My survival guide to Thailand

If you have been reading this blog a bit then you may of already picked up a few hints and tips for Thailand but I thought I would do you a bit of a favour and putmsomething together to prepare you for this country, although everything I have to say will probably still not prepare you enough, in general throw away your western standards, they are very little use to you.

Food
A few words of warning first, if you have a peanut allergy beware as Thai people like to add it into things, also if your a vegetarian you may struggle from time to time but don’t let this put you off, finally expect the Thai people to hide sugar in things, it helps to be able to say you dont want something sweet/spicey, apart from that prepare yourself for a taste explosion. If you have ever had Thai food you might be aware of this already but there is so much more fo discover. One thing is for sure, the less sensitive you are to food the easier you will find it, and yes I am well aware that is a really obvious thing to say. Most Thai vendors are aware that some of their food is spicey and will warn you if you order something spicey, expect them to give you a strange look hey actually look if you tell them I want your meal Thai style, not falang style, if you can handle your spice you really are in for a treat. It’s probably against your instincts to avoid big name restaurants and aim more for small outfits or street vendors that have simplistic seating outside. However the best piece of advise I can give you is do exactly this I have had some totally delicious food for a very cheap price sitting by the side of a busy road, it’s not exactly romantic but the food is normally delicious. A word of warning about this though, ensure your food is either freshly prepared (which is the norm for most places) or at least hot, soups are always a good and fairly safe option but please allow your tastebuds an adventure, try stuff and branch out of your comfort zone. There is one exception to the ‘hot’ rule and that is Thai salads, my favourite being Papaya salad, also known as Som Tum. If you have never had it you must, it’s a heady mix of sweet, sour, crunch and optional intense heat. I generally describe this as being punched in the face with flavour, it is really full on and incredibly delicious.

Internet
The internet is everywhere and most important of all 90% of it is free, if you get palpitations when you have not updated your Facebook for 24 hours fear not. Telephone companies AIS and True Move both offer pre-paid options but in my opinion you won’t need it. If you really need the interwebs, aim for a cafe or bar and they will have it there.

People
The mot important thing I have learned about Thailand is to smile more. If you keep your eyes and ears open you can see the Thai people talking about you. If they use the word “falang” then they could be very well talking about you. It’s important at these points for to look at the person and smile at them. It’s my way of saying although I have no idea what your saying I know it’s about me and I don’t mind. Thai people will mostly try to accomodate you as best they can but sometimes they will laugh at you, again here it’s important to have a sense of humour, laugh with them it’s much more fun this way.

You may be one of these people that find Asian people rude. I mentioned before how I find some of their antics a little odd, but at these points again its important to not judge them by western standards and I cannot stress that enough.

Traffic
Expect lots of it and expect it not to conform to western standards. I remember the first day I got into Bangkok and was assaulted by the sounds, smells and sights of the city. I have seen so many examples of crazy driving here, the latest being tailgating. If your driving or riding through Thailand then the best bit of advise I can give is expect everything. Expect to be cut up, pulled in front of, tailgated, see people turn without signalling, and on top of that you have a few westerners either trying to figurenout what the rules are or trusting their instinct. It seems that all drivers in Thailand have psychic powers as they rarely if ever indicate, stop suddenly and all sorts of stuff. It could induce a metric tonne of road rage but see the entry above on People.

Dogs
Dogs are generally a very different beast from what wee are used to in the west. They are far more wild out here and you begin to understand why the medic who gave you all your other shots to come out here also tried and may of even succeeded in selling you a rabies shot. Dogs here are (in general) far more aggressive, a lot of them have various skin conditions, no male dog that I have seen have had the snip which means the females also get pregnant a lot and some have what look like distended teats. It’s a sad affair. Being a dog lover I have had to remove my want to be nice to these animals or find them cute, it has not been easy but it is necessary. Also expect them to just wander around near or close to main roads, I have seen several casualties of this.

Money
One thing the Thai people are pretty good at is taking money off tourists and here is where you need to be careful. Within an hour of arriving in Bangkok I had paid approx 250 Baht more than I should of but this is all learning. Be prepared everywhere you go to be charged a “tourist” fee. You will pay 50 Baht for this, 200 Baht for that and if you object to this then the solution is simple, don’t go to these things. So here are some hints on money. Learn to haggle, virtually never pay the price they are asking for something with food and travel being an exception to this rule. When getting a taxi anywhere ensure they turn the meter on before you get in the car, if not just don’t get in. Drivers in general will always try and charge you more it’s up to you what you do about it. The less you embrace Thai culture the more money you will pay.

I think that’s about it, I am sure I could think of more if I tried but this is a good start.

One thought on “My survival guide to Thailand

  1. Couple of points:
    1) traffic – it’s nuts, thankfully not as bad as Manilla
    2) Asian crowds seem to work better at dealing with large numbers of people in small place then in Europe (compare Nottingham hill carnival vs Guangzhou station)
    3) in Bangkok there is a Thai chain called Coffee Beans. Try it, some of the best food in Bangkok, same goes for the food courts in the bottom of the malls.
    4) go to the cinema in Bangkok. It’s awesome. Do remember to stand for the anthem.
    5) best Thai massage for me was the one for the masseur students in the temple of the reclining Buddha in Bangkok (I may have got the temple wrong, but the school is a well known landmark)
    6) haggle, haggle, haggle, exceptions are food, metered services, and some priced attractions (cinema for e.g.), buses etc. use common sense.

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