Christmas in Thailand
We chose the best place to spend Christmas abroad, everything in Thailand was so easy compared to our travels through South Asia. We basically treated it as a two week holiday from travelling (ridiculous I know!). We landed in Bangkok pretty late and drove to our hotel in the midst of bustling Chinatown. Immediately we hit the streets and followed our noses to one of the many street stalls serving up aromatic Chinese and Thai food. It was so much warmer than Nepal and our bodies welcomed the heat after our cold nights trekking in the Himalayas.
We spent a couple of days in Bangkok, mostly so we could buy some things that we had run out of, broken or lost along the way. I'm not normally a mall person at all, but after 3 months of travelling I quite appreciated strolling through the air-conditioned shopping meccas of Bangkok. We even managed to pick up a few Christmas gifts for each other (a watch for Sander & some jewels and clothes for me). I was also pretty excited to come across a store selling Aesop products, my skin was especially happy that we had a few days in Bangkok ;)
Other than losing hours of our lives in a shopping Mall we did a little bit of sight-seeing. We visited Wat Pho as well as joining thousands of other tourists at the Grand Palace. I can confirm that they are both very gold and shiny. Bangkok is good for a couple of days, but the traffic soon becomes quite trying and we were ready to head North to Chiang Mai for a relaxed Christmas.
I last visited Chiang Mai 11 years ago, and not much has changed in terms of the general atmosphere. Although I do recall it being more back-packery last time, it seems like a more sophisticated, grown-up version of its younger self. Boutique hotels and hipster cafes have sprouted up all over the place and we made good use of both. We stayed in the beautiful HongKhao Village, a small hotel with a lovely (freezing) pool in the middle.
We visited some great restaurants in Chiang Mai. Our favourites were Rustic & Blue for vegetarian food and fun decor; Klerm coffee for strong coffee, riverside location and amazing food; David's Kitchen for a glamorous and delectable Christmas lunch; Ginger & Kafe for some of the best Thai food we've ever eaten; Angel's Kitchen for healthy Thai food, and finally The Service 1921 restaurant for cocktails as the sun sets over the river.
Other than eating our way around the city we also enjoyed a spa day (it was all about indulgence). As soon as you step into Fah Lanna you leave all your worries behind you as they float away on a ginger scented cloud. Bamboo and wooden walkways are suspended over water lily ponds with Lanna accents dotted throughout. It's a thoughtfully designed space with beautiful massage rooms. We both opted for an hour long massage and I had a Christmas pedicure too.
Chiang Mai is an easy city to walk around, you can spend a day walking from the various religious sites dotted around the city and visiting the colourful food markets. Sander took advantage of some of the street food on offer whilst I spent my time petting friendly cats that appeared around every corner.
We had such a fun time in these two cities and were quite sad to leave Chiang Mai but were equally excited to head to Koh Lanta and the beach for New Year's eve.