The Beauty of Thailand
Lots of people ask what spurred me to take a trip to Thailand, and my reply is simple- I found a cheap plane ticket! At the time that I booked, I had absolutely no knowledge of Thailand. While I knew it was somewhere in Asia, I didn’t even know where it was located on a map until the night before I left! I was completely unprepared. I didn’t know where I was going; I didn’t have a plan; I didn’t have anyone to go with. All I knew what that I was going, and I was determined to have a blast. And a blast, I did have! Thailand was one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been in my life. The natural beauty of Thailand was breathtaking. The culture was rich and evident at every turn. The people, while overly curious, were very polite and courteous. When the year 2017 started, I never thought that I would end up in Thailand, but I’m so happy that fate saw fit to take me there. On the fence as to where your next trip should be? Here’s why you should consider Thailand:
Things To Do
- Visit Buddhist temples. There are so many beautiful temples in Bangkok, as well as in other parts of Thailand. They are majestic and colorful and a must-see window into Asian culture. Some popular ones in Bangkok are Wat Pho (the reclining Buddha), Wat Mahatat, and Wat Phra Kaew.
- Watch a boxing match in Bangkok. Muay Thai boxing is a major attraction in Bangkok. It’s become a popular thing to do, and while I haven’t done it, I’ve heard its a lot of un.
- Have an (ethical!) animal encounter. Thailand is famous for its animal sanctuaries that attract tourist by giving them up close and personal encounters with exotic animals. This can be such a fun experience, but beware, because a lot of the ‘sanctuaries’ are not actually as humane as they may sound. Animal abuse and cruelty for money-making exploitation purposes is common. If you truly love animals and want to see them up close, do research beforehand to make sure that the place that you are visiting don’t allow riding of animals and treat them humanely.
- Go snorkeling on an island off the coast. Thailand is home to some of the most beautiful, clear blue waters that I have ever seen. Such clear waters makes snorkeling the perfect activity. The water feels great on hot days and there are plenty of tropical fish to see.
- Visit the Floating Market. The floating market is a must when you visit Thailand. There are whole communities that live on the water that can only be reached by boat. You are able to rent a boat and float through these communities to get to their markets where they sale food and souvenirs. Imagine pulling up to a floating restaurant or store! It’s something you can’t miss while you’re there.
Planning Your Thai Vacation
Where do you fly into?
- Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK)– This is the international airport that you will be flying into if you are flying into Bangkok. To leave the airport, you can choose to take a taxi into the city (200-300 THB) or take the metro (BTS) into the city for less than 100 THB.
- Phuket International Airport (HKT)– This is the airport that you will be flying into if you are flying into Phuket. To leave the airport, you can choose to take a taxi or public bus (150 THB) into town to your destination.
- Don Mueang (DMK)– This is a major airport in Bangkok that you can use to fly for really cheap throughout the country or to neighboring countries.
Where should you stay?
There are plenty of hotels located throughout Bangkok, Phuket, and other Thai tourist destinations. The great thing about Thailand is that everything is so inexpensive! You can get a great hotel room in a 4 star hotel for as little as $50/night. I suggest reading the reviews and viewing the pictures online before you book. I stayed in a few different places during my trip, so below are my recommendations.
- Miracle Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel– I chose this Bangkok hotel, because I was arriving to Bangkok late at night and I wanted to choose a hotel that was close to the airport that offered a shuttle service. The room was large and clean with a nice sized bathroom. The bed was pretty stiff, but I hear that is a norm in hotels in Thailand. I was able to sleep comfortably. They have a pretty good breakfast buffet in the morning also. Overall, I would recommend this hotel for a stay after a flight or a the night before a flight, but it is too far from everything to recommend to stay during your entire trip to Bangkok.
- Lub D Hostel (Siam)- After my first night at the airport hotel in Bangkok, I stayed at the Lub D hostel in the Siam area of Bangkok. I got the recommendation from The Blonde Abroad, an awesome travel blog that I encourage you to also check out. The best thing about this hotel was the concierge in the lobby. I met an agent named Jason that helped me plan all of my activities in Thailand, and I credit him as being the main reason that my trip went so well. Without him, I would have been aimlessly wandering around the country. (He communicates by email, so I will post his information at the bottom of the page if you are looking to plan activities before or during your trip.) Here at the hostel, the employees are very friendly and eager to help. The good things about the hostel are that it was inexpensive ($12/night), large, clean, and had free towels! The not so pleasant things that I noticed was a wet, moldy smell in the rooms, perhaps from people hanging their wet towels in their rooms, and the lack of a community feel that I got. Usually hostels have activities to encourage meeting other travelers, but this particular hostel didn’t seem to have anything like that so I didn’t get the chance to meet too many other travelers. Overall, I would recommend this hostel. It works if all you’re looking for is a place to stay. If you’re looking for more of an interactive setting with other travelers, this might not be the place for you.
