What is Thailand like?

Green water - Bamboo Island - by dizznan
Khao San Road - by rbrands
Thailand_2007-5656 - by Doxi
Muay Thai-17 - by idirectori
119 - by sherrattsam
Last Day in Thailand Sunrise Over Rice Fields in Buri Ram - by Captain Kimo

No one does garish tourism like the Thais. From aging expats to drunk teenagers on their Gap Year, Thailand will love you short time/long time as long as you have the baht. But how many travelers really grasp the convoluted and subtle culture that lies behind the cheap beer and street noodles?

Tell us about what you love about Thailand, what you hate, what you don’t quite understand. Illustrate your answers with your travel stories, add photos and youtube links, We want to hear about the good, the bad and the strange…

  • December 9, 2012 7:27 AM

    I definitely have a love/hate relationship with Thailand. 
    On my first trip there, January 2011, I fell in love with the food, the beauty of their architecture and of course, the endless shopping! Needless to say, a long weekend in Bangkok was only the tip of the iceberg and I couldn’t wait to go back. This year, I had a chance for a longer visit, so I planned for 2 trips outside the capital: one to a short distance, Kanchanaburi (3 hours out of Bangkok by minibus) and a longer one to Koh Phangan for the Full Moon party. The scenery around Kanchanaburi was wonderful. Beautiful, lush valleys and picturesque views of the River Kwai. The food was reasonably priced and excellent, and the locals were helpful and friendly. I even made the long trip to the Erawan Waterfalls! It was relaxing, beautiful and very low key. The other half of the trip – to Koh Phangan – wasn’t as ideal. We took an overnight bus trip out of Khao San, then the ferry (which made several stops) so in total it must have taken 17 hours to get to our destination. Upon arriving at Koh Phangan, we were greeted by unreasonably high tariffs just to get to the hotel (400 Baht per person, that’s as much as one room at my guest house in Khao San). I was beginning to understand why a lot of people complained that Thai tourism was overly commercialized and takes advantage of unwitting Farangs. Now here’s the difference: I’m not your typical gap year tourist – I’m a 30 year old Filipina living and working in Manila.  So it’s safe to say I’m not the kind of traveler that is easily fooled by locals trying to make a quick buck off you! Everything in Koh Phangan was so expensive, from the overpriced transport around the island, whiskey buckets sold to drunken tourists, not so good food, pricey accommodations and tacky tees. Don’t get me wrong, I still had fun. I may even go back with my girlfriends and have a lost weekend someday. However, next time I’ll know better and be prepared to spend and not be offended by the rudeness! By end of my trip, I was aching to get home to give my wallet a rest and get back to a place where people are nice and not out to fool you.

  • December 9, 2012 7:24 AM

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  • Leigh Tuckniss says:
    June 2, 2012 8:21 PM

    I lived in Hat Yai (Southern Thailand) for a year, its a area where not many tourist venture,as its just another busy city on the map. However, Hat Yai became my home, pure modern and ancient Thai culture combined, a perfect contrasting place. The the one thing I absolutely loved was the passion for live rock n roll, the best covers of rock are heard at a bar called Co Art in a back alley. I met the most classic people (Thais) ever, hope to see you all again oneday!

  • Eric Beyer says:
    May 19, 2012 4:58 PM

    While I was in Bangkok I had the marvelous opportunity to go on a Hash run with some of the staff of the US Embassy there. The person who plotted the roughly 12 km route led us through some of the most cramped, poverty-stricken, and interesting neighborhoods I have ever seen in my life. I literally got lost in the sea of alleys and shacks and dims lights and increasingly helpful Thais. A few women tried to latch themselves to us as we went by. Watching everything pass by, it was overwhelming, and I felt I got a chance to see far deeper into the reality of the conditions of what a lot of the people in that city experience on a daily basis. Awesome and heartbreaking all in the same moment. 

    People will tell you to get outside the tourist experience there, and you damn well should. But you should also dive headfirst into the Disneyland-esque show put on for the foreign crowd there, because it in and of itself is fascinating, in a grotesque and absolutely bizarre way. Just keep your head on your shoulders and don’t go home with some bar girl (or do) and you’ll come out the other end with your wallet and sexual health intact. 

    Be nice to the monks. Be kind to everybody. 

  • frimurer says:
    April 27, 2012 5:31 AM

    to rent cheap in bangkok, go take the subway and get off at huay kwang or better yet Sutthisan station. can get a room with hot shower and aircon in these areas for as little as 3500 baht a month if you sign a short-term contract. if transportation is not that important, go to the university area of ramkamhaeng or the back sois of sukhumvit (thonglor, at the canal). cheap, and the waterway will ensure you have at least one mode of transportation taking you downtown beside using the congested roads. ohhh… sutthisan… when i first rented a room there my neighbors were bargirls fromsoi cowboy. and so was the previous person renting my room, as she left her “number” behind from tilac. i had lots of fun in those days. ohh well. 

  • Adam says:
    April 23, 2012 9:22 AM

    Thailand is too commercial for my taste although Bangkok is a great shopping destination with many of the malls providing direct access to the sky train.

    The bus trip from Bangkok to Ayutthaya was the most depressing of my life. Driving along a 10 lane highway underneath a 6 lane highway, lined by big ugly industrial and commercial developments and those bill-boards lit up with 10,000 watt bulbs so they can be seen from space.

  • tomroadjunky says:
    April 19, 2012 12:18 PM

    Most travelers in Thailand never get the slightest glimpse of the country as they stumble around in a haze of cheap beer, buying stupid t-shirts, slurping street noodles and being ferried from guesthouse to guesthouse by the Thais who have the most efficient backpacker tourism system in the world. It’s almost embarrassing to be there sometimes as in every bus journey you’re herded onto the special Farang (foreigner) bus and are met at the other end by touts with photos of their guesthouse that offers all the same day trips and adventure activities. All that’s left is to choose your nighttime debauchery.

    But then if you have the initiative to step beyond that, rent somewhere outside the tourist areas and learn some Thai then one of the world’s most fascinating and bizarre cultures opens up to you. The Thais have an almost innate kindness and yet though they put up with so much shit from dumb Farangs they take it all with a quiet dignity – until they’re made to lose face and then god help you. Keep a cool heart, as they say in Thailand, at all times.