The phrase “wish you were here” has never been more true on this trip than it was during this Christmas season. As nice as it was to relax at the beach on Christmas Day, it doesn’t compare to enjoying the holiday with family and friends. We still decorated our little tree, downloaded some classic holiday movies, left cookies and coconut milk for Santa, and exchanged small presents we can hopefully cram into our suitcases. We also went by the Koh Samui Dog and Cat Rescue Center, our regular volunteer gig, to give the animals some Christmas Day cheer. It was a fun day, but didn’t quite feel like Christmas. No matter what the advanced telecommunications companies try to advertise, phone calls and video chats just aren’t the same as being there.
However, the saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” also rings true. Missing traditions and family this year will make us that much more appreciative of them when we get back. Even those holiday nuisances, like seeing store decorations going up right after Labor Day or hearing Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” EVERY SINGLE time I turn on the radio, might actually feel a little fun and nostalgic next year.
Being a predominantly Buddhist country, Thailand doesn’t have any unique Christmas traditions. It’s just a normal day here, although schools sometimes have little celebrations or dances on December 25th for fun. References to the holiday are made primarily for the western tourists. We did have the amusement of hearing some very unique versions of Christmas carols playing in stores and restaurants. Think last scene in the movie “A Christmas Story.”
A few days before Christmas we also had Emily’s birthday celebration on the calendar. Our last birthday of this trip was in June when Liv celebrated turning 8. Back then we were in Andorra with our extended family and had cousins there to make the day feel like a true party. I expected Emily’s birthday might be a bit of a letdown since a “party” definitely wouldn’t be in the cards. However, we were lucky enough to have some new friends who helped make her big day feel special. We met Uma, Steve, and their daughter, Cassidy, when we popped into their nearby restaurant for a quick dinner one evening and wound up staying over 4 hours for the weekly “Trivia Night.” We had Emily’s birthday lunch at their restaurant, complete with the homemade birthday cake and candles Uma provided.
Then we followed their family to a place called Paradise Park Farm. Sitting atop one of Koh Samui’s tallest peaks, this petting zoo offered some unique animals, garden walks, gorgeous panoramic views, and even a pool. The girls spent the afternoon feeding deer, cuddling little squirrels and holding large lizards. Having been raised in captivity, all of these animals clearly loved humans. One beautiful cockatoo named Molly would even point to the place she wanted you to scratch for her and contort her little feathered body around until you found just the right spot. For the animal-lover birthday girl, it turned out to be a very memorable day.