Marco Polo’s 24 Holiday traditions from around the world – Day 11: Christmas in Thailand

It’s Day 11 of our Advent Calendar and today we are taking a break from all the typical Christmas destinations and heading off to… Thailand! Did you miss yesterday’s post? Check it out here!

CHRISTMAS IN THAILAND

For those who feel like escaping the traditional Christmas celebrations, Thailand is the place to be. As a Buddhist country, Thailand does not celebrate Christmas, though many hotels and restaurants do cater to the tourists who miss Christmas at home. Of course, Christmas in Thailand is the perfect opportunity to trade in the turkey for some Thai curry and the eggnog for a tropical cocktail or Thai craft beer. No incessant Christmas music to be heard, no obligatory family visits; instead you can video call your family back at home by the pool.

Even if you do love the traditional Christmas with the pudding, crackers and Christmas carols, sometimes it is good to take a break from the tradition, if only to appreciate it even more the next time. And who knows, you might just make some new friends among the other tourists at the hotel’s Christmas party!

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Thailand Marco Polo Guide

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10 reasons to go back to Thailand

Thailand remains one of our ultimate favourite travel destinations. The food, the culture, the people, the beauty of it all – really, the only reason to leave Thailand is so you can return! Here is Marco Polo’s list of ten reasons to go back to Thailand, or visit for the first time if you haven’t already:

Thailand Marco Polo Guide

1.  Life is too short not to come back to Thailand, the most beautiful country in the world.

2. The brochures call it a slice of heaven on earth – and they’re right!

3. Spend your summers in Europe and escape the winter by heading to Thailand.

4. What more could you want than two oceans boasting 3,000 km of tropical coast.

5. Thailand is so cheap that you can still have incredible experiences on a budget.

6. With museums, events and over 25,000 temples, you’ll never run out of things to do.

7. Showing consideration for other peoples’ feelings is a fundamental cornerstone of Thai society.

8. Thailand has the best curries to be found anywhere in the world.

9. You won’t fail to notice that sanuk joie de vivre – is a vital element of Thai life.

10. When you visit the “Land of Smiles” you’ll feel welcome from the first minute to the last.

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Thailand Marco Polo Guide

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Only in Bangkok

Bangkok is not just another large city; Bangkok is a universe in itself. Typically Thai
on the one hand yet very cosmopolitan on the other. A city that unifies a traditional
past with a modern life, one that captures the past and anticipates the future.

Here is our list of unique experiences to be had in Bangkok!

Bangkok

Life on a canal

‘Venice of the East’ is no cliché: canals or khlongs spread throughout the Thonburi district like a giant spider web. Take a long-tail boat tour and see the old shingle-covered teak stilt houses.

Exquisite travesty

You will see transvestites everywhere in Bangkok – the ladyboys
are out and proud in this tolerant metropolis – and the most beautiful of them can be found at the Calypso Cabaret. Dressed in opulent outfits they give their audience an action packed show.

The budget traveller

The Khao San Road is loud, colourful and unique not only in Bangkok, but worldwide – and all the international backpackers meet here. Explore this iconic mile where a party takes place every night at the hippest bars.

Midnight snack

Fast food on the pavement: Bangkok’s street cooks prepare delicious snacks and even full meals right on the road. For the haute cuisine of street food go to Soi 38 in Sukhumvit Road, where they serve delicious gourmet food at midnight.

Palace of palaces

Many royals had palaces built in Bangkok but none is grander than the Grand Palace. This fairy tale building with its Wat Phra Kaeo temple is an absolute must. It is an architectural testimony to the close bond between the Thai monarchy and Buddhism.

Tailor-made

At first glance every second shop in Bangkok appears to be a tailor. But be warned: not everyone is a master of his trade. The ones offering tempting bargains and those with touts at the door are best avoided. A better bet would be to go to a reputable professional like Pinky Tailor.

 

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Bangkok Marco Polo Guide

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Only in Phuket

Stunning beaches and jungle, colourful markets and gigantic shopping temples, a dizzy nightlife and an island capital where the old quarter is being transformed into a lively open-air museum – no wonder Phuket is such a popular holiday destination. The whole world comes here. The island draws more than five million tourists each year. The super-rich anchor their luxury yachts, and regular holidaymakers too relax on Phuket, having a good time and learning from the Thais that life is nicer when lived with a smile.

