If you're in Bangkok for the holidays, there's no reason to celebrate Christmas over a bowl of noodle soup or some papaya salad if you don't want to. There are plenty of venues putting together traditional Christmas dinners, from relaxed and casual to lavish and formal. And there are plenty of places to see the Yuletide spirit in other ways, embodied in massive Christmas lights and crazy Christmas shopping deals!
Here are some top picks for celebrating Christmas in Bangkok. Try to book at least a few days in advance so you know you have a place to celebrate!
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Walk and See Bangkok's Christmas Light-ups
The malls in Central Bangkok try to outshine each other with brilliant Christmas lights and illuminated Christmas trees. The biggest and splashiest display can be found on Central World Square in front of the Central World shopping mall (Google Maps | centralworld.co.th): Bangkok's biggest Christmas tree serves as a centerpiece to a dazzling show of Christmas lights, all illuminating open-air beer gardens serving Southeast Asia's best beers.
Walk south down Rachadamri Road to see more Christmas light-ups down Central Bangkok's poshest hotel row: the Anantara Siam Bangkok and Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel provide plenty of Instagrammable photo ops.
Alternatively, head west on Rama I Road to Siam Square, and check out the gorgeous Christmas-themed lights around Siam Paragon, Siam Centre, Siam Discovery and MBK Center Mall, all within easy walking distance of each other.
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Drink with Friends at Bars around Bangkok
What's Christmas without a few drinks between friends? Several places in Bangkok stand ready to welcome drinking revelers looking to celebrate the season.
While festive all year round, backpacker district Khao San Road gets dolled up especially well for Christmas, with trees and lights all along the streets. Special yuletide drinks packages sweeten the deal for tippling friends.
For fancier tipples, visit the upscale bars along Thonglor, or the city's proliferating rooftop bars on top of the city's hotels. Finally, Central World Square puts out a Christmas-only beer garden, taking advantage of the cooler weather and the central Bangkok location.
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Go Shopping at Bangkok's Christmas Markets
If you think Bangkok's shopping is an exercise in excess, just wait till Christmas season introduces themed Christmas markets throughout the city!
German Christmas Market. A fair of over 30 stalls evoking a Teutonic-flavored Weihnachtsmarkt. Held at the Goethe-Institut Thailand building (location on Google Maps | goethe.de), from December 9 to 10, from 4pm to 10pm.
Bonjour French Fair. The French hold up their own with the biggest French trade fair in the city, with 90-plus booths selling imports from France ranging from cheese to baked goods. Held at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre (location on Google Maps | facebook.com/BonjourFrenchFair), from December 14 to 17.
Great Gatsby Christmas Market. Recalling the USA's rowdy 1920s, this Christmas Market offers 150-plus stalls selling artisanal crafts alongside Western and local food and drink hawkers. Held at the K Village Community Mall (location on Google Maps | facebook.com/kvillagebkk), from December 21-25.
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Enjoy Christmas Dinner – On or Off the Water
Some of the city's popular Chao Phraya River cruises offers special Christmas and Christmas Eve dinner cruises. In lieu of Christmas trees and light-ups, you'll see the riverside temples all lit up in their nighttime finery, among them the Wat Arun and the Grand Palace.
Loy Nava Cruises, for one, offers a ten-course traditional Thai meal aboard a historic teakwood rice barge for Christmas Eve sailings. The traditional courses on the buffet, though, mean you may miss out on more traditional Christmas fare. You won't miss out on a festive, celebratory evening though.
If you're looking for a Western-style Christmas dinner, the capital's luxury hotels and restaurants will oblige with grand buffets, many themed to fit one particular Yuletide culinary tradition. Considering the Christmas rush, though, it's good form to reserve your seats at least a week in advance.
Edited by Mike Aquino.