TH - Travel tips for Thailand
Did you know that you shouldn't ever step on your money to keep it from flying away in Thailand? Who would've thought about that? Definitely not me. In light of this matter I am going to share some interesting things they don't tell you about Thailand.
The National Anthem
Thai people are very patriotic and have reverence for their leadership. The prime minister of Thailand ordered that the anthem be played twice a day and that everyone should stand during it as a sign of respect. You'll notice that when it is broadcast across speakers that you can be in the middle of a bustling market place and everything falls silent as everyone stands in place until the anthem has completed. Upon completion they return to normal activities. As the saying goes "When it Rome.." you should follow along and stand during the anthem. It is both polite and culturally appropriate to be silent and still for the few moments it plays and then you can continue with your day.
The Land of Smiles
While it is only a nickname for the country, smiles go a long way when you're faced with a language barrier. I get by very easily speaking only two words in Thai. Thankyou, and Hello. Hello sounds like "Swah--dee--kah" and Thank you (for a female) sounds like "Kahp--koon--kah". Say hello when you enter a shop and complete your transaction in English. Follow it up with thank you and don't forget to smile. They will treat you well compared to others that make no effort to speak the local language. People will do their best to try to understand and accommodate you, but showing that you are trying is always a great step in the right direction.
|Stuck in a traffic jam while riding in the truck bed of a taxi|
Taxi drivers can try to scam foreigners. They will try to charge a flat rate that's very overpriced. They are required by law to turn their meter on if asked, so ask. If they say no look for another taxi. A lot of taxis have specific areas they drive to as well so if you mention your street and the taxi just drives off it's not in his area. I don't believe it's considered rude in their mind.
When you get off a bus or train or whatever means of public transport it can be overwhelming how many taxis will rush you. It is disorienting and a little scary at first. I was trying to get off a bus in Bangkok after a long ride from Chumphon and the taxi drivers literally stood in my way and would not let me get off the bus as they continued to barrage me with "WHERE YOU GOING???" shouts. It was overwhelming and I just kept saying "NO" and pushed past them. Always gather your bearings, figure out where you are, then approach a taxi if you are planning to. Don't be afraid either- they are not trying to hurt you. They are just trying to do their job and feed their families. Always negotiate before getting in the taxi.
Tuk-Tuks drive like a little too dangerously for my tastes and are expensive. You are paying for the "experience" and unless it's something you really want I don't recommend it, but I know a lot of people love it.
Motorbike rentals are another thing I personally don't recommend, but I know many have done it without issue. There are deposits and if you so much as scratch the bike, they will hold your passport hostage until you pay outrageous fines to cover said "scratch". If you still want to, rent at your own risk but I don't recommend it. There are a lot of scams around this sort of thing too, I've heard of them claiming damage even when there isn't and you have to pay or they will keep your passport.
Don't drink the tap water - buy bottled and if you're against plastic use a specialized filter and viral/bacterial killer. The locals don't drink it either. You do not have to worry about ice though, we were fine with any ice we received.
Don't flush toilet paper - there are bins inside stalls and that's where the toilet paper goes. The septic system is not strong and is literally open there. You don't want to flush anything except actual body waste.
Welcome to land of BYOTP- That's Bring Your Own Toilette Paper. Most come equipped with a sprayer that looks like a sink sprayer. It's called a "shower" or bidet in many places and you use it to clean your yoni off after you potty. It is considered inappropriate to wash your feet with it, although I've seen foreigners doing this (that doesn't make it right though. Always respect the country you are in). Also note that many public restrooms charge a fee, usually between 3-10 Baht (about 15-30 cents)
|There was a cloud of mosquitoes that waited at these stairs...daily|
Bring or buy mosquito spray because those things are like black swarms of death. They're also nearly 3x the size of American mosquitoes and they pack a mean bite. I used an herbal spray sold at a pharmacy store for 200 Baht (5$) and it worked perfectly. It was a combination of essential oils and was very pleasantly scented.
Shrines to the King
The King was a highly respected and revered man. He was amazing and truly loved his country. He recently passed away and there are shrines everywhere to him. Be humble, do not touch, and if you want your picture made I have seen many locals taking their shoes off and sitting humbly before the display to do so.
Shoes off is not always a thing but it is pretty common. If you see shoes by the door, go ahead and remove your shoes. Most places I went were shoe-free zones.
Hostels are cheaper than hotels and if you research before hand you can find a hostel for less than 5$ a night and it will still be a good sleep. I stayed at one in Bangkok that was on a backroad. My bed was clean, I had fresh sheets, the showers were wonderfully private and clean-same with the bathrooms. I had a locker that was an entire metal cage that was very secure for my belongings and there was a laundry machine available on the 4th floor to wash clothes. As with any travel, don't sit your belongings on any bed until you've thoroughly checked it for bed bugs.
