About six months ago, I traveled to “the land of the smile”. It was my first trip to Asia, so I was pretty curious to experience this part of the world. My boyfriend had already been and I’ll confirm what he said to me before we left: it’s a great place to start or ease into the Asian culture for someone who might be a bit hesitant. If you read my previous travel reports about Thailand, you already know it left a great impression on me and that I’ve rated it as one of the best travel experiences so far. For those of you that might need some convincing, or simply don’t really know what to expect – here’s five things to know about Thailand.
The people. They honestly don’t call it the land of the smile for nothing. Compared to our general Western mentality, people are so much more warm and open here. Everyone wants to help you without wanting something in return and they’ll greet you with a friendliness and warmth you’ve rarely experienced before. Even though English isn’t their strongest suit (especially when you’re out of the tourist zone), they’ll still do everything they can to help and even call their mother to talk to you and help you with an order (not kidding). We’ve had some funny experiences and sometimes it took us a while to get the actual help we needed, but it always was given with the best intention at heart.
The transport. One might assume that getting around Thailand can be difficult, but that is definitely not the case. It is super easy to take the train, bus or plane to travel within Thailand and it’s all very well organized. On top of that, it’s cheap! When you’re staying in one area for a couple of days and you want to explore the neighborhood, rent a motorcycle (they have little rental places pretty much everywhere). It costs about 5 euros a day (or less), it’s easy to get around and it’s the most common way to drive around in Thailand.
The food. If you’d ask me to describe the best thing about Thailand, I’d probably say the food. Everything is seriously so yummy and once again, so cheap. Fresh fruit, green or red curries, delicious vegetables, pad thai and so much more can all be devoured on a daily basis and you often won’t pay more than 2 Euros per dish (still depends on where you’re eating, but even the fanciest of places are relatively cheap). One thing to avoid is the desserts – those do not taste good for real chocolate lovers. Don’t be afraid and do try the little authentic places: these often serve the best food, but watch out for the spiciness – ’cause they mean serious business around here. Be sure to mention “nit noi pet” (not too spicy) if you don’t want to have your entire mouth on fire.
The wellness. Don’t imagine fancy, serene places with a luxurious feel but think dodgy-looking massage spots. Here’s where charming old Thai ladies will totally get into your personal space and massage you like you haven’t been before. It is awesome for any kind of massage lover (me!) – since it costs about 4 Euros for one hour, so you really don’t have to cut back on wellness indulgment here. One thing to keep in mind: Thai massages can be a bit rough, if you don’t like that you can ask them to treat you more gently.
The tourism. Your trip to Thailand can go in many directions, and you have full freedom to choose which one that will be. Tourism is indeed highly developed here, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t explore and discover Thailand on your own. You can choose the luxury resort and enjoy the famous beaches or you can sleep in a charming bungalow with not that much comfort – it’s really all up to you!