When building your itinerary for Thailand it is easy to be overwhelmed. You think about places Anthony Bourdain would eat in No Reservations, or you think about how to pack the days with the most beaches and shopping you can.
Well here are my tips for Thailand
Do use the metro and rail systems in Bangkok and greater Thailand. The metros are extremely modern, and a fun way to explore the city. They operate above ground, so you can get a good look at the city that surrounds you. The railroad system is old, on the other hand, but romantic. Jay and I traveled from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in a sleeper car and had dinner on the train. It is a really fun way to see the sights and what rural Thailand is like. We met a really nice family from England who live in Dubai on the train. It was fun to chit-chat and share the experience with others.
Do go experience the beauty of the religious temples of Thailand. I recommend wearing long dresses to women, and scarves, as modesty is expected in these sites. Men are to wear long pants and shoes. It is amazing what people have created!
Do try to get off the beaten path. Explore! We found waterfalls on Ko Samui that we had to ourselves. It was great climbing, and swimming without abandon! You will find that Thailand is full of tourists during the dry season, so it is hard to get away….
Do rent a motorcycle, use tuk-tuks, and bring comfortable shoes. There is so much to see and do, it is nice to be in charge of your own destiny. Tuk-tuks are motorbikes or bicycles with riding carts in back. They are cheap and whiz through traffic easily. (Beware of scammers -more on this later!) Motorcycles are cheap to rent. I recommend them outside of Bangkok, as they are a fun way to go into mountains or around islands. In Bangkok, driving is not for the faint-hearted.
Do the “tourist thing”– We bought the Lonely Planet: Thailand guide. It proved to be extremely useful. When in Chiang Mai, we got thai massages at the women’s prison. It was clean, atmospheric, and the women were very funny and friendly. We visited elephants, an absolute must! And we learned to make Thai food at the Blue Elephant Restaurant. It was a great cultural experience!
Do ask for the local menu. When we first arrived, Jay and I were confused by the menus we were using in restaurants. They were in English, and they “played it safe.” Pad Thai everywhere? We quickly realized that we were missing out on the real flavors of Thailand. We simply started to point to the local’s food and ask for it. “You sure?” We were. Thailand is full of delicious seafood, curries, and awesome coffee drinks (in bags?). We ate to our hearts content once we started to realize we could.
And now the shortlist of what to skip..
Don’t bother with Koh Phi Phi (unless you love garbage and cramped up tourists partying with the moon). It was a destination that made us want to go to Thailand in the first place. But we found it to be pretty lackluster. We went out on boats to “monkey island” where westerners fed monkey’s by hand.. which was just sort of sad…. We tried finding the secluded beaches we heard about only to paddle and find garbage littered the entire beach line. The restaurants cater to westerners. Pizza abounds… sort of? It’s a pita with ketchup on it…And there are tons and tons of teenagers partying for their first time abroad. It just wasn’t our thing.
Don’t ride the elephants. Their street handlers depend on our naiveté. They are cruel to them, often hurting them so that they can make money for their repair. They are used for rides at zoos and parks. This is bad practice (The Elephant Nature Center is a great place to bathe with them, feed them, and care for them without contributing to their demise).
Don’t fall for the tuk-tuk scams. While we were there, we met a really nice man who spoke English! We thought how lucky we were. He waved over a tuk-tuk driver and negotiated our price to go to a temple. The next thing we knew they were trying to get us to buy garments on the way to our destination. This scam is popular enough, it has a wiki page.
Don’t go to zoos… unless you want to feel super depressed… the animal welfare is a low priority in zoos there.
Don’t forget your selfie-stick! In Thailand, and greater Asia, people use selfie-sticks without inhibition. You do not have to feel weird using it often. Take as many picture as you can of the wonderful people, the beautiful sites, and the spectacular seas.
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