Wanderlust

Thailand Travel Tips

26 min read

Kob khun kah!  I originally prepared this guide/FAQ for some friends of my daughters who were coming to Thailand several years ago.  Since then I have shared it with numerous people who have in turn shared it with others.  Please use and enjoy the guide and I only ask, like the rest of the work on this site, that you not copy or reproduce in whole or in part without my permission.  As with all of my writing, the views expressed herein are my opinions; take it all with a grain of salt and do your own research.

Thailand Travel Tips FAQ

Getting There:

What should I know about the flight and/or consider when booking?

What should I expect when entering Thailand/Customs?

Packing:

What clothes should l bring? What’s the weather like?

What toiletries do I need to pack and which can I buy there?

Sample packing list for 2 weeks.

Before My Trip:

Should I get travelers’ insurance?

Should I get an international calling plan?

How much money should I bring?

What other documentation should I bring?

I Made it to Thailand – Now What?

What’s the best mode of transportation once I’m there?

Where should I stay?

Are there any must-do or must-see sites?

Is there anything I should know about Thai customs and culture?

Is there anything I should know about food, drink, nightlife?

Is there anything else I should know about Thailand?

 

Getting There:

What should I know about the flight and/or consider when booking?

  • Consider the number of stops
    • You can travel to Thailand from the US with one stop; more stops mean more chances of delays, etc.
  • Consider the length of the layover
    • While there are some amazing airports around the world, I’m sure none of you wants to spend 14 hours in Doha, Qatar Airport.
    • Consider the time you’ll need to de-board, go through immigration during your layover and getting to your next gate.
      • 5 – 2 hours is probably the shortest layover you want and more than 4 hours makes a long journey even longer.
    • Check the baggage allowance for ALL of the airlines with whom you’ll be traveling
      • Some airlines weigh carry-on baggage and only allow up to 5k-7k while others could give a shit; know before you go
    • Flight time into Bangkok relative to your departure time out of Bangkok
      • If you are not planning on spending a day or two in Bangkok in the beginning and/or at the end of your trip, then be sure to consider the following:
        • If your departure time from Bangkok is 6AM in the morning, then you will have to fly into BKK the night before at the latest in which case it could potentially be a wasted night in the airport whereas arriving into BKK at 6AM will provide you with many options for departing to your next destination that same day
      • The flight to/from Asia
        • It’s long and there’s no way around it but most of us have spent the same amount of time doing nothing with our thumbs up our butts so may as well be on a plane going to the opposite side of the world, right?
        • If you are someone who suffers from leg edema when flying (swollen feet and legs), take baby aspirin for 1-2 days before your trip and on the day of; and make sure you stay hydrated but be careful not to overhydrate as you may cause an electrolyte imbalance which can also contribute to swelling.
        • Dress in layers; some flights are cold, some are hot
        • If you have dietary restrictions, notify the airlines a week before you leave and then confirm again when you are checking in as they all now have special menus for those of us who are dietarily* challenged (*I know it’s not a word; I made it up ;))
          • Bonus: those with special menu requests usually get served their meals first J
        • Reading material
          • Books are heavy so if you plan to read, download books to your phone or tablets or bring books that you don’t mind leaving behind

 

What should I expect when entering Thailand/Customs?