- Kampaeng Ngam Hotel in Chiang Mai– This hotel is located in Chiang Mai, Thailand and I highly recommend. I stumbled upon this hotel by chance after an unfortunate run in with bed bugs at my previously chosen hostel ran me away. Luckily I found this hotel. It is just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. The staff is delightful and very accommodating. Room service is prompt, and there is a restaurant in the hotel. It is centrally located near many restaurants and bars. I only paid around $50/night. This was a great hotel and I would definitely stay here again if I go back to Chiang Mai.
- Lub D Hostel in Phuket– This is the same chain that owns the hostel that I stayed in in Bangkok, but this hostel is so much better than its Bangkok brother! THIS IS LITERALLY THE BEST HOSTEL THAT I HAVE EVER STAYED AT. I know I’m being a little dramatic with the all caps, but I want to emphasize how amazing this place is. First, it’s huge. The lobby is vast and open with a pool table, fooseball table, and even a boxing ring inside. The employees’ desks reminds me of what you would see when you walk in the Apple Store. Further in the open-concept lobby, you run into a beautiful pool with a poolside bar and restaurant. The rooms are beautiful and the cleanest that I’ve seen. I’m not talking about the “clean” that we come to hope for when we stay in hostels, but I’m talking about clean clean! (Hallelujah!) The dorm style rooms are remnant of the dorms that I stayed in in college. My dorms happened to be the newest and nicest on campus, so this comparison is generous. I was amazed at the cute pods that accommodate four people to a room that came with your own little storage/closet/dresser area. When I thought it couldn’t get any better, I went to the bathroom and my jaw dropped. Was I in a hotel or a hostel? The bathrooms were large (and clean!!), with back lit mirrors to facilitate morning beautification and a separate hair drying area. Y’all, I was in heaven. Apart from the niceness of the place, the staff was great. Like the other Lub D in Bangkok, this hostel had a concierge desk with friendly staff to help you plan your stay. The staff also went out of their way to make the hostel a fun meeting place for travelers. I recommend this hostel to anyone. Young people will definitely enjoy it here, but I think this would be a good place for more mature travelers too. It would be hard not to enjoy this hostel.
- Cabana Hotel on Koh Phi Phi– I spent one night on Koh Phi Phi and this is where I stayed. By the time I got off the boat with all of my luggage, I was tired and just ready to settle down somewhere, so I just picked one of the closest hotels without doing much research. While it could have been better, I was relatively pleased with this hotel. It was close to the pier and main strip of shops. It was clean and the staff was very accommodating. It offered a complimentary breakfast that was pretty good. However, I wished that it had an elevator and that my bathroom was larger. Regardless, the view from my balcony was a beautiful sight to wake up to in the morning. This was the priciest hotel that I stayed in during my time in Thailand. I paid $112 for a night. I don’t think it was quite worth the price based on Thailand’s standards, but I was willing to pay for the convenience of the location.
Important Things To Know
- Language– They speak Thai in Thailand. Since tourism is big here, many people have some basic knowledge of English, but I emphasize basic. I had a hard time communicating with many people. Occasionally I would come across someone who spoke really good English but it was rare. I found the use of the Google Translate app to come in handy. You’re able to speak into the app and the app will respond by speaking it in the language you choose. Also, I learned a few basic phrases that came in handy; you can find them here.
- Currency– They use the Thai baht ((THB), pronounced ‘bot’). The conversion is 1 USD= 33 THB. I found that many things cost 100 THB, which made keeping up with how much I was spending easy to do. To do a quick and rough conversion, I just multiplied the price in THB by 3 to get an idea of what I was spending.
- Weather– If you like warm weather, you’ll like Thailand. It stays warm year round with the lows in December only dropping into the 70’s. The hottest time of the year is around April when the temperature averages in the high 80’s. It rains quite a bit in Thailand, with the rainiest months being between May-October. If it’s not during the rainy season, it may rain for a short while, but not enough to ruin your day. During the rainy season- September, especially, however, it may rain enough to flood in Bangkok.
