5 words/phrases that describe Thailand: smile-stimulating, easy, energetic, picturesque, peaceful
What seems to make Thais happy? First and foremost, they seem to find joy in their families. The Thai family unit is very strong. Relatives work, play, live and grow together – they truly share in each others’ lives. Thais also seem to love tourists (especially in less populated areas). They treat foreigners like star guests in their country and ask lots of enthusiastic questions.
What seems to make Thais unhappy? It’s hard to tell. They’re always smiling! I think rude, aggressive and disrespectful people would make them uncomfortable.
Did you ever feel out of your comfort zone while in Thailand? The heat was challenging at times, especially in highly populated hubs (e.g. Patong Beach). Trying some of the local delicacies assaulted my senses. The smell, look and taste of pigs’ entrails, congealed blood and old eggs really tested my limits.
What can other countries learn from Thailand? How to treat people, all people, with respect and hospitality.
Best thing I saw: The sunsets on Koh Phangan – they were perfectly dreamy. Chinatown in Bangkok was also visually awesome but for completely different reasons. The place was on steroids – there was so much going on! All we could do was laugh and get swept up in the tidal wave of craziness.
Best thing I heard: A group of drunken Thais singing “My Heart Will Go On”. As we rolled up to a beach, hoping to find a “quiet” campsite for the night, the sound of late night karaoke filled the air. They were really getting into it!
Best thing I smelt: This is terrible, but I can’t lie. The waft of hot doughnuts, waffles and caramel popcorn in the shopping centres was pretty mouth-watering.
Best thing I did: The Follow Me Bicycle Tour in Bangkok. It’s a must-do experience.
Best thing I tasted: I didn’t rate the Thai food as much as I expected to. It seemed a bit sludgy and “same same”. The fruit shakes always went down a treat, though. The condensed milk really took them to another level.
Best local character I met: A guy serving food and drinks at a cheap restaurant on Koh Phangan Island. He was the ultimate grumpy guts the first time I met him. No matter what trick we pulled – complementing him, getting up in his grill with a cheshire cat smile – nothing made him crack. The night after the Full Moon Party, he was a different man. The friendliest, funniest bugger we’d ever met. We think he might’ve got laid or raked in some serious “kasheesh” the night of the big event.
Best lost in translation moment: People regularly speaking to me in Thai assuming I’m a local. This didn’t happen to Ben as much.
Best surprise ‘n’ delight moment: Bangkok. Before visiting this place, all I could think about was Mr Chow’s quote from The Hangover, “Bangkok Hola, city of squaller”. I thought it’d be slummy, sweaty, stinky and swarming with people. It turned out to be all of those things and SO much more. Bangkok is a megawatt, high-voltage city loaded with possibilities. If I lived here (and I hope to some day), my brain would be stimulated and tickled pink for years. Beyond the grit and grime, there are pockets of glorious character, beauty and old-world charm. It’s awesome – very expat friendly.
5 words/phrases that describe Thailand: Safe, welcoming, contrasting, busy, pro-monarchy.
What seems to make Thais happy? From our experiences I think interaction with other people especially foreigners seems to bring a smile to their faces every time. Even in the heaviest traffic jam or most run-down back streets people don’t seem particularly stressed or unhappy. They’re accepting of strangers and go out of their way to help.
What seems to make Thais unhappy? Thais are generally very respectful and polite and I’ve yet to see one particularly flustered. Saying that when someone raises their voice or disrespects them it embarrasses them easily and takes away their smile!
Did you ever feel out of your comfort zone while in Thailand? Thailand is a very easy country to travel through for foreigners. Most Thais understand a few words of English, the signage and menus are easy to read and the infrastructure and road network work. I felt a little overwhelmed by the oppressive heat in the cities, especially when outside for a morning run!
What can other countries learn from Thailand? Their acceptance of tourists and the income that brings is universally accepted by most Thais, almost of the point of loosing their own identity unfortunately. They welcome you with open arms across the country but the tourist hotspots are saturated with cheap souvenirs, massage parlours and tacky bars and restaurants. Don’t loose the uniqueness that brings people to visit in the first place!
Best thing I saw: My group of amazing friends who all made the effort to come out and celebrate my 40th birthday with me on Koh Phagnan. Amazing parties, great company and perfect memories.
Best thing I heard: The sound of the waves lapping against the sandy beach from our tent. We driven all day towards Bangkok and late in the evening I pulled of the highway onto a dark, small track that led to a remote beach. Not knowing what we’d find in the morning light we awoke from our slumber to a gorgeous sunrise (albeit on a beach with a little too much litter) and the soothing sound of the waves.
Best thing I smelt: It always comes down to food this one! Walking down the very touristy Kao San Road in Bangkok your ears are assaulted by the advances of sellers for massage parlours, restaurants and ping-pong shows, but by far the most enticing are the salubrious smells of the street food sellers.
Best thing I did: Jumped on a classic bicycle and pedalled through the streets of Bangkok on a Follow Me Bike Tour. We visited food and flower markets, cycled the river boardwalk and chatted with locals all about the wonders of the city.
Best thing I tasted: Freshly made pancakes with banana and Nutella smeared across in Khao Lak.
Best local character I met: Woody the tuk-tuk driver from Patong Beach in Phuket. As one of the Best Life characters we interviewed for our website he really has the lust for life, love of his family and tourists that was exactly what we were looking for.
Best lost in translation moment: Decided to head out for a haircut one afternoon whilst staying in Bangkok and found a backstreet with a tiny shop complete with barbers pole. After realising there was a language barrier with the hairdresser I showed her with my fingers how much I wanted taken off…at least I thought that’s what she understood. Only when she started to hack into my hair did I realise she thought I meant to leave that much instead! End result? Much shorter hair than I wanted!
Best surprise ‘n’ delight moment: Being surrounded by a group of armed Thailand Highway patrol officers at a petrol station on the way to Myanmar. Fearing the worst I started conversation to find out all they wanted was a group photo in front of the Land Rover!
To see the photos of our time in Thailand have a look at our album