Thailand is known to be one of the safest places to travel solo, especially for women, and it is also easy to visit this country whether as a tourist or as a volunteer. Hence, I am really glad that my life’s first international journey is to the land of smiles. I keep using this word (like a zillion others) because this is what the country truly is.
I wanted to write a post sooner, like the moment I got here, but I also wanted to make sure that I get settled here first and explore a bit before giving out my perceptions. So this is what I have observed in the 18 days that I have been in this country:
Bangkok is not for me
Like many other travellers coming to Thailand, Bangkok was my point of entry to the country. It is the capital of Thailand and a very well-developed city but having lived in cities all my life, there was nothing about Bangkok that fascinated me, except of course my first Thai foot massage and the first mean of Thailand’s famous dish – Pad Thai.
As a first timer, I was more anxious than happy to be travelling to a new country on my own but it turned out one of my friends working with Qatar happened to be in the city on the very day of my arrival. It is always great to see a friendly face in a foreign place. However, that was just one day and I was supposed to be in the city for 3 more days before I left for Chiang Mai (which is where my school is).
I spent that time pampering myself to great street food, the local beers, and a heavenly foot massage. And, I will always be in love with Bangkok because of this.
Also, I wanted to explore a few places in the city but I dropped the idea as I was too exhausted and wanted to relax. But this doesn’t bother me because I am here for a while and its only 45 minutes to Bangkok via flights.
I can live on Pad Thai and Mango Sticky Rice
Seriously I can! Initially, I wasn’t sure if I would adjust to the food here because honestly some of the dishes have a strange aroma but taste so yummy! So my advice to first-timers in Thailand – don’t judge the food by its aroma, if it looks good then try it. Chances are you will be able to look past the aroma and love the food. However, this doesn’t apply to Pad Thai or Mango Sticky rice – they smell yummy, they look yummy, and they taste super yummy! And, I am sure when it’s time for me to say goodbye here, these are two of the things I will miss the most. And of course, there is the seafood salad, Japanese BBQ, Thai Noodle soup, Rat Na, Sticky rice with coconut, Iced Green Tea. Iced Cappuccino, sausages, shrimp paste… Phew!!
Indian Rupiah may be half of Thai Baht but the cost of living here is nothing
To be honest, when I left India, I wasn’t carrying shit loads of cash. I only had enough and I thought it won’t last me a week. But, was I wrong? I read quite a few blogs about cost of living here (by now you know I read about EVERYTHING) and I was kinda certain that it won’t make a hole in my pocket. However, I honestly didn’t believe when bloggers write that you can enjoy a gala dinner for less than $2. But, THEY WERE DAMN RIGHT!
For $2 or 67 Baht – you can stuff yourself with a delicious meal of Pad Thai (30BHT) and a dessert of mango sticky rice (30BHT) or any other dish of your choice! You can get a tequila shot for 60 BHT at popular clubs such as Zoe in Yellow (will write about such places in another post). You can get a can/pint of beer (Singha, Chang, Tiger, and Leo) for 60 BHT. A big bottle of water will cost 14 BHT. And, last but not least, my favourite Iced Cappuccino at my favourite Brew’s Job costs 60 BHT!
You can rent a scooter or bike or cycle to travel around the city or hop onto any of the hundreds of yellow and red Songthaew (minivan) going into your direction. Rentals vary as per the make and model of the vehicle but one of the local favourites, Honda Dream/Wave, can be rented for 80-150 BHT a day. A Songthaew ride from San Patong (a town 26 km from Chiang Mai) costs 20 BHT.
So anyway, I will give a detailed cost of living here later but the bottom line is – there is no rich and poor here. Just about everybody can enjoy a great life.
Naam and Hong Naam are two words you NEED to know
The first one means water and the second one is Thai for toilet. And, trust me you need to know both. Or, you can do with the hand gestures.
Also, other words that I have picked up here are – Sawadee khaa (hello), Khap Khun Kha (Thank you), Aroy (delicious), Swai (Beautiful), Khaatot (sorry), and Kleuya (salt).
Again, I will write another time about all the words and phrases that can get you through Thailand easily but the ones mentioned here are very important (to me).
Eat Rice for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner and work out the extra calories later
I am an Indian and I am a Bengali. Rice is like my staple food yet I have never ate as much rice in a month at home that I eat here is a week! And, no I have not put on weight (well, not much anyway). Besides, there is no way I can give up on the sticky rice even if it meant extra calories or “photoshopped” selfies.
Get used to the extra care and attention, it’s not intrusion, it’s the culture
Thai people love to help. They love to help you whenever they get a chance. They care about your safety more than you do. At first, it felt a little awkward and too much I would agree and that is because as a solo travellers, I got used to doing things on my own, figuring out my own way, facing my own problems, and handling everything. But, here in Thailand, you are never alone. There is always somebody to drop you to the place you want to go, even if it means going the opposite way. There is always someone telling you when it’s unsafe to be out late in the dark, especially if you are a female and new to the country. You would find van drivers suggesting you alternative transportation in case their rates are too much for you.
People here know how to give hospitality a whole new meaning. I only learnt all of this because of the amazing schools I teach at. The kids are amazing and the teachers are just incredibly helpful and cheerful. The amount of respect and love you get from the people here is just so overwhelming that I at times think if I deserve so much. But, I guess in the hearts of Thai people, everybody is worth love, care and attention. It makes me feel at home.
Thailand Loves COLORS
One of the first things I noticed about the country is that EVERYTHING and I mean everything here is colourful – the cabs in Bangkok, the different flavors of Fanta, the food, the people, the magnificent Wats, the larger-than-life markets, the clubs and restaurants, and even the sticky rice has different colours. If you love colours like I do, you will love the country.
So, this sums up my impressions of the country. Have you ever been to Thailand? What are your first or favourite memories of the country? Have you tried Sticky Rice?