- Transportation– If you’re in Bangkok, you will be able to make use of the metros. There are two, the BTS, or skytrain, and the MRT, which is the subway underground. Both are very easy to navigate, and tickets cost between 25 baht and 50 baht per way. In and outside of Bangkok, you are able to take taxis, motorbikes, and tuk-tuks, little motorized wagons. Traffic in Thailand follows different rules than here, and motorbikes tend to weave in and out of traffic and drive pretty crazily. They don’t have helmets for passengers, so ride at your own risk. Tuk-tuks are pretty famous in Thailand, and I would do just to say that I did it, but I wouldn’t make a practice of taking tuk-tuks, since they are more expensive than taxis. Taxis are my preferred method of transportation, but be careful in Bangkok, because drivers will try to take advantage of tourists. Always insist that drivers turn on the meter, and if they refuse, get out and get another taxi.
- Food– I really enjoyed the food in Thailand. There were lots of different options, and as a vegan, I didn’t have any trouble finding food. Street food here is a must. It may not appear to be the most sanitary, but it’s safe and it’s delicious. I ate a lot of noodles, pad thai, fried rice, vegetables, and fruit. If you’re an adventurous eater, you will have a chance to eat things like sweet and spicy tarantula or scorpion. But not to worry, if you’re a picky eater. There are plenty of safe things like rice and noodles to hold you over.
Things I Wish I’d Known
I must admit that this is the trip that I have been most unprepared for. It went amazingly smoothly, but there are some things that I wish I’d known before I went:
- Personal space is not as important as it is to us. I learned this quickly. People tend to stand closely when they talk to you, and if you ride the metro, be prepared to get uncomfortably close to a bunch of strangers.
- Nose picking is…. normal? This is pretty gross, but this was a huge shocker to me when I went to Thailand. In Bangkok I was surprised at how many people openly….pick their noses. And I don’t mean inconspicuous picking. I mean knuckle-deep picking for extended amounts of time right in public. Sorry to be so graphic, but it really was shocking to me and made me not want to touch anything! Just keep your hand sanitizer close.
- Modesty is expected in temples. This is not surprising, but it’s not something that I considered before I went. If you want to enter a temple, ladies must have their knees and shoulders covered. So it would help to plan to wear appropriate clothing if you plan to tour a temple. You must also remove your shoes before entering.
- Manners are different. The culture is different, so naturally the manners would be different. Keep the following in mind:
- It is polite to bow with your hands together in front of you in a praying position (called the wai) when you greet an older person, greet a person in a high position, or are thanking someone. You’ll find yourself doing this a lot.
- It is considered impolite to touch someone on the head.
- It is considered impolite to point or show the bottom of your foot towards someone (even when your legs are crossed while sitting.)
- It is proper to remove your shoes before you enter someone’s house and sometimes their business.
- Thailand is a ‘kingdom’ complete with a Royal Family. Except this royal family isn’t like the royal family of England. The Royal Family of Thailand rule Thailand and are regarded as almost deities. You must never speak negatively of them.
- It’s improper to show public displays of affection.
- Buddha is highly revered so never sit or climb on a statue of him.
- There is a lot of uncovered coughing. Next time I just might take a paper surgical mask to cover my face in public just in case.
- When using AirAsia Airlines to fly within the country, the carry on baggage allowance is different. Your carry on may not weigh more than 7 kg (15lbs), or else you have to check it.
- Thai massages live up to the hype. So, I’m going to be honest. When I think of Thai massages, my mind automatically goes to the stereotype of them ending with happy endings, so when I went to get a massage, I was a bit nervous. After all I ONLY wanted the massage and nothing else! I’d heard about them being good and ridiculously inexpensive ($6/hour) and I wanted to see what all the talk was about. So, yes, the massages are good, and, luckily, I didn’t have any awkwardness with having to try to shoo hands away from my lady bits. While I’m sure that the happy ending massages do happen, it’s not a given with every massage, so if that’s not what you’re looking for, you can relax and enjoy your professional massage.
- Jason McLellan, Travel Expert with Sta Travel
- Email: Jason.McLellan@statravel.com
- Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (ethical elephant encounters)
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Telephone: +6653-273-414 or +6683-562-4263
- Address: 119/10 Thapae Rd. Chang Klan, Muang, Chiang Mai 50100 Thailand
- Lub’D Hostel Phuket/Patong
- Email: email@example.com
- Telephone: +66-76-530-100
- Address 5/5 Sawatdirak Road, Patong, Kathu, Phuket 83150
- Kampaeng Ngam Hotel
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: kampaengngamhotel.com
- Telephone: +66 5327 2448-9
- Address: 19 Kampangdin Rd. Changklan, Muang, Chiang Mai 50100
In my opinion, Thailand is one of those places that warrants more than one trip in a lifetime. It’s vast and incredibly beautiful, and I definitely plan to make more trips in the future.