Christmas In Thailand 2009

I went to Thailand twice and I just realized that in both occasions, I went there at around Christmas time. What a coincidence!

Thailand is very popular among travellers. It has all the travellers want – low cost but good quality accommodation and food. It is also easy to get around. Culture wise, it’s rich. Landscape wise, it has nice beaches and mountains. Local Thai people are famous for their ‘Thai smile’ (not 100% true but they do smile more often than those people in the west). It’s indeed an ideal place to stay or travel but before 2009, I had never thought of travelling there. Interesting, right? That’s mainly because I had some other places on my priority list. The reason I went there in 2009 was because I was curious about the life of a missionary or a lay missionary. Hence, I joined a group of people from the church and went to visit a lay missionary there. Being a lay missionary, she didn’t stay in Bangkok or any other popular tourist places in Thailand. She stayed in the northern part of Thailand called Lampang. My Thai friends said they had never been there before but they knew that that place was famous for horse-drawn carriages. When we got there, we gave it a try. After all, we were ‘tourists’ even though we had a ‘mission’.

Life of a missionary had always fascinated me. Little did I know that I’d become a volunteer in Cambodia and worked with and made friends with some lay missionaries. I think, after all, we are all humans. As a volunteer, we all worked as we’d do at work but it’s just that we did it for ‘free’*. That’s all. Eventually, this world will go back to a barter system where everyone will do the same – work for resources, not for money which is just a number or a piece of paper.

(*When I say ‘free’, I didn’t mean $0. We were given some contingency money which was not enough for us to enjoy a luxurious spa but enough for us to buy necessities like sanitary pads, toilet paper (by the way, it is a rare good in Cambodia because local people use water instead. So, you can imagine, during COVID-19, they didn’t have the same problem as we had with toilet paper), food and we were given accommodation, occasionally. With that amount of money, I was very careful with my spending. So, sometimes, when there was no accommodation for me, I had to be really careful and researched for the cheapest but clean hostel in Cambodia which was surprisingly quite hard to find in some places such as Phnom Penh.)

I am going to shrink our 7-day trip into this blog. Brace yourself for a long one. Don’t worry, I will share many pictures here. 😊

When we arrived, the lay missionary greeted us and took us around to familiarize ourselves with the surroundings. After that, we’d go wherever she took us including the classrooms in the villages where she taught, etc.

In the market near the centre where the lay missionary worked. This lady was so cute! 😀
They looked delicious!
This was how the sellers packaged the milk. It’s actually very Southeast Asian or Asian. In Cambodia, people put liquid in plastic bags like this too. In China, the street vendors did the same too – they put sauces in plastic bags. Not sure about now. The last time I travelled to China was in 2016 to Shanghai which is a place that is very different from other parts in China.
Even though it was a small town compared to Bangkok, one could find a huge supermarket like this one. It was Christmas time so it wasn’t a surprise for us to see these decorations.

I wonder how many people really understand the meaning of Christmas nowadays. That reminds me of Linus from the Peanuts gang. He even dropped his security blanket when he presented it at one stage. 🙂

Midnight mass on 24 December 2009. The wall was not made of bricks. Take a closer look. I think that’s either bamboo or straws or rattan…?
Mass on Christmas Day
The outdoor altar
Street vendors near the church. Look at the dog! 🙂
The field near the church
One thing good about going to these remote places is that you really get to taste the authentic local food. The noodles tasted so good! Here, the shop owner was preparing some cold drinks for us.
People dressed up for the Mass.
Kids performing after Mass
On 26 December, we went to different places where the lay missionary worked. This was one of the classrooms where she taught the kids. She sometimes stayed over night here, slept on the benches. She didn’t say if she was severely bitten by mosquitoes (that was my experience in Cambodia).

Could the kids speak English? Not really. The mission was not entirely about teaching them English. Teaching was only part of it. The main objective was to inspire the kids (not to convert them) and to show them kindness. Some of the kids were abandoned by their parents. The lay missionary said, ‘some of their fathers are drunkards and domestic violence is common. When the priest says the Father in Heaven loves them like their fathers do, it’s hard for the kids to resonate with it.’ I get that. I think they changed the way the message was conveyed in the end.

However, the lay missionary also told us some teenagers used the kindness of the priests. That made the priests sad but c’est la vie. Like what Mother Teresa said, keep loving people. It shouldn’t stop you from being kind to others.

That’s where the classroom was located – on a beautiful mountain
Flowers found on the mountain

For the whole time, the lay missionary drove us. She drove a pickup truck. It’s very common in Southeast Asia for the passengers to sit in the cargo bed. That’s where we all sat. The kids sat with us too. The roads weren’t very smooth at all so you can imagine what it was like to sit in the cargo bed. Yes, bumpy rides all the time.

We randomly picked a restaurant to have dinner along the river that night. The local food was soooooooooo gooooooooood and it was cheap.

The lay missionary couldn’t read Thai well and we were extremely hungry after a long day so without a second thought, we randomly pointed at something on the menu. The waiter said in Thai with a smile, ‘that’s sauce, not food.’ 🤣

On 27 December, the celebration continued at another church

Christmas is the busiest time for the priests regardless of where they are.

Christmas party
We played games together.
A church in the village
Inside the church. Simple and yet beautiful. You can now see the materials used for the walls.

Everything was very flexible in the village including the time for Mass. The priest would go to the villages on time, sometimes a little late, but in some remote villages, the villagers were not aware of time. So, when the lay missionary arrived in those villages, she hit a gong to assemble the villages. This was what she did when we all arrived there.

Confession. The lay missionary said to us, ‘the villagers told me they all know what each other confesses. They all know what each other has done.’ 😀
Time to play some games.
Performance by the villagers. It was still Christmas so it was still celebration time.
At another village on our second last day. Again, let’s play some games before the Mass.
Yes! Touch the bottle! You win! Don’t worry. Everybody gets a present.
This time, the church in this village was made of wood.
Food again! I think this is candy. The vendor was selling them on her motorbike.
This was where we had our meal.
Inside that house, we found this! The villagers wove inside their house.

Thai silk is very famous. Thanks to Jim Thompson. In fact, all the silk in that southeast Asian region is very similar. Take a look at the one in Cambodia here.

We visited another church on the same day. This painting shows four different ethnic groups living in that region in Thailand.
Let’s play some games after Mass.

This was how I spent Christmas in 2009. It was full of fun and joy and meaning.

As for my second trip in Thailand, it happened after I finished my volunteering assignment in Cambodia in 2019. Wow! Exactly 10 years. Let’s check it out later.

For the time being, check out my other previous blogs.

Guess where I’d go to after Thailand? 😊

Stay tuned. 😊

23 – 29 December 2009

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