In true Laura style, I didn’t do a whole lot of research before I set out to Thailand. In fact, the only reason I had a hotel in Bangkok long before I arrived is because a friend had told me about the Elephant Nature Park and how it gets booked up quickly, so I had to book that and the nights before that adventure to ensure I could get there on time.
My flight was to Bangkok. When I pictured Bangkok, I pictured a warm climate, tuk tuks and lots of people. Everything else was unimaginable to me. I’ve been to big cities before: New York, London, Rome, Cairo. None of them are comparable to Bangkok. Cairo would be closest, but mainly for the weather.
1. Bangkok is dirty. It is hot. It stinks. And it is not all that exciting. If anyone is thinking of a holiday in Thailand, don’t plan on spending a lot of time in Bangkok. It’s a sprawling city. I stayed in an area that was recommended on a blog, and it’s just plain disappointing. I stayed along the river, which was supposed to be beautiful, but it smelled and was full of plastic trash. It was a 3 mile walk to any of the big sites, I should have stayed near the palace.
It is a tourist trap and things are over priced for what you get compared to other Thai cities. The biggest scam is the long boat tour. It falls on so many lists of ” things to do” but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. You voyage down a tiny water way covered in trash in a loud boat. And then their friends in canoes try to get you to buy your driver a beer. My advice, don’t waste your time or money, if you want to see the water take a water taxi for less than $0.50. I spent over $100 a day there in the two days I was there. I got to town around 11am and left the next day at 5pm….rip off.
2. Chiang Mai is the place to hang out. There are many day trips from Chiang Mai, prices are more reasonable, hotels are nicer, food is better, and it feels more like a happy town. They have street food vendors at the night market, hiking trails, some beautiful temples, and happier people.
3. You really can afford a massage on the daily. Even in Bangkok they are cheap. But outside of Bangkok I’ve only spent about $30 a day including 1 meal, a mid afternoon snack and a massage. I paid 300 baht for a Thai massage at the fanciest place I’ve seen since I’ve been here. That’s $10. For an hour. Dinner is usually the same price.
4. Thai people are so friendly. If you don’t know what to do – smile. That was something I read. And no joke it works. They smile back, they thank you. If you want or need something they will do what is best for you. I need a ride to the airport early for my flight, they offer a van, but since it’s so early and it’s just me, they said a taxi would be cheaper. And since I’m leaving early they will give me a water, fruit and muffin for my trip. And no cost. This is not abnormal.
5. They take feet very seriously. In Buddhism feet are seen as the dirtiest part of the body. You should never point your feet towards Bush’s, you should always take off your shoes when entering a temple (or room, or massage house, or some restaurants). When you get a massage, wait until they wash your feet before you put them on the clean towel. Don’t cross your legs and point your toes at anyone. Don’t put your feet on things that aren’t made for feet (tables, chairs, etc).
6. They LOVE plastic. In a very, very earth-is-in-trouble kind of way. No matter what drink you buy (water, pop, beer, juice) they give you a straw. And most of the time try to put your beverage container in a plastic bag. Even if you got it in a cup. They even have these plastic things that fit over the cups with handles on them so you can carry it by plastic bag handles. If you are an eco friendly traveler, don’t take the straw or bring your own. I always have a backpack with me so I never take the bag and I don’t care for straws so I deny those as well.
7. Thai food is good. It’s served in much smaller portions than in the states, And it’s the perfect size. Without someone to eat my leftovers I feel bad leaving food on the table, but here the portions are smaller and more reasonable so if I don’t finish It, it isn’t much at all.
8. Maybe the most random. They LOVE 7-11. Like LOVE. They are everywhere. And they are 24/7. They have these crispy things. People said to try them. My understand is that they are basically a panini. And since I don’t like them in the states, I’m not sure a 7-11 panini will change my mind. So I stuck to yellow Gatorade, water and my daily ice cream fill.