily go to the malls for bargains, you go for the experience.
2 – Go to the Beaches
The beaches in Thailand are what makes the holidays a holiday. Phuket is great this time of year because of the party scene that goes on there all year round. It is a little better in December because the bars and hotels offer holiday time specials on drinks and food. Krabi is also great anytime, but at Christmas, it is the relaxed holiday getaway that you may be looking for. Pattaya is also really cool this time of year simply because there is more to do for the whole family. Being close to Bangkok, it also is the place to conserve time as you try to take in both places. Samui is a destination unto itself. If Bangkok is not your thing, it is best to go straight there from BKK airport. Samui is the luxury paradise of Thailand and Christmas there is special for romance and pampering, not for drink prices.
3 – See More of Thailand
The good weather in December makes Christmastime a great time to be a tourist away from tourist areas. For instance, this is the ideal time to go camping! Go to one of the amazing National Parks in Thailand and be outdoors while it is not so oppressively hot. And since Christmas isn’t really a holiday in Thailand, the parks aren’t so crowded, even on weekends. Nature tours are great this time of year for the same reason. Thailand’s natural beauty will impress family visitors travelling with you, and they will be comfortable at the same time. Also tour Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, and Samut Prakan, they all involve being outside. For the really adventurous types, the good weather is perfect for motorbike tours. Previous experience in riding a motorbike is essential because Thailand roads can be dangerous. But it is so much fun and you see the country up close and personal this way.
4 – Go Gala
Christmas holiday in Thailand may not really be a “Holiday” but it still a great time to dress up and go out. Many of the big hotels have great gala events and holiday buffets with all the foods you may be missing. Bangkok is especially swanky on the high-end party scene. For something different, contact your embassy and ask if they are sponsoring a holiday event. Embassy parties are really good intellectual affairs, and the expat community can stay in touch with their country and countrymen. Also, there are many elegant dining spots everywhere you go, featuring international menus to wine and dine around holiday time. So, bring that dress, take out your dinner suit, and go somewhere!
5 – Visit Old-World Traditions
There are two things you can do in Thailand that harken back to the traditions of Christmas we all know. One is to go visit Santa Clause with the kids. He makes regular appearances at K Village on Sukhumvit 26 and also shuttles over to nearby Nameebooks on Sukhumvit 31. And on his breaks, he shows up at the various malls. Since he does this in his spare time you should check websites for when he will be where. The other thing is to go to a church service. These are rarer since Christians make up less than 1% of the population, but there are at least 5 places we can recommend. St. Louis Church, Assumption Cathedral, and Christ Church are in Silom. Holy Redeemer is near Ploen Chit, and there is Santa Cruz Church (Kudi Chin) in Thon Buri District. These are in Bangkok, check websites for other places.
Five Things to Do for New Year’s in Thailand
1 – Rooftop Bars in Bangkok
Bangkok has many great rooftop bars that are all are special on New Year’s Eve! These places can be quite pricy, but the memory of a fireworks party from a rooftop view is priceless. Two of the best are the well-known Skybar, and the newer Mahanakon Skywalk, the highest public viewpoints in Bangkok. But there are many other great ones like “Above 11” at Centre Point, Pathumwan Princess Hotel, and Vertigo at the Banyan Tree. You want to get to see the fireworks display at midnight and take in the lights of the whole city. Anyplace that is high up is perfect even if it not actually a “Rooftop” bar. Millennium Hilton is a good example and the Centara also has an excellent view. Another good spot is The Champagne Bar Waldorf Astoria Bangkok @ MQDC Magnolia Ratchadamri Boulevard Building. Go Online and see what is still available if you haven’t already booked. Our advice is to choose a spot and contact the place directly to get the best info.
2 – The Countdown in Bangkok
The Countdown is Bangkok’s answer to times square dropping the crystal ball at midnight. There is not anyone specific event for this, it is actually a city-wide thing. But the biggest countdown gathering is the one at CentralWorld mall where over 100,000 people are expected. The family-friendly spot to tick off the seconds to midnight is at the Asiatique waterfront and Icon Siam. The clubs on Khao San Road, RCA, and Sukhumvit 11 are the places to really blow your mind with drinking and dancing. But almost everywhere will have a New Year’s Rockin’ Eve just like New York will 12 hours later.
3 – Ring in 2020 on an Island
We’ve already mentioned a couple of good spots for Christmas, and these will be really hopping on Thailand New Year’s too. But the top of the chart place has to be Koh Phangnan, home of the full moon party. It will not actually be a full moon on NYE this year, but the party will be as wild as ever just the same. Haad Rin Beach will be host to thousands of fanatical partiers from all over the world. Live bands, outdoor raves, and heavy drinking are some of the hallmarks of this wild place in the sea. So many other Islands will be just like this but without the extreme. For example, if you can get on Ko Phi Phi, it might be even better, just not as hallucinogenic. Find more about Thailand Islands in our posts here.
4 – Go Up to Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is perhaps Thailand’s “Second City”. But on Thailand New Year’s Eve, it doesn’t take second place, it just happens to be further out in the country. Chiang Mai is more subdued than Bangkok, more spiritual, but it’s still in Thailand, so they party there too! However, the party there is considered more sophisticated this isn’t the rooftop bar place or the blow your mind spot. The big thing is the lantern loft. Everybody has a lantern made of rice paper, and they all float it up to the sky at midnight. The effect is more moving than the fireworks in Bangkok (there are fireworks in CM too) a truly memorable light show. Chiang Mai also has a better bar scene than you might think. The city lights up with great bands and DJ music and supports a good pub crawl just like Sukhumvit.
5 – See the Fireworks
The fireworks this year are going to be huge. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is going all out to make Bangkok, and Thailand, a premier Thailand New Year’s destination. TAT, in partnership with Icon Siam, True, and Kasikorn Bank will spend somewhere around 500 million Baht (16+ Million USD). The Fireworks are going to be set off over a 1400-meter span from Chaloem park to Asiatique waterfront. Anywhere along this route will be prime fireworks viewing if you are not at one of the rooftop spots. The Dinner cruise boats in the river will be great too. The Theme this year is “The Seven Wonders of Blessings” so the fireworks will be broken up into 7 different displays over about 40 minutes. Also interesting is that the fireworks are made with a Japanese technology using Thai sticky rice as the main ingredient.
Enjoy Thailand in the Holiday Season
The holiday season in Thailand will be fantastic this year with so much on the plate. Choosing what to do will be hard because the options are almost endless. Through Christmas, there is time to relax and make the most of whatever it is you like. At New Year’s the “countdown” will be on for you to scramble and decide exactly where you want to be. There is a tremendous rush of excitement in the planning and the fun part is getting out and experiencing it. Thailand truly offers joy to the world this holiday season, so enjoy, and revel in all there is to offer!