  • Confirm that your passport has 6 months validity and 6 blank pages (1 page per stamp).
  • Your US passport automatically gives you a free 30-day visa into Thailand so you can head straight to the Foreign Passport line of the immigration counter; you do not need to go to the “Visa On Arrival” counter
  • Arrival/departure card
    • You should receive an arrival and departure card on the flight so best to fill this out on the plane. If you did not receive it on the plane, you can fill it out at immigration
    • The two cards will actually be one card with a perforation in the middle; be sure to fill out the back sides of both as well as Thai immigration is not to be fucked with
    • Be sure you fill out everything completely
    • One of the questions on the card will be your address in Thailand. You can use the address of one of the hotels you’ll be staying at.  I recommend saving the address in the “notes” section of  your phone or taking a screenshot and saving it in your “favorites” so that you can quickly and easily access it
  • For those of you going to other countries, be sure to look up the visa requirements for each country at https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country.html
    • In some cases, you may have to pay for a visa-upon-arrival in USD so be sure to have enough in order to do that (I believe the cost to enter Cambodia is $20 or $40)
  • The immigration officers will keep your arrival card and give you back your departure card; PUT YOUR DEPARTURE CARD IN YOUR PASSPORT AND DO NOT LOSE IT as you will need it to get out of the country
    • Note: if you lose it you will be arrested, charged $1000 and sent to Thai prison – just kidding; you’ll just have to fill out a new one when you get back to the airport to leave 😉  It is important to hang onto it though if you need to get an extension visa, etc.
  • Just past immigration are the baggage carousels and luggage carts which are free here (actually, luggage carts are free everywhere in the world that I have traveled outside of the US…)
  • There are money exchange counters there as well so you can do both at the same time. I recommend bringing some cash and changing it at the money exchange counter so that you avoid ATM charges
  • Once you gather your luggage, you’ll have to go through another declaration point; sometimes there’s no one there and other times they check your baggage claim ticket and/or have you scan your bags
    • Be sure to always keep your baggage claim tickets because as you travel throughout Asia you will find that most places actually check them which is kind of refreshing J
  • If you have time to kill at BKK, there is a free Wi-Fi network called “AOT Free Wi-Fi by True”
    • They will ask for your name, passport number, etc. Be sure your email address is correct as they will send you a username and password.
    • Copy and paste your username and password to your notes so that you can easily access it should you need to
      • You will automatically be logged in but the Wi-Fi at BKK can be spotty so you may have to sign back in a few times
    • Transportation from BKK Airport:
      • Have the name, address and telephone number of your hotel handy to provide to your taxi driver as he/she may not speak English and/or may not be familiar with your hotel and they can just call them.
      • The taxi situation at the airport is very organized
        • There are ticket machines in English and you just have to punch number of passengers and then a ticket will be printed out for you
        • The ticket will be the parking space number of your taxi
        • Take your ticket and belongings and proceed to your taxi
        • Give the driver your ticket and tell him/her where you’re going
        • If he/she does not understand, show him the details
      • Taxi’s in Bangkok are metered so just be sure the meter is turned on; the tolls are the passenger’s responsibility so the driver will either ask you for the baht at the toll booth or pay it then ask for it at the end of the trip
        • My taxi drivers in Bangkok have always been wonderful and I have never gotten ripped off
      • Alternatively, consider downloading the GRAB app which is the Asian equivalent of Uber or Lyft
    • Connection for domestic travel:
      • If you are heading to another destination within Thailand, you’ll need to change terminals as you will have arrived in the international terminal
      • Simply look for the signs for Domestic Departures or ask at the information desk, then look for your airline and flight on one of the monitors. The monitor will tell you the letter location of your airline desk.

 

Packing:

What clothes should l bring? What’s the weather like?

  • Chiang Mai
    • I can’t actually speak to the weather in Chiang Mai as I have never been however I have heard that it can get cool up north in the mountains especially in the evenings depending on the time of year you will be there. Look it up before you leave.
    • Be sure to pack a jacket; again layers, will be key. A lightweight jacket that is also waterproof can double as a warm jacket with a sweater under it and as a raincoat.
  • Bangkok, Samui and South
    • Hot, hot, hot
    • Shorts, tees, tanks
    • One pair of lightweight sneakers for hiking or walking through Bangkok
      • I have a pair of retro Saucony’s that are perfect. They’re lightweight and have enough traction for running, hiking, etc.
    • Eveningwear
      • Most places outside of Bangkok are verrrry casual. Bangkok is also pretty casual however it is the capital so if there are poseurs anywhere in Thailand they’ll be at the nightclubs there
      • You don’t need anything too fancy like heels, etc. however if you’re feelin’ yo’ self and don’t mind carrying the extra weight then by all means bring ‘em
    • In General
      • Despite the apparent openness of “working ladies” here (it’s not technically legal by the way, more on that later), the Thai are very modest people and as we are in their home it’s best to be modest as well. (Besides, the sexiest thing one can wear is a smile and Thailand is the Land of Smiles so you’ll be your sexiest self here anyway regardless of what you’re wearing ;))
      • Swimwear should be reserved for the beach or the pool; be sure to put on a cover up if walking on the street to/from the beach or pool
      • Shirtless men are not encouraged but accepted walking, riding motorbikes, etc. on the beach roads but it can be grounds for being pulled over if on a main road.
      • Pack lightly:
        • There are launderers everywhere who do next-day laundry very inexpensively
          • Note: they’re not dry cleaners so don’t have them do anything that is of really high quality
        • I prefer buying my shorts and tees in the US because it’s hard to find good quality, 100% cotton clothing at the markets here. You can find it in the malls but you’ll pay Western prices so in other words, bring your J.Crew shit if that’s what you’re into
        • A list of things you may want to buy here:
          • Leather goods
          • Silver jewelry and/or costume jewelry
          • Quality knock-offs of jewelry, watches, bags and even sneakers (not condoning it; just letting you know what’s available)
          • Cheap electronics and accessories
          • Swimming suits (cheap ones will run around $5-$6 and good quality ones $30 and up)
          • Denim cut-offs
          • Cami’s and bra-lettes
          • Sarongs
          • Novelty tanks, tees and dresses
            • Note: The Thai are a petite people so shoes and clothes run small
          • Lightweight scarves and pashminas
          • Flannel shirts, believe it or not

What toiletries do I need to pack and which can I buy there?