Phuket Marco Polo Guide

Discover what unique experiences can be had with our list of things you can only do in Phuket!

Colonial atmosphere
Thailand has never been a colony, yet in Old Phuket Town you can definitely sense a colonial atmosphere. A stroll through this old quarter reveals many historic buildings in the Sino-Portuguese style. In Soi Rommani you will find one little gem after another.

Ride the waves
A trip across the waves from beach to beach or to an offshore island is an essential part of a holiday in Phuket. On Rawai Beach a whole armada of longtails awaits customers.

Breach the peace
Buddhist monasteries are generally tranquil places in Thailand. In Wat Chalong, however, noise is part of the experience. Visitors set off chains of fireworks – to express gratitude for wishes fulfilled. You too can make a bang in the monastery, as the fireworks are sold on site.

Sail in the Andaman Sea
The Andaman Sea is Asia’s number one sailing region, and nowhere will you see more yachts at anchor than off Phuket. Go on board! On the noticeboards of restaurants and bars in the bays of Ao Sane and Chalong, and on Nai Harn Beach, sailors post offers of trips on their private boats.

Bar hopping
The centre of nightlife in Phuket is Soi Bangla on Patong Beach. Hundreds of bars are lined up one next to the other, most of them no more than a counter with a roof above it. No other place in Thailand presents such a lively, uninhibited scene at night, with a carnival atmosphere wherever you look.

It doesn’t hurt a bit
They stick spikes and hooks into their bodies and feel no pain. Pilgrims at the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket Town have entered a trance. Visitors from the West can’t exclude the possibility that it might hurt just to look.

 

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Phuket Marco Polo Guide

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Top 10 Things To Do In Thailand

Marco Polo’s list of the top 10 things not to be missed in Thailand! Our best recommendations – from the top down – help you to plan your tour of Thailand’s most important sights.

Thailand Marco Polo Guide

1. GRAND PALACE, WAT PHRA KAEO
The Wat Phra Kaeo temple complex and the Royal Palace are regarded as the crowning achievements of Thai architecture.

2. CHIANG MAI
With over 100 temples and surrounded by moats, the Old Town is the perfect place for long,
exploratory walks.

3. TREKKING
Few travellers will be able to resist setting out on foot or atop an elephant for a trek through
the jungle and mountains of the far north, stopping to visit the villages of indigenous mountain
folk along the way.

4. SUKHOTHAI
Containing the ruins of more than 200 temples and palaces, the Sukhothai Historical Park is the most impressive World Heritage Site in the Kingdom.

5. KRABI
The flora and fauna of the tropics are at their most spectacular in Krabi Province, and the beaches framed by bizarre limestone formations south of Ao Nang are the best in the whole of Asia.

6. KHAO SOK NATIONAL PARK
Sensational limestone shapes rise from the jungle, reaching an altitude of up to 1000m (3280ft). It’s straight out of a fairy tale!

7. CHAO PHRAYA
The stretch of river between the Bangkok National Museum and the Wat Arun is packed with major attractions.

8. KO SAMUI, KO PHANGAN & KO TAO
The tropical island of Ko Samui is regarded as the best beach hotspot in Southeast Asia, Ko Phangan has the biggest beach parties in the world, and Ko Tao is a fantastic place for diving.

9. AO PHANG NGA
At 400km² (250mi²) in size, this world-famous bay sits like a vast cauldron in the Andaman Sea – don’t miss taking a boat trip into this wonderful island world.

10. KO PHI PHI
These twin islands were once declared some of the most beautiful islands on earth. Phi Phi Ley became famous in 2000 when it served as the set for Leonardo DiCaprio’s thriller, The Beach.

