Sawasdee Thailand! “Same Same but Better”
If you’re someone who loves to travel and everyone you know, knows this about you, the question you’d get asked most often is “what’s your favourite place to travel to?” I have now journeyed across almost 40 countries and for me, this is still an easy answer, “Thailand my friend, it would be Thailand!”
Where it becomes difficult is narrowing down why this is the case: some would say it’s because the people are some of the kindest, most helpful, friendly and happiest human beings that roam the planet; others would argue it’s the food that take your taste buds on a journey to utopia where flavour controls the universe and calories are just little napkins you use to protect your clothes from the countless dishes you’re about to demolish. Yet still, I haven’t quite hit the nail on the head. Perhaps it’s the Thai massages, maybe the fact that I’m so utterly relaxed to a point where even the most annoying street hustler won’t shake my constant good mood. I mean, who could possibly be unhappy in a country where one hour massages cost less than a cup of coffee in Australia? I’m just a few lines into this and all I can think is why am I not writing this on the beautiful beaches of the Phi Phi Islands? Why am I not sipping on a fresh coconut in Phuket? Why am I in front of a computer when I could be bargaining at a floating market or playing with tigers or practising my shooting, or eating some mango sticky rice I made myself at a cooking class with ingredients I bought at a local market which …yes…smelt like fish but who cares? It was a beautiful bike ride that got me there and the locals taught me how to cut vegetables “the right way” and fed me samples of some of the freshest and tastiest fruits I’ve ever had the pleasure of digesting. So what is it then that makes Thailand so special? The cheap drinks, the wonderful people, the tasty food, the nearly free massages, the beautiful landscapes, the extreme sports, the intriguing culture, the magnificent temples, the majestic animals, the nightlife, the Muay Thai fights that get you so close you can almost taste the sweat? The answer is yes! All of that makes Thailand the best place to travel to, and after reading that, can you blame me?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not delusional, as with any place there are some ‘not so glamorous’ aspects about visiting Thailand but if you know the tricks of the trade, you’re in for a real treat! So here are some of my Thailand survival tips and tricks:
Tips and Tricks to survive Thailand:
- Tuk Tuks are cheap and fun, you definitely want to experience this but be prepared to breathe in an enormous amount of fumes which may or may not change the colour of your lungs. My advice to you is, if you’re in a large city in Thailand, experience the tuk tuk once or twice and the switch to a good old taxi service. It’s equally as cheap, sometimes even cheaper because those tuk tuk drivers smell ignorant tourists a mile away!
- Don’t fall into the trap of going to every jewellery store and suit shop the taxi or tuk tuk driver stops at to discount your trip and score them some free fuel. Of course it’s a wonderful thing getting a free ride to your destination, but not when it costs you half of your day.
- To buy the street food, or not to buy the street food? This really comes down to how well your digestive system can handle food which may not have been stored or prepared to ‘western’ standards. There’s no doubt that the food will be some of the best you’ve ever tasted and it’s so cheap you could buy some for everyone around you and it wouldn’t even make a dent in your wallet.
- BARGAIN people! Bargain and negotiate with everyone you purchase absolutely anything from! I’m talking taxi, tuk tuks, food, markets, clothes, electronics, tours, accommodation, everything! A good place to start is to literally half the price they give you, it sounds absurd but it will shock you how much they inflate their prices. Start your negotiation at half of what they offer and thank me for it later! Just be respectful about it and walk away grateful with a smile on your face. I’ve made many Thai friends having a friendly back and forth about the price of my soon-to-be-purchase.
- Ping Pong shows have got absolutely nothing to do with the sport – It’s not what you think and before you agree to attend – do your research! If it’s your type of thing, you’ll be thoroughly entertained, if it isn’t, you’ll be mortified. You’ve been warned!
- It’s no secret that Thailand’s nightlife is legendary! The music is epic, the atmosphere is electric and you’ll meet people from all over the world wanting to have the time of their lives! Alcohol is cheap and you’ll very quickly learn that “buckets” are the way to go. Beware my fellow travellers, they are not shy with their alcohol – your bucket will have as much if not more spirits than mixers so if you’re a lightweight, go slow, go steady and don’t die!
- If you’re a dessert person, Mango sticky rice will change your life! Try it! It’s divine!
- Do a cooking course at a local restaurant, it’s incredible the amount of thought and history that has gone into creating all the popular Thai dishes we’ve come to love. You’ll learn everything from picking the right ingredients, to detecting the correct herbs through nothing but your sense of smell. Luckily there’s a chef nearby, so if cooking is not your strong point, take an easy task, learn all you can and at the end of it you’ll still enjoy a decadent meal you played a tiny part of.
- Visiting tiger and elephant temples are a common to-do in Thailand. There’s something very magical about being around those majestic creatures and appreciating their beauty up close and personal. It’s a lot less appealing when they’re tied up, restrained, drugged and ill-treated on a daily basis and sometimes right in front of you. My advice is, do your research and choose an ethical organisation.
A visit to Thailand will change your perspective on life, love, beauty and family. You’ll learn to appreciate the little things and appreciate all you have. You’ll connect with people who will touch your heart and spirit in ways you never thought possible. My final piece of advice is, take it all in, do everything you can, see everything you can, try everything your heart desires and return with no regrets. Thailand has the power to make or break you, so travel smart and return a changed being.