  • You can find all of the basic necessities here such as soap, moisturizer, shampoo, conditioner, hair products, razors, etc. however they may not have the exact kind you use, especially if it’s a higher end brand or specialty product so it is best to bring those if you need them
    • A lot of the labels are in Thai but the branding is the same so you’ll be able to easily find Western brands here such as Pantene, etc.
    • Note about soap and lotion/sunscreen: most of the soaps and lotions have “whitening” in them.  I don’t know what chemical(s) constitute “whitening” but it’s fairly easy to avoid because the labels say “whitening” right on the front and/or there will be a pic of a very pale-faced person on the package.
  • Sunscreen tends to be the same price or more here than in the US so I would recommend bringing your own sunscreen. Additionally, the sunscreen here also usually contains “whitening.”
  • Most hotels will have blow dryers so you do not need to bring one; I would also not bother bringing a flat iron as it is very humid here. Again, if you are feelin’ yo’ self – there are plenty of salons that do blow-outs for $10 or less
  • No place will have an iron; you won’t need one. It’s so damn hot here that even if you put on wrinkled clothes they’re no longer wrinkled after 10 minutes.  Besides, no one gives a shit
  • You can find most kinds of toothpastes and toothbrushes here
  • You can buy mosquito repellant everywhere here
  • The 7-11’s and Family Marts here operate like mini grocery stores and carry pretty much anything you need from toiletries to medicine to bandages and are open 24 hours
  • Adapter for Asia for electronic equipment; it is the one with two prongs.
    • I recommend getting one that has a USB port built into it so you can charge your phone and computer simultaneously.
  • Ladies: If your friend, Flo, will be joining you on your trip (which I hope for your sake she will not be), I would recommend bringing your own tampons because if you can find them, they are on the expensive side; tampons with applicators are especially difficult to find and more expensive so, again, bring your own if that’s what you’re accustomed to using; or be ready to shift to using no applicator or pads
  • Gents and ladies: Condoms are readily available in every convenience store however if you have a latex allergy or require a Magnum then probably best to bring your own

Sample packing list for 2 weeks

  • 3-4 pairs of shorts
  • 2 tanks
  • 2 tees
  • 1 pair of jeans or long pants
  • 2 pairs flip-flops/sandals
    • 1 pair for knocking about, walking on the beach, hanging by the pool
    • 1 for evenings
  • 1 pair lightweight sneakers
  • 1 sweater or hoodie
  • 1 lightweight waterproof jacket or raincoat
  • 2 sets of PJ’s
  • 2-3 swimming suits (or buy here)
  • As many underpants/bra’s you feel you need
  • Sunglasses
  • Glasses and/or contact lenses
  • Electronic adapter for Asia (it is the one with 2 prongs)
  • Sunscreen
  • Toothbrush and travel toothpaste (or buy here)
  • Pepto-Bismol tablets or chewables
  • Tissues/personal wipes
  • Tampons
  • Hand sanitizer (can be purchased here as well)

Before My Trip:

Should I get travelers’ insurance?

  • That’s entirely up to you. Consult with your health insurance providers and credit card companies because they may extend your coverage while traveling
  • Insurance is not a necessity; I did not have it for my first year of living here. I did end up in the hospital but the cost, including ambulance, ICU, etc. was only $1,500.  I did not have health insurance in the US at the time which may have covered it if I had
  • If you are interested in travelers insurance, I recommend: worldnomads.com
    • They have policies for as low as $125 for 5 weeks of travel and cover medical emergencies as well as electronic equipment such as phones, tablets, cameras, etc. up to $500-$1000 as well as trip cancellation, interruption, etc.
    • They don’t ask a lot of invasive questions and it takes about 5-10 minutes to get it

Should I get an international calling plan?

  • Most places in Asia, including the airports, have free Wi-Fi so if you have an iPhone and/or What’s App, Line or Skype, you will be able to stay connected to friends and family around the world for free. Simply ask for the Wi-Fi password at the café, restaurant, hotel, etc.
  • Be sure your cellular data and cellular roaming options are turned to the “off” position before you land for your lay-over and/or in Thailand
  • Also check your apps that use cellular data because if you turn on cellular to send a text or make a call, those apps will run in the background and use your data so I would recommend only turning on the “use cellular data for apps” on an as-needed basis
  • If you choose to get a global or international plan from your phone provider, be sure you understand the terms of it as there is usually a fee, plus international charges, plus it draws from your monthly allowance.
    • If you have Verizon, I recommend getting the Travel Pass plan. As of the original writing of this guide in 2017:  They only charge you if you use it.  It is a flat rate of $10 per day/24-hour period so if you use your phone once or 20 times in that period, it’s the same price however it will draw from your data plan.
    • I have since changed companies and am with T-Mobile who offers the best international travel plan I have seen in the US.

How much money should I bring?