 

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Thailand Marco Polo Guide

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Low Budget Bangkok

Discover the bustling city of Bangkok on a budget with Marco Polo’s top money saving tips:

 Bangkok Marco Polo Guide

Sightseeing

The Chuvit Garden off of the hubbub of Sukhumvit Road is a lovely place to relax. It is a private park that belongs to a wealthy man who doesn’t charge an admission fee. The park is particularly peaceful and atmospheric in the early evenings when the lanterns are lit.

Tourists have to pay an admission fee in Bangkok’s most renowned temples but off the beaten track you can find wonderful monasteries that do not require a donation. One of the best is the Wat Bonwon Wiwet Monastery, which is a peaceful green oasis with exquisite murals and ponds full of fish and turtles. Daily 9am–6pm | Free admission | Phra Sumen Rd | Near Khao San Rd | Saen Saep khlong boat: Tha Phanfa

Discover Designs from all over the world at the Thailand Creative & Design Centre. View the international highlights from a variety of fields – ranging from the Vespa to the Barbie doll. This creative centre, which is supported by the government, contributes towards making Bangkok a design metropolis. There is a lovely café with a gorgeous view of the city, a souvenir shop and also a library of 25,000 (mostly English) books about art, architecture and design. The TCDC is situated in the upmarket Emporium shopping centre and is a popular meeting place for creative young Thais. Tue–Sun 10.30am–9pm | Free admission | 6th floor of the Emporium shopping centre | Sukhumvit Rd, Soi 24 | www.tcdc.or.th | Skytrain: Phrom Pong (direct entry)

 

Eating Out

Affordable gourmet cuisine: the restaurants in the city’s top hotels all compete for custom and many offer excellent and reasonably priced lunch menus. For as little as 400 baht you can dine in high-class restaurants. See the ‘Bangkok Post’ for all the special offers.

Massive choice at minimum prices: the large shopping centres all offer a huge selection of meals including Thai, Chinese, Indian, and Mediterranean cuisines. Some of the best are: Siam Paragon, Central World, Emporium, Mah Boonkrong (all on the Skytrain route).

Cabbages and condoms: Don’t be put off by the name of this restaurant nor the framed condoms on the wall. The restaurant is run by a birth control and AIDS prevention organisation and everyone receives a condom with the bill. They serve Thai food that has just the right level of spiciness for the Western palate. There is also the option to dine outside in the tropical garden. Open Daily | 10 Sukhumvit Rd, Soi 12 | Tel. 0 22 29 46 10 | www.pda.or.th/restaurant | Skytrain: Nana | MRT: Sukhumvit

 

Shopping

Street vendors do their shopping at the Bo Beh Market where you can buy jeans and T-shirts for next to nothing. Items are usually sold in dozens, but you can ask for individual pieces at the discretion of the dealer. Krung Kasem Rd | Saen Saep khlong boat: Tha Charoenrat | Skytrain: National Stadium, then 5 minutes by taxi.

Bangkok’s shopping centres are constantly trying to attract custom by offering discounts. Check up on sale dates in the city’s newspapers: the ‘Bangkok Post’ and ‘The Nation’.

 

Entertainment

Happy Hour in Bangkok’s bars is usually from about 5pm to 8pm and drinks cost 50% less. Posters or bar bouncers will let you know which bars have a happy hour.

Cheap Charlie’s – the name says it all. The only place you will find cheaper beer is at the supermarket! The open air bar is an institution and a favourite among Western patrons. It is outside of the main bar area but still in the middle of the tourist centre. Daily 5pm–midnight | Sukhumvit Rd, Soi 11 (across from the Ambassador Hotel) | Skytrain: Nana

The Dallas Cowboy Pub is the place where live bands perform country and western music. The beer is cheap, the Thai cuisine is spicy and the clientele are usually students. Daily 6pm–1am | 412 Siam Square, Soi 6 | Tel. 0 22 55 32 76 | Skytrain: Siam Central

 

Accommodation 

Even on the supposedly expensive Sukhumvit Road, you can still find very reasonably priced accommodation. The Suk 11 Hostel offers basic rooms (with air-conditioning) from 500 baht. 80 rooms | 1/33 Sukhumvit Rd, Soi 11 (across from the Ambassador Hotel) | Tel. 0 22 53 59 27 | www.suk11.com | Skytrain: Nana

