With some 95% of Thais being Buddhist & only 1/2% being Christian its little wonder Christmas Day is a work day & a traditional Christmas dinner hard to find!
About an hour north of Chiang Mai lies Chiang Dao a quiet hamlet more famous for its magnificent mountain the largest limestone mountain in Thailand & caves. There's a restaurant nearby run by an Englishman & his Thai wife who worked for many years in restaurants in England. I had an inkling that Christmas would be catered for & that the Christmas pudding & mince pies would be good! We booked for Christmas eve & knowing we'd be 'wounded' for Christmas Day lunch as well!
Pleased we did; the restaurant has ambience, great food & they know how to entertain. The place was packed & lived up to expectations. Christmas eve was a massive buffet, BBQ, smorgesbord accompanied by much merriment & wonderful 'local' entertainment. One of the hilltribes, the Lisu, sent a group of girls to dance & in turn everyone joined in. Watching these guys from another era/another world impacts greatly on you, the colour of their attire is nothing short of fantastic, their pride & sence of community quite moving....
A couple of tribal elders accompanied the girls & I tested my recently acquired Thai with the old man who played a flute central to the dancing made from bamboo & watermelon. He told me the girls were his nieces & that the woman with them was their grandmother - a usual Lisu configuration as under Lisu custom its highly frowned upon for someone to make a 'move' on a girl in the presence of an older male member of her family. It didn't stop Marc, though, in thanking them for asking him to dance, takng them to the 'Shots Stop' where only a sniff of sambuka & a few vodkas had them all giggling very loudly!
Up late & wounded as predicted we headed straight back for Christmas Day lunch, a wonderful family effort, with Santa Claus present, a delicious traditional lunch, some gifts & plenty of entertainment.
Recovery next day was spent looking about the magnificent Doi Chiang Dao. Spectacular, full of caves, some 14klms long & many not yet explored, Wat Tham Pha Pong - a buddhist monastery high up in the hills in one of the caves - what a spot (after over 500 steps up!) Sensational!
The views were so good we decided to make a tour around the mountain via a little used road through a national park, & lo & behold we ended up at the village where the Lisu that danced on christmas eve live. This is some of the best mountain scenery in Thailand. I'm looking into the possibility of a 'home-stay' knowing how beautiful it would be to look out high up over a bed of clouds!
We were told over dinner of a cave out past Pai where at sunset millions of bats fly in virtually blocking out the light, of how sundry hawks fly in to attack, of bats falling to the waters of the cave where massive carp jump out to devour them, of red, eyeless fish that climbs walls in the waterfalls.....now that's something we have to see!!!
We're heading to Pai; it was Christmas & not April 1 after all!