Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

My Family’s Best Christmas Abroad

Wendy Perrin | December 17, 2017

The Christmas-New Year’s school break is one of the few times of the year when families can carve out enough time to go far away. This means we may end up in a very different culture and landscape than your usual Christmas fare. Many WendyPerrin.com readers are spending the holiday in far-flung places like Vietnam, Argentina, Japan, and New Zealand. The location of my own family’s best Christmas abroad was even more remote—but we recommend it for an awesome holiday!  Can you guess where we were, based on the photos in the slide show below?

Our eclectic Christmas included:

  • Santa Claus arriving not by sleigh but by WaveRunner. He brought gifts for all the hotel’s younger guests. No matter what the kids’ nationalities or faiths—and they came from Russia, the United Arab Emirates, France, India, Thailand, and Qatar—they were thrilled to welcome Santa.
  • Christmas morning at a local charity that feeds, clothes, and educates children living in extreme poverty. We brought gifts and supplies from home. Check out the videos below to see how much fun giving back when you travel can be.
  • Christmas afternoon at an estate built by the country’s most famous architect, one of the founders of a unique tropical Asian school of architecture.
  • Christmas dinner of fresh-caught seafood al fresco by torchlight on the beach.
  • A Christmas-cookie-decorating contest judged by the hotel’s top chef.
  • And a lot more.

Click through our clue-filled photo album, then in the comment space guess where we were. For extra credit, guess not just the country but the hotel!  Tell us also:  Where was your own favorite Christmas, and why?

A 130-pound Santa arrived at our hotel on Christmas Eve, thrilling young guests of all religions.
A 130-pound Santa arrived at our hotel on Christmas Eve, thrilling young guests of all religions.
Clue #2: Note the open-air design of the resort’s lobby and its batik textiles.
Clue #2: Note the open-air design of the resort’s lobby and its batik textiles.
Clue #3: When guests arrive, they’re welcomed with a dance. (For the music and movement, see the first video below.)
Clue #3: When guests arrive, they’re welcomed with a dance. (For the music and movement, see the first video below.)
Clue #4: Santa came by WaveRunner, speeding past a mosque, a church, and a stupa en route.
Clue #4: Santa came by WaveRunner, speeding past a mosque, a church, and a stupa en route.
Santa brought enough gifts for every child—and the gifts were substantial: Doug, my 13-year-old, got a radio-controlled car.
Santa brought enough gifts for every child—and the gifts were substantial: Doug, my 13-year-old, got a radio-controlled car.
The kids got to make Christmas cookies in the kids’ club.
The kids got to make Christmas cookies in the kids’ club.
Then the hotel held a Christmas-cookie-decorating contest.
Then the hotel held a Christmas-cookie-decorating contest.
The kids’ contest was deemed important enough to be judged by both the hotel’s executive chef and its pastry chef.
The kids’ contest was deemed important enough to be judged by both the hotel’s executive chef and its pastry chef.
First prize was a chocolate Christmas tree. Charlie, my 14-year-old, won!
First prize was a chocolate Christmas tree. Charlie, my 14-year-old, won!
Christmas morning began with breakfast. Every Western breakfast food was available, but I always prefer to eat like the locals.
Christmas morning began with breakfast. Every Western breakfast food was available, but I always prefer to eat like the locals.
After breakfast we visited a local charity that provides food, clothing, education, and medical support to children living in extreme poverty. A lot of homes here were wiped out by a tsunami in 2004.
After breakfast we visited a local charity that provides food, clothing, education, and medical support to children living in extreme poverty. A lot of homes here were wiped out by a tsunami in 2004.
We brought gifts and played games. This is Pin the Eye on the Elephant.
We brought gifts and played games. This is Pin the Eye on the Elephant.
This bat-and-ball game is called rounders. Watch the videos below to see what else we did and how much fun we had.
This bat-and-ball game is called rounders. Watch the videos below to see what else we did and how much fun we had.
Group portrait.
Group portrait.
In the afternoon we explored the lush estate that the country’s iconic architect built as his country home. It’s 90 minutes from the capital city (where he designed the parliament building).
In the afternoon we explored the lush estate that the country’s iconic architect built as his country home. It’s 90 minutes from the capital city (where he designed the parliament building).
The architect liked to bring the outdoors in, blending nature and design.
The architect liked to bring the outdoors in, blending nature and design.
The gardens are a tropical paradise. Check out the height of the trees next to Doug.
The gardens are a tropical paradise. Check out the height of the trees next to Doug.
Begun in 1947, the gardens were the architect’s experimental laboratory for new ideas.
Begun in 1947, the gardens were the architect’s experimental laboratory for new ideas.
We’re in a wet tropical zone where temps range from about 80 to 90 degrees.
We’re in a wet tropical zone where temps range from about 80 to 90 degrees.
Here’s another clue for you.
Here’s another clue for you.
The estate doubles as a country house hotel with five guest suites. They were serving Christmas lunch.
The estate doubles as a country house hotel with five guest suites. They were serving Christmas lunch.
Back at our hotel, note the architectural similarities. In 1995 the architect who built the estate you just saw was commissioned to design this luxury resort. He died before he could finish; years later, one of his protégés took over the project.
Back at our hotel, note the architectural similarities. In 1995 the architect who built the estate you just saw was commissioned to design this luxury resort. He died before he could finish; years later, one of his protégés took over the project.
Note how the resort’s open-air design reflects the deceased architect’s vision.
Note how the resort’s open-air design reflects the deceased architect’s vision.
The hotel’s pool
The hotel’s pool
Late-afternoon view of the beach from the pool
Late-afternoon view of the beach from the pool
One of the hotel’s signature offerings is a private dinner on the beach. This was ours.
One of the hotel’s signature offerings is a private dinner on the beach. This was ours.
Check out the canoe filled with fresh-caught seafood to be grilled.
Check out the canoe filled with fresh-caught seafood to be grilled.
In the lobby on Christmas night, a blend of East meets West.
In the lobby on Christmas night, a blend of East meets West.
They sure went to a lot of trouble with the holiday decorations.
They sure went to a lot of trouble with the holiday decorations.
More of those chocolate Christmas trees, to be delivered to each guest room. Yum.
More of those chocolate Christmas trees, to be delivered to each guest room. Yum.
The next day we left to explore other parts of the country. It’s local custom to tie a string around your wrist as a blessing, for good luck.
The next day we left to explore other parts of the country. It’s local custom to tie a string around your wrist as a blessing, for good luck.
The final farewell blessing.
The final farewell blessing.