A/C is a luxury in many hotels/hostels so be ready to use fans. It does cool off at night though and I was not bothered at all by using fans everywhere.
Buy tablets for motion sickness if it's a thing for you, and maybe even if it's not. I road a ferry to Koh Tao and I do not get motion sick but the waves were so turbulent that day that literally no one except the crew was standing on that boat. Everyone was bent over puking, including me. They know this happens so they have biohazard baggies for everyone ready. Take one when you get on because it's better to be safe than sorry. My ferry ride back in was smooth and I even sat on top of the boat and nearly slept the entire ride because it was so peaceful. You never know what you'll get.
I recommend over night trains vs buses. Those bus seats are awful and uncomfortable and I was in pain by the end vs the train that has an uncomfortable bed but at least I can lay down. My train was cheap and very basic. I had a window stuck down the whole time and it was hot but there were fans in the aisle all the way down the train. I had a curtain for my bed and there was a bathroom but it wasn't a nice bathroom by any means. It was a metal squatty-potty and that in itself was an experience. Have you ever tried squatting to pee on a moving train that's old? It's rattly, you get slammed around, and I hit the wall more than once in that little bathroom. I would still do it again though. I used Lompraya to get around. They are an efficient company that offers bus, ferry, train all combined.
|Beach-side establishment advertising free wi-fi|
Research and know where you're going before you arrive in the country. Free wi-fi is pretty sketchy even when available and sometimes I went 2 days without a connection that was reliable. I didn't get an international phone plan because it's too expensive for my tastes.
Pack light and don't look rich. I felt safe in Bangkok late at night and literally all day on Koh Tao because I brought only a backpack with me and I lived out of that backpack. I brought nothing fancy and only what I needed. I didn't even bring my laptop for this trip. I discuss my packing method here. If you don't wear fancy watches and look like you have money you are less likely to be a target for a pick pocket. Luggage locks can be a deterrent as well.
Thai Baht can generally be easily approximated for USD. Take the price and multiply by 3 and you have a rough accuracy on what you're spending. 3 Baht = 15 cents, etc. Do not step on the bills as it is offensive to place your feet on the face of the king.
|This place was packed with locals, best mango/rice place I found in Bangkok|
Go where the locals go. If you see a lot of locals eating there it's probably a good place. This often means walking off the main roads. You'll pay less and the food will be better, trust me.
No one rushes you at restaurants, so you shouldn't rush either. They will drop menus and give you nearly 15 minutes before they return to take your order. Dinner takes a long time to arrive. Eating out is special and is seen as a social occasion so you will not be given your ticket quickly after you finish either. They give you time and space to enjoy your meal and to converse with your companion. I suggest never waiting until you're hangry to eat. Eat a snack before going out if you're getting grumpy. Be prepared to spend time enjoying the atmosphere. On Koh Tao I ate at restaurants on the beach every night and I simply enjoyed the food and conversation. In Bangkok I stuck to street vendors because Bangkok is renowned for the vendor food. I ate mango with sticky rice and coconut milk in front of a temple in Bangkok before I ventured inside to meditate.
Don't speak in the temples. Dress conservatively (I'm not saying wear a niqab, but you shouldn't go in with torn up shorts and a tank top. I wore yoga capris and a t-shirt) when planning to enter a temple. Some are so conservative that you will have to borrow a wrap to go in and cover all your skin. There are not many that enforce this but be aware of it. Don't touch anything and just go sit and meditate like the locals do, or place your offerings like the locals do. Try to be respectful because this is a religious and sacred place you are entering. Connect to the divine and appreciate what you are experiencing.
Don't touch monks and as a woman try not to bump into them either. It is frowned upon to sit next to them either. If you are alone and have the wonderful experience of getting to speak to one and you want to pass them anything, either hand it to a man first or set it on the floor so that the monk can pick it up from there. The goal is no contact from females. It has to do with abstinence and sexual will power.
Carry baby wipes with you. You'll thank me later. It's the best way to feel fresh while traveling or to quickly clean up after a long day sweating in the humidity and sun.
Elephants, tigers, and exotic animals
Do not support tiger temples, places that allow you to ride or feed elephants, or any other exotic animal encounters. Tigers do not associate with humans and are drugged out of their mind just so they won't attack you. Elephants are forced under threat of electrocution and worse to tote you around. All of this is for the sake of a few dollars. Your money is your support - be aware that when you refuse to fund these sorts of unethical animal tourism structures that you are helping to end them. It may seem like you are helping their economy but you are cementing the fate of another poor animal to endure what you just paid for. Leave exotic animals where they belong - in the wild.
That's just a handful of the many wonderful things I learned while in Thailand. Happy travels!