  • That is entirely up to you, my sweets
  • Everything in Thailand is generally cheaper than in the US so you will certainly not need as much as if you were going on vacation in the US or to major cities in Europe
    • You can eat out 3 meals a day for $15 or less per day if you’re on a tight budget
      • You can get pad thai or a curry dish with rice at a Thai restaurant for 80-120 THB which is $2.50-$4.00
    • I would not bring too much cash as if you lose cash it cannot be replaced. I don’t usually bring more than $500 cash into the country with me
    • Debit card, credit cards, Travelex cards (formerly known as travelers’ cheques)
      • Remember to call your bank and credit card company before you leave to let them know where and when you’ll be traveling so that you can actually use your cards here
      • Debit cards:
        • There are ATM’s everywhere. Check with your bank about foreign fees.
        • Wells Fargo charges $5 per international ATM transaction and most ATM’s charge an additional 220 baht (which is about $6.50) so I usually take out the maximum (usually between 20-30K baht = $600-$1000) when I hit the ATM since it is an $11 transaction
          • I leave most of my cash in a safe and keep a maximum of 6,000 THB on me. I have never even come close to spending that much in one evening; even when heavy-drinking guests have come to town.
        • Travelex cards:
          • Look into Travelex fees as it may be cheaper than paying the international ATM fees your bank charge. You can usually get these in the international terminal of the airport on the day of departure.
        • Credit cards:
          • Many places do not accept credit or debit cards; cash is still king here 🙂
          • Hotels will accept credit cards but will sometimes charge a 3% fee for the processing of it
          • If given the choice between using credit card or debit card, use your credit card because most credit cards do not charge foreign exchange fees while debit cards will charge a percentage-based fee on each transaction. Plus, if your account is hacked, credit card companies are much better at dealing with this than banks.

What other documentation should I bring?

  • Passport and drivers’ license
    • No one actually ever asks for your driver’s license but it’s still good to have
    • Make a copy of your passport and the front and back of any credit cards you’ll be bringing and keep them in a safe place, SEPARATE from your passport and credit cards
    • Most hotels have safes in the closet so definitely make use of them if they are bolted down
      • You can lock your passport and cash in your safe or leave your passport with the front desk of the hotel
      • If you’re not comfortable with either, keep your passport in a good hiding place
      • Remember to check the safe before you check out and/or to collect your passport from the front desk before you leave

 

I Made it to Thailand – Now What?

What’s the best mode of transportation once I’m there?

  • Bangkok
    • GRAB is available and  inexpensive in Bangkok although taxi’s are fairly cheap as well; just ask them to put the meter on when you get in
    • Tuk-tuk’s in Bangkok are a fun experience but these drivers tend to be tour guides and trying to increase fares, etc. so they may take you to tailoring shops where they get paid by the shops to bring tourists in.
      • I did this once because I didn’t have shit else to do but if you’re not in the market for a custom-tailored suit or dress, be firm and tell them just to take you to your destination.
    • I hear the rail system there is very easy to use and very efficient although I’ve never used it myself
  • Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao; islands in general
    • Motorbike: The primary mode of transport which you can rent at the side of the road for 150-200 THB per day.
      • Many of the rental places will ask for your passport or a large cash deposit as collateral as credit cards are useless to them.
        • I’ve never been comfortable with this so I have said I don’t have my passport on me but will leave them a copy of my passport and my driver’s license. Many have been fine with that and a few have not been.
        • There tend to be lots of rental places so it should not be a problem to find one that suits your level of comfort.
        • How you proceed is totally up to you. I don’t know anyone who has ever had a passport issue here with a bike rental place so it’s not a problem; it’s just my personal thing.
      • Take pictures and video of your bike before you go and point out any damages to the rental shop just as you would when renting a car in the US
      • Check the fuel gauge and take a picture of it and show it to the person renting the bike to you
        • Selling fuel is sometimes a side business for them which they do at a significant mark-up if you bring the bike back with less fuel than which you rented it
          • Note:  sometimes the bike needs to run for a few minutes in order to provide an accurate reading
        • Gas is relatively cheap at the gas stations (can fill up for 100 THB or less which is less than $3); all of which are full service if you can find one ;). Your gas tank is usually located under the seat of the bike but the gas station attendants will be able to access it for you.
    • Songtheaw: My second favorite mode of transportation; essentially a pick-up truck with 2 benches in the back.
      • They operate like buses with a set route although times are questionable but if you hang out at the side of the road long enough, one will drive by and you just have to flag it down
      • The cost is a flat rate in Samui:  60 baht within a town and 100 baht to other parts of the island before 6PM; after that things tend to get a bit odd/pricier/open to negotiation
      • Research the cost of songtheaw for each region you travel to so you know what to pay.  You can refer to “haggling” in the Thai Customs section below for guidance on negotiating price
    • Taxi’s: Are clearly marked and safe although outside of Bangkok they’re not usually metered which leaves room for a large amount of variability in the price. Some things to keep in mind:
      • The later the time, the higher the taxi fare
      • They charge per person so make sure the fare you agree upon is the total amount for all of the people in your group
      • The taxi system in Samui is a bit questionable and drivers tend to charge whatever they want here but if you find yourself on the other side of the island at 3AM, you don’t have much choice
        • That being said, the fares, when converted, will still not typically be more than what you would pay in the US
      • A few places, such as the Tesco shopping plazas, have taxi fares listed so there are no surprises although if you are staying off of the main road and up a steep hill, this may impact the rate.

