There are many things about Thailand that you will read about in travel books and blogs but some that you don’t. Below is a list of thing that made an impression on us during our month long trip with our three young children. Some of our observation are positive, others are negative and some simply neutral. Overall, we had a wonderful time in Thailand and we love to return one day so don’t let any of the points listed below deter you from visiting.
Smog. Even on the clearest of days in Thailand there was smog in the air. At times the smog was so thick that it obscured the amazing landscape that surrounded us which I found rather disappointing. Both my husband and I experienced allergies at some points on our travel and I was very glad to have packed anti-histamines. Whether our allergies were a result of the smog I do not know but it is important to recognize that smog is a serious problem in many parts of Thailand.
Thais love children. The Thai people love children. Our two youngest were often being patted or picked up by the locals. My daughter loved the attention and learned quickly how to say sawatikha (greetings) which made the Thai people very excited.
Delicious Food. By the time we left Thailand I felt like I was just starting to get acquainted with Thai food. At first I was intimidated by it, well not so much by the food itself but mostly by how it was being prepared. Standards of preparation are not quite the same as in Canada. As I discovered my comfort zone and became a little desensitized I was better able to enjoy the addicting and diverse flavours of Thai food. I loved how the various flavors of a dish would compete for attention in my mouth. There was the sourness of lime, the sweetness of coconut, the saltiness of fish sauce and the spiciness of peppers all competing for attention. All these flavours play together in the many regional variations of dishes found throughout Thailand.
Inexpensive Food. Buying enough food for a meal either at a market, cafeteria or small locally run restaurant can cost anywhere 50-150 baht ($2-6 cad) per dish. At one point we fed our whole groups of six adults and seven children for 800 baht ($30 cad)! The price of food progressively gets more expensive as you move from the north to the south of Thailand, being especially expensive near the popular beaches.
Cheap local beer. A large Chang (650ml) cost 65 baht ($3 cad) at a restaurant, it is even cheaper if you buy beer by the box. Our preferred beer was Chang but others prefer Leo or Signha. Oh, I should also note that Thais drink beer with ice in it to keep it cool.
Tap water vs. bottled water. There seems to be some debate about the potability of tap water throughout Thailand. Most locals drink bottled water so that didn’t give us much confidence in the water supply. For everything other than washing up we used bottled water.
Safety. Thailand has its fair share of crime to be sure but we felt very safe in our travels there. As long as you take proper precautions and make wise decisions being careful to avoid scammers and seedy places it is safe. Honestly, I felt more safe walking the streets of Bangkok and Chiang Mai at night then I do walking the streets of Vancouver, BC at night.
Driving in Thailand. Traffic in Thailand is best described as organized chaos. Please note that I am using organized very loosely in this description. Road rules don’t mean much as they are constantly being broken. Even sidewalks aren’t safe from motorcycles. Nobody stops for pedestrians so better run fast when crossing the road. If you are a confident driver that enjoys a good adrenaline rush then driving in Thailand is for you, just don’t forget to drive on the left side of the road, instead of the right like North Americans do.
Firm Beds. I think the Thai people missed the memo on the pillow topped mattress. Almost every mattress I slept on felt like a box-spring mattress, some being worse than others. Some mornings I would wake up with sore ribs from the springs poking me through the night.
Strange toilets. Toilets come in many sizes and shapes. Squat toilets, sit down toilets, lever flushed, bucket flushed, toilet paper, no toilet paper, definitely do not put toilet paper in toilets anywhere! See my upcoming post on Toilets in Thailand for a more comprehensive report.
Lack of disposal bins. Good luck finding public disposal bins. They are a rare creature to find, possibly on the brink of extinction. If you need to throw out something you simply leave it somewhere which goes against my ingrained beliefs around littering. Surprisingly though the streets of Thailand are kept quite clean. There must be a secret cleaning crew that goes around collecting garbage. And where does all the garage go? Well, that is the question I was constantly asking myself.
Plastic problems. I thought that Canada had an unhealthy attachment to plastics…until I went to Thailand. I was not surprised to see that Thailand is rated number six as worst offender for “mismanaged plastics” being dumped in the ocean. Plastics are everywhere! Obviously the problem isn’t being helped by the questionable water potability and the significant influx of tourists.
Dengue happens so take precautions! Dengue is a mosquito borne illness that causes high fever, severe bone and joint pain, headache, rash, along with other symptoms, that last for about a week. It is a very unpleasant illness to experience and often requires being hospitalized and monitored for a week to ensure that it doesn’t progress to the more serious Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever. One of our friends was infected with dengue on our trip and I would not wish it upon anyone. So take precautions by covering up and wearing mosquito repellent if there are mosquitoes about, particularly in the early morning and evening which is when the dengue carrying mosquitoes tend to come out.
Returning. Yes, yes and yes! I would definitely return to Thailand. Despite the smog, pollution, hard beds and risk of dengue, which is a risk in many parts of the world, I would return again.