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Celebrating Christmas in a Buddhist country might seem counter-intuitive. Less than 2% of the population is Christian and you’ll be hard pressed to find a big Christmas celebration in the country. If you’re looking to celebrate in a low-key way without the commercialism, crowds or gaudy displays of lights, consider a holiday away in Laos. Beautiful vistas, incredible people, and an utter lack of holiday stress await.
Vientiane is full of expats who will be celebrating with Christmas-themed pub crawls, holiday movie nights, trimmed trees and twinkling lights, hosting gift exchanges and visits with Santa. Love Life Ice Cream & Cafe is hosting an all you can eat Christmas Eve buffet. On Christmas Day, O’Grady’s Irish Pub is hosting a sit down plated lunch. Take in the Christmas lights at Vientiane Center and spread some cheer.
Spend Christmas in Vang Vieng and tube down the Nam Song in your Santa hat and listen to the pop covers of carols blaring from the riverside bars. This popular tourist destination makes an effort to doll itself up for December 25, with Christmas trees and lights. All of the best outdoor activities will be on, such as rock climbing, kayaking, hiking and cycling. The best thing? Every bar, restaurant and store is open, no holiday hours to contend with.
If you’re looking to avoid any and all commercialism connected with Christmas, Si Phan Don or 4,000 Islands is your place! You’ll be hard pressed to find an ATM or any modern conveniences on these islands in the Mekong on the Lao-Cambodian boarder. What you will find is beautiful scenery, a relaxed atmosphere, even by the already relaxed Lao standards.
Many tour operators offer multi-day trekking with homestays where visitors get to live and sleep with an ethnic minority family. If you plan a homestay over Christmas, it’s a perfect opportunity to share your religion, and customs with your hosts while they share their traditions and beliefs with you. If you want to bring gifts, consider making a monetary donation to the tribe or bringing school supplies and books for the local school.
Luang Prabang has a large expat community and you’re bound to hear Christmas carolers and see Christmas decorations around the UNESCO heritage portion of town. If you’re feeling fancy, reserve the prix fixe Christmas dinner at l’Elephant or if you’re looking for some equally delicious Christmas cheer that’s less harsh on the wallet, opt for a gingerbread latte and turkey bagel sandwich at Joma Cafe.