 Where should I stay?

  • Hotels vs AirBnb
    • My personal recommendation is that if you are only staying in a place for a couple of nights then stay in a hotel.
      • The competition for customers means that basic economic principles generally apply; less demand and more supply means more favorable pricing for the customer
      • Hotels come with the benefit of 24-hour staff (usually) with whom you can speak regarding questions, issues or recommendations
    • The cost of Air BnB’s tend to be a little higher than hotels once you add in the fees
    • Additionally, there are a lot of Westerners who have made Air BnB their business so they rent out places at a significant mark-up to tourists
    • If you find that you like a place and you want to stay for a week or more, I would recommend speaking with locals and finding a place that suits your needs.
  • Bangkok options*
    • Silom
      • This is Bangkok’s gayborhood and provides a good flavor of Bangkok
        • I stayed at the Amara http://bangkok.amarahotels.com/ there which was very lovely, modern and well-appointed with large rooms but there are literally hundreds of other choices
      • Along the Chao Phraya river; the rivers here are still heavily used for transporting goods and people so you can have a taste of Thai life
        • I stayed at the Riva Surya http://www.bangkok.com/riva-surya/ which was a decent little hotel fairly centrally located and close enough to Khao San Road that you can easily access the madness but far enough away that the noise will not disturb you; plus they have double doors on the balcony to keep the noise out. Lovely pool on the river and great breakfast.
      • Near the airport
        • If you’re just looking to rest your head because you have a late flight in and early flight out then look for something close to the airport. I stayed here: http://www.thesilverpalm.com/ once and it was about a 20 minute drive to the hotel.  My room and the facilities (pool, gym) were great but there was not shit else around it; it was literally just a place to crash overnight
      • *I booked all of the above through Expedia with whom I have a love-hate relationship
    • Cha-Am
      • I stayed for a month in a beautiful condo there and can connect you to the owner if you would like. There is not much to do in Cha-Am however and the beach is long and great for walking but not great for swimming.
      • Cha-Am and Hua Hin are popular weekend spots for Bangkokians; think of it as the Jersey Shore or Hamptons of Bangkok. There are more beautiful beaches in Thailand however it’s only a 3-hour drive from Bangkok so it’s close enough to get one’s beach fix.
    • Samui
      • The hotel where I used to live is a basic but good little spot right on the beach however it’s near a fishing pier so the sea there is mostly for looking at. It’s called Poolsawat http://www.poolsawatvilla.com/ and is in Lamai which is my neighborhood.  If I am in town I may be able to get you a better rate than what is offered on their site.  Many of the rooms have 2 twin beds so you can share the room and split the cost.
      • Chaweng is the area where most of the young people hang out. It’s where all of the nightclubs are and is very touristy but it does have a beautiful beach and it makes crashing after a night of partying much easier than making your way back to Lamai.
      • The best beaches in Samui are on the East and North coasts; the West and South coasts are not ideal for swimming however they offer boat tours for snorkeling
    • General booking info
      • I love to travel but I hate booking travel. Expedia, Booking.com and all of those search engines are a fairly decent guide but do remember that the star rating doesn’t really mean shit.  I’ve stayed in 4-star places that should have been 2-star; and 3-star places that could’ve been 5-star.
      • Many of the low rates offered have a “no cancellation/refund” policy so unless you have the stomach, vitriol and spare time to do battle with Expedia customer service like I do, best not to get yourself into a disappointing situation.
      • My primary recommendation would be not to book for an extended period of time before you’ve seen the place. Book for 1-2 nights and then when you get there, if you like it you can extend your stay and if not, then you are free to go elsewhere.
      • Attempt to get the best price directly from the hotel but understand that the booking sites often offer better pricing because they have pre-negotiated rack rates.  Do your due diligence.

Are there any must-do or must-see sites?

