But what’s it REALLY like to visit Thailand?
If you’ve been there, you’ve clicked on this link to see if my depiction of Thailand represents your experience there. If you haven’t been, perhaps you’re curious.
I hope you’re curious. I hope you want to visit Thailand. Because if you’ve clicked on this link; if you’re thinking of visiting Thailand, then you probably have an adventurous spirit . . . and you’ve been bitten by the Thailand bug. Trust me, you need to go. There are the obvious tips: cash is king, bring lots of mosquito repellent, don’t overpack, avoid suspicious characters . . . you get the idea. The following doesn’t include tips, but rather what to expect on your trip to Thailand:
1. You’re going to get ripped off
Like, a lot. You stick out like a sore thumb. You have “tourist” stamped all over you, and you’re in the land where business savvy residents have been trained to spot you. You’re going to haggle, all day, every day. You’re going to pay too much for basically everything.
But you’re still going to pay next to nothing. So you can’t bring yourself to care too much.
2. You’re going to get tired of touts
Because at one point, you’re just going to want to walk down the street and not be hassled. Remember that this is not native to Thailand: I get the same from the hostesses in the Gaslamp District of San Diego; I couldn’t go three feet in Bali without getting haggled; I avoid certain beaches in Barcelona because I simply don’t feel like hearing “mojita-cerverza-beer” repeatedly. It’s just part of the experience.
3. You might get sick
Hey, I didn’t. That’s awesome. But everyone else I know did. My poor husband did, and the story isn’t pretty.
Come prepared with every gastrointestinal medicine you can think of.
That being said, eat the street food. All of it. Without regrets . . . until you have regrets, anyway.
4. You’ll feel like a foreigner, in the best way possible
Isn’t this one of the reasons you came? To feel transported to another world; to another time? It’s awesome. Embrace it.
5. You’ll magically get from A to B and have no idea what happened
Routes? Maps? Scheduled train and bus pick-ups? Not in Thailand. But they take care of you. You follow someone from the ticket counter who shouts at you to “sit here” and “do this,” you do . . . and you somehow make it to where you wanted to go. It’s an incredible, mysterious system.
6. More people speak English than you’d imagine
I’m the first one to say “learn some basics of the native language” before visiting a new locale. But in Thailand, it’s incredible: more people speak English than you’d expect. You’re going to be OK. But that doesn’t mean you should skip the basic phrases: make sure to learn the sà-wàt-dee and kòp kun, and make sure that you understand that there are different pronunciations for males and females.
Or . . . you’ll be cruising through Koh Lanta, in the middle of nowhere, and your motorcycle will stop working, and you’ll magically find a guy who will point you to a shack, where a guy will come out, fix your bike while his adorable kids pull out chairs for you and bring you Coca Colas, and you’ll close the transaction with him writing numbers in the dirt with a stick before you’re on your way. That, my friends, is the beauty of humanity.
7. You’ll bond with other travelers
You are all, metaphorically (or literally, if you’re on a snorkeling tour) in the same boat. You’ll create bonds with other travelers that you know will probably never extend beyond this little moment in time, but that’s what makes it all the more special.
8. You’ll need an up-to-date travel book
Things change quickly in Southeast Asia . . . too quickly for this sentimental, “never change” writer. Make sure that your travel guide has been recently published so that you get the most up-to-date information.
9. Your clothes will come here to die.
Between the heat, the traffic of Bangkok, and the dirt of the country, your clothes will take a beating. You can get them washed for a fair price, but beware: they will dry your clothes until they’re children sized. Proceed with caution.
10. You’ll want to take home all the dogs.
Oh wait, that’s just me. Well, maybe me and every other girl . . .