Many hotels offer discounts if you book via their website. Hotel and travel representatives also offer discounts so it is worth making comparisons. Visit www.asiarooms.com and www.latestays.com

The D&D Inn is one of the better bed and breakfasts in the area with rooms that have air-conditioning, a tv and a fridge. There is also a swimming pool. 65 rooms | 68–70 Khao San Rd | Tel. 0 26 29 05 26 | www.khaosanby.com | Saen Saep khlong boat: Tha Phanfa

 

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Bangkok Marco Polo Guide

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Top 10 Romantic Getaways

Looking for a romantic getaway? We have hand-picked the top 10 beaches around the world… only for lovers! Perfect for your honeymoon, anniversary, exotic proposal or just because you want to treat yourself!

Let yourself be inspired by Marco Polo’s top insider tips…

Ⓒ Dumont Photo Archive: Christian Heeb

Ⓒ Dumont Photo Archive: Christian Heeb

 

1. Maya Bay (The Beach), Ko Phi Phi Le, Thailand

The water is turquoise and the traditional long-tail boats come in all sorts of colours. Sheltered by limestone cliffs amidst dense vegetation the water here is so wonderfully warm and salty you feel as if you’re flying. And while on the subject – light a Chinese lantern together and send it off into the starry night with your very own personal wishes.

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2. Bamburgh Beach,  Northumberland, England

Majestic Bamburgh Castle with its massively thick walls towers above the sea. And when the setting sun turns the clouds a dramatic flaming red, this is the perfect moment for a stroll
hand in hand along the beach. You can’t get much more romantic than that, can you?

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3. Godrevy Beach, St Ives, England

The romantically-minded love to sit and admire the view across the awe-inspiring expanse of sandy beach or delve into history on a gentle stroll around the headland, peer into Hell’s Mouth and watch birds soaring over secret coves along the North Cliffs.

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4. Castaway Island, Fiji

Bula! Bula! Welcome to Fiji, to paradise in the South Seas – to a mild, tropical climate where the sand glistens in the sun and crystal-clear water reveals the coral reefs below. This is the perfect place for a romantic getaway. Or even to tie the knot. Walk barefoot along the beach together into the setting sun!

 

5. Île St-Nicolas, France

The azure-blue sea and long white sandy beaches give the Glénan Islands a tropical feel and are perfect for lovers – perhaps Romeo will be able to find a Glénan narcissus for his Juliet. It does not grow anywhere else in the world and flowers between April and June. But it’s not to be picked, just photographed!

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6. Wineglass Bay, Tasmania, Australia

A perfect sweep of white sand that traces an open circle like a glittering ring around the ice-blue water. Wineglass Bay is certainly the best-known gem on Freycinet Peninsula. Wouldn’t that make the perfect backdrop for proposing? And the engagement ring will glisten like the bay on your beloved one’s sun-tanned finger!

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7. Piscinas, Arbus, Sardinia, Italy

If you’re looking for a remote spot to spend some time together then a secluded nest in the middle of dunes (up to 60m/200ft high) is highly recommended. And if you keep very quiet you may spot deer going down to the water. At night, a myriad of stars light up the heavens.

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8. Third Beach, Vancouver, Canada

An experience for the senses: Vancouver’s skyline and sand underfoot, at least your toes in the water in summer and a sea of green conifers. Lovebirds will be in their element when the
sun sinks slowly over the water and the lights of the Big City illuminate the sky.

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9. Ceannabeinne Beach, Durness, Scotland

Pinky red, azure blue and soft shades of beige… all framed by lush grass-green. Scotland’s north is beguiling and especially romantic where the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea meet, on Ceannabeinne Beach. This is where lovers can enjoy peace and quiet together.

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10. Weststrand, Darß, Germany

The beach Weststrand on the Darß peninsula has a wild and romantic air – just what lovers look for. Far from the madding crowd, where the wind and the waves have turned driftwood into beautiful sculptures. The chance of finding amber here is good too. Have the piece of fossilized tree resin polished and give it to your partner as a souvenir.

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Content taken from the Marco Polo World Map with 100 Dream Beaches.

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