  • Bangkok
    • Khao San Road
      • Typical tourist trap type of road/market place with restaurants, bars, clubs, market stalls, etc. but worth a visit for the experience. Feels like a scene out of a movie.
    • Chatuchak Market (only open on Saturday and Sundays)
      • The mother of all market places. Amazingly curated:  sections for food, art, shoes, electronics, etc.  Can find high quality items here.
    • Temples (there are loads of them)
    • Water taxi or boat ride
    • Lumphini park
      • It’s like Bangkok’s Central Park; people have said they’ve even seen Asian Water Monitors in there
  • Chiang Mai
    • Again, I have not been there but have heard the elephant sanctuary is amazing
  • Koh Samui and Koh Phangan (also see my articles for Air Asia’s Travel Magazine; links below)
    • Mummified Monk
    • Waterfalls
    • Temples
    • Silver Beach
    • The Beach Bar Samui in Chaweng Noi for lunch or dinner with chill tunes and beautiful beach
    • A drive on the short-cut road from Lamai to Mae Nam which takes you over a mountain
    • Charter a catamaran for the day at a shockingly reasonable price or do a sunset cruise with www.samuiiloveyou.com

Is there anything I should know about Thai customs and culture?

  • A Few Thai words
    • Hello – said with a smile and a nod or bow
      • For women: sawasdee kah pronounced sah-wah-dee-kaaahh
      • For men: sawasdee krab pronounced sah-wah-dee-kropb
    • Thank you – said with a smile and a nod or bow
      • For women: kob khun kah pronounced kob-koon-kaaahh
      • For men: kob khun krab pronounced kob-koon-kropb
    • Delicious
      • Arroy pronounced ahh-loy
    • Yes
      • Kah pronounced kaaahh
    • No
      • Mai pronounced myyyy
  • The Monarchy
    • The Thai are very serious about their monarchy and anything said against the monarchy can be considered treason
    • You will see pictures and paintings of the monarchy EVERYWHERE
    • The much beloved King Bhumibol died a few a few years ago and has been replaced by his son
    • As the King’s face is on all of the money, any defacement or disrespect to the money can also be considered treason i.e. if you drop cash and step on it this is a serious offense.
    • The Thai are an easy-going people so respecting the monarchy is not a lot to ask. Remember that you are not in the US so American law does not apply in Southeast Asia e.g. Freedom of speech.
  • Shoes
    • The feet and bottom of the feet are considered dirty and disrespectful so shoes are removed in all households in Thailand and in most shops, pharmacies and boutiques although it is not necessary to remove them at convenience stores or grocery stores
  • Haggling
    • The Thai do not enjoy haggling. They do it as a means to an end.  If you see something you like, think about how much you think it’s worth to you, then ask the price.
    • If the price is the same or less than what you were thinking, then pay for it
    • If it’s more, then haggle
      • Note: Be sure to consider the amount that you’re haggling over.  I rarely haggle for 100 baht or less unless I’m bored or looking for a reason not to buy something because 100 baht < $3USD.  $3 in the scope of my world means nothing but to a Thai vendor $3 could be the difference between having a good day or not.
    • Toilet etiquette
      • The Thai do not use toilet paper so it is not uncommon to go into a restroom and find that there isn’t any paper; they use a hose or bowl of water. Think bidet, conceptually.
      • If TP is important to you and I’m assuming it is, be sure to always carry a pack of tissues and/or personal wipes with you at all times.
        • Note: do not flush toilet paper or anything else in the toilets here.  Their septic systems are not meant for paper products since they don’t use them.  Simply dispose of your paper in the waste basket provided.  You will fuck up and forget; I do it all the time.  Don’t bother fishing the paper out; just ask Buddha for forgiveness, flush the toilet and keep it pushin’

Is there anything I should know about food, drink, nightlife?