 

And, for a sense of the country’s language, music, dancing, and lovely people—as well as how to make an overseas Christmas fun and memorable—I offer up a few videos too:

If you’d like ideas for your own fabulous overseas Christmas, I’m happy to help over at Ask Wendy.

 

Airline Travel

The Best Airport Restaurants in the U.S.

Billie Cohen | November 25, 2015

Plan a Trip

Where to Go in December: The Best Places to Travel

Brook Wilkinson | November 28, 2017

Airline Travel

15 Problem-Solving Items for Overnight Flights

Wendy Perrin | April 4, 2016

3 Comments

  1. Phil Carta

    Looks like Sri Lanka based on local style and costumes … and the Anantara Kalutara resort, halfway between Colombo and Galle. Wonderful island. Wonderful people. I’ll have to try it in the winter sometime.

  2. Shelley Fry

    What a fun and eclectic Christmas, Wendy! While I almost always wake up in my own bed on Christmas morning, one of my favorite holidays ever was when I took my 18-year-old daughter to the Falklands, South Georgia Island, and Antarctica aboard the Ocean Endeavour. We decorated our cabin with twinkle lights, hung miniature stockings from the lights over the desk, and fashioned a snowflake wreath to decorate our door. The kitchen staff even made a giant gingerbread house for the dining room. We thought it couldn’t get any better when we saw a Southern Right Whale and it snowed in the Southern Ocean on Christmas Eve, but on Christmas morning we awoke to an announcement that there were dozens of orcas around our ship. They turned out to be rarely-seen Type D orcas. What a gift! I could not have planned a more magical holiday, and I look forward to more adventurous Christmases in the years to come.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>