  •  Service and Tipping:
    • Restaurant service will not at all be what you’re accustomed to in the US; have patience
    • Tipping is not necessary and so use discretion when tipping; exorbitant tips can be viewed as an insult/patronizing. You may accidentally tip someone an entire day or week’s wages.
      • Many hotels, resorts and places in Bangkok include VAT and/or a service charge.  VAT is usually only included in high-end or hotel restaurants.
      • I tip between 10%-15%
  • Food:
    • As I mentioned previously, you can get pad thai or a curry dish with rice at a Thai restaurant for 80-120 baht which is $2.50-$4.00
    • Rice is typically not included in the price of the dish so be sure to ask for steamed rice (typically an additional 10-20 baht or $.40-$.60 US)
    • Thai food tends to be cheaper than Western food and in my opinion, better tasting however should you get sick of Thai food, you will not have any problems finding pizza, pasta, burgers and French fries
    • Many restaurants offer “sets” which allows you to have multiple things at one meal. For example, you may get a shrimp and calamari set or a rib and chicken set which will usually be accompanied by a salad and potato or rice
    • Thai food is spicy and the scale for spice is the number of chilies:
      • 1 chili or “Farang hot” (Farang is Thai name for Westerners) is a good spicy to get you started
      • 2 chilies = pretty damn spicy
      • 3 or more chilies = “Thai spicy” which is friggin’ hot
      • You can ask for no chili’s if you have an aversion to heat
      • The Thai are smart and the peppers actually help to keep you cool by making you sweat. If I don’t break out in a sweat eating Thai food now, I don’t feel like I’ve eaten 😉
  • Vegetarian/Vegan
    • Thailand is a great place to go veg if you’ve been thinking about it because the coconut milk and the fragrant curries make for a satisfying meat-free meal.
    • Most places have vegetarian and, by default vegan, options
    • They don’t tend to use a lot of cow’s milk here but if you’re uncertain about a dish just specify “mai cow milk.”
    • If you’re gluten-free, you’ll be good with the rice noodles/pad thai noodles but will need to specify “no soya and no oyster sauce.” (Soya is soy sauce).
  • Seafood
    • You can get amazing seafood here at very reasonable prices. (I eat huge whole red snappers regularly for 300-400 baht or $8-$11)
    • You can usually pick out your own seafood from the display so use the same judgment you would when buying seafood in the US: if it smells fishy or the eyes are sunken in then that’s not your fish
      • Note on seafood: at restaurants they sell the seafood by weight/grams so when you see a price it is per x number of grams or kilograms so ask them to weigh it and tell you how much it will be so you are not surprised when the bill comes
  • Beef and Pork
    • Meat is not big amongst the Thai. Whether it’s because of Buddhism or because of cost, I don’t know but don’t be surprised if your pad thai, seafood soup or curry have only a few pieces of meat in it
      • If you’re unsatisfied with the amount of meat in your dish, then just order an additional side dish of only meat. You’ll pay a few extra baht but you’ll be satisfied longer.
    • The quality of the beef here is not fantastic so many places will offer Australian beef at a premium; if you’re dying for a good steak, buyer beware
    • The swine is usually fine
  • Eggs and chicken
    • Don’t be alarmed to see eggs unrefrigerated; apparently the US is the only country that keeps their eggs in the fridge. I eat these eggs all the time and have never gotten salmonella
    • Chicken is very popular here although it will not be the gigantic, ‘roided out chicken parts that you’re accustomed to seeing in the US
    • Do yourself a favor and try the fried chicken at a roadside stand – delicious!
  • Street food
    • Have no fear; if something looks good and smells good then try it
    • Typically street food is served piping hot which means that any bacteria will have been killed off in the cooking process
    • If you are suspicious about something you’ve eaten, just take a Pepto-Bismol or two
    • There are fresh fruit shakes available at many roadside stands and every restaurant. These run anywhere from 60-90 baht typically.
      • Juice means juice and fruit shake means blended with ice; smoothie usually means with ice and milk
      • If you don’t like sugar, ask them not to put any sugar
      • Sometimes they add salt to citrus juices and shakes so ask for no salt if you don’t want salt
        • Again, there is a method to the madness. When we sweat we don’t only lose water but salts too so they add the salt for hydration purposes
      • The orange juice here is neon orange – do not be alarmed. Depending on where you are buying it from, it may be mixed with sugar or from concentrate but even if you buy it fresh squeezed, it will be bright orange.
        • If you buy juice in a store, same rules apply as in the US – make sure it says 100% juice on it if you don’t want added sugars.  (Store-bought juice is sold in juice boxes which are not just reserved for children here which I happen to think is fantastic!)
  • Must try foods:
    • Green curry, red curry and Penang curry
      • Gai or kai means chicken, goong or koong means shrimp, moo means pork, neuf means beef
    • Tom Kha (coconut soup)
    • Tom Yum (lemongrass soup)
    • Som Tam (papaya salad)
      • Note: if it is prepared Isaan style it will be very fishy and have tiny salted shrimp or tiny crabs in it; if this is not your thing, tell them not to include those
    • Pad thai – duh
    • Mango sticky rice
    • Coconut ice cream
    • A fried insect (you must; when the hell else are you going to eat cricket?)
  • 7-11 Delicacies
    • Shrimp fried rice; have them nuke it for you – best drunken $1 you’ll ever spend
    • Chip nirvana! You’ll see what I mean
    • Banana chips with tamarind inside (conceptually like an Oreo/mini-sandwich)
  • Drinking
    • Use common sense just as you would in the US
    • Drinks tend to be weak as the Thai don’t drink a lot
    • Cocktails are very sweet
    • Singh and Leo beers are supposed to be better than Chang; obviously bottled beers are the only thing to drink if at big, rave-like parties or clubs
    • Sangsom is Thai Rum
    • Hong Thanh is Thai Whisky although they seem to call all brown liquor “rum”
    • Can buy beer, coolers, wine and liquor in convenience stores although I wouldn’t recommend the wine and the liquor is cheaper in the grocery store
    • Cannot buy liquor in convenience or grocery stores between the hours of 2:00-5:00
  • Drugs
    • If you take any prescriptions regularly, bring your Rx and stock up here as they are a fraction of the cost
      • Note: you don’t need a prescription to buy them but if you buy a large quantity, you’ll want to have it when asked when you return to the US
    • Valium and painkillers are not easy to come by in Bangkok but readily dispensed elsewhere – don’t be greedy or stupid
    • Bring Pepto-bismol tablets or chewables
      • Little known fact: they have an antibacterial in them. You can take them prophylactically daily or after eating a suspicious meal
    • Legal Disclaimer: Recreational drugs are ILLEGAL here and I do not condone their use
    • Do not ask to buy or buy them from random people on the street or use them out on the streets
    • Do not carry drugs on you
    • There is a wide variety of bars here; use common sense to determine what kind of establishment you are in:
      • Is there reggae music playing and an interesting fragrance in the air?
      • Do people keep disappearing and then reappearing energized? Is the music fast-paced?  Are people overly friendly, talkative and surprisingly lucid at 4AM?
      • Are there milkshakes on the menu? Are people sitting and gazing out at the sea or night sky?  Is the music ambient?
      • Are there ladies dancing suggestively from poles and on top of the bar?
        • Note:  It is ok to drink at these establishments without partaking in their other services however both men and women will likely be harassed by the staff to buy them drinks as they make a portion of the profits from every drink they sell.

Is there anything else I should know about Thailand?

  • Remember that Math is fun for Americans!
    • As in most places around the world, they use the metric system here:
      • 1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds
      • Distances will be in meters and kilometers; I don’t know the conversion
    • Weather will be in Celsius; I still don’t know what the conversion is and it doesn’t really matter because it’s always hot
    • Times are usually in 24-hour/military time: just subtract 12 for the PM hour…this still confuses me
  • Other things to do, try or know:
    • Song Kran aka Thai New Year, is actually their water festival and is the best holiday ever! The whole country participates in a 1-3 day water battle around April 13th
    • Eat an insect
    • Take a Muay Thai class or watch a fight
    • Hike to a waterfall
    • Ride a motorbike
    • Take a painting class
    • Take a boat trip
    • Snorkel or dive
    • Kayak and/or Stand-up Paddleboard
    • Eat some street food (I’ve had more food poisoning in the US than I’ve ever had here)
    • Fall in love
    • Forget what day it is
    • Don’t wear a watch and remember to live in the moment
    • Don’t stick to a schedule; you’ll end up exactly where you’re supposed to be – trust me
    • See a lady-boy burlesque show
      • There is usually no cover charge to get in but the drinks cost more than elsewhere
      • Tipping is encouraged after the show and for pictures
      • Without fail, the most beautiful woman in the room (besides yourselves) will be lady-boys
    • Get a Thai massage, not to be confused with “Thai massage” which is explained below
      • Thai massage in general is not gentle and can, in fact, be quite painful so if you would like a gentle massage, let them know “not strong, please”
      • “Thai massage” – this is not a recommendation to try it; this is purely informational besides most of the male masseuses are gay (bad news for the straights, but good news for the gays)
        • How to tell the difference between a massage parlor and a “massage parlor”
          • If everyone is wearing the same uniform then it is typically a legitimate massage parlor
          • If the masseuses are not wearing uniforms, are tattooed, and wearing clothes that don’t seem conducive to massage then it is probably a “massage parlor”
          • Legally, they cannot and will not offer “additional services;” so if that’s what you’re into then you need to ask for it. Again, this is not a recommendation to do so
    • When taking photos
      • Do not have your photo taken with someone carrying a cute monkey or other animal on the beach; they are typically drugged (the animal, not its carrier)
      • If you’d like to take a photo of a vendor or of his/her wares in a market, it is customary if you have not purchased something from them to give them 10-20 baht

 

I would not be me if I didn’t share some hippie/love/peace propaganda with you.  I’ll be super interested in hearing what each of you learns about yourselves during your time here as I always learn new shit about myself when I travel.

You will create your trip with your thoughts – if you come with an open heart and mind, I assure you that you will have the adventure of a lifetime; if you come with your egos out and your defenses up then you will most definitely experience some challenges.

I would recommend leaving all your fears, preconceived notions and emotional baggage in the US where they can help you to attain capitalist success 😉

Much of what the Thai do and how they operate is based on Buddhism which while philosophically not much different from Judaism or Christianity; in practice and in the way those principles are applied to laws, rules and everyday life, are quite different from the way things run in Western countries (which despite separation of Church and State in the US, I now realize how many laws are based on Fundamentalist interpretation of biblical text but I digress…)

Things here will often look chaotic to you however the Thai are actually extremely organized people; their systems, in many ways, are far more sophisticated than ours.  Even simple things like standard Western economic principles or what we perceive as “good manners” do not necessarily apply here.  Trust in the moment and you will easily find your way.

My Directions for the Journey:

  • Open the door of your mind
  • Fill the tank of your heart with love
  • Stop for all who cross your path
  • Listen to your soul
  • Look for miracles everyday

Be kind, be compassionate, stay humble, stay grateful.

XOXOXOXOXO,

Candice

Click the links to read more about Koh Samui and Koh Phangan in the Wanderlust section

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