This is the question I heard over and over when I told my friends and family that I was traveling to the “Land of Smiles” this past winter. While my answer never seemed to make sense at the time, I can certainly tell you why I chose Thailand now that I am home.
First, I must say that I went to Thailand through EF College Break for two weeks. I was in a group of 40 and the only person I knew before the trip was my boyfriend, Zach, who came with me. We paid a price and they had everything planned out for us already including several meals, hotels, transportation, plenty attractions, etc. It was so nice to not have to stress about the planning aspect and I would definitely go through them again.
We flew into Bangkok, met our tour guide and travel group, and tried to sleep to beat the 11 hour time difference from home. To begin our journey, we went to a Thai home where we tasted raw sugar and saw squirrels doing back flips. We met the Thai family who lived there and were treated with the utmost kindness and respect. The first of many encounters we would have with this kind of treatment from the Thai culture.
Floating Market, Thailand. 2014
Later that day we went on a speedboat ride down the river, which was definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip. Water splashed around us and we saw a ton of tiny homes and temples. We drove through a floating market and stopped to shop for a while which introduced us to our very first market. When in Thailand, go to the markets. You learn to barter and it was one of my favorite experiences of the trip (and I don’t even go shopping that much you guys).
Something you must do if you ever go to Thailand, is get a massage. My boyfriend and I got an hour body massage for $8 each. It’s insanely cheap and feels really really good. They have shops everywhere so it’s not hard to find a place. Just walking the streets gives you plenty of opportunities to dive into the culture.
While in Bangkok, we also took a tour of the river that runs through the city. We saw a few beautiful temples as well as the Grand Palace which is one of the most gorgeous and detailed pieces of work I have ever seen. The intricacy of their architecture doesn’t fail to make you gasp every time you see a temple. There were quite a few crowds but you eventually learn to push and shove your way through if needed. Our tour guide always took good care of us.
We traveled to Phitsanulok on our way to Chiang Mai. On our way there, we stopped at one of my favorite places of the whole trip. Temple ruins. There was an incredibly sad story behind the ruins and it shocked us all. How can something so disastrous like a fire or flood lead to such beauty? I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
Chiang Mai was a huge adventure. We visited the biggest night market in the city called Night Bazaar which had the coolest trinkets and gifts. We saw everything from insanely inappropriate bracelets to hand carved soap beauties that were made right in front of us.We went to another temple on top of a mountain by way of taxi pick up trucks. That was a great adventure. To think that it was completely normal to ride on a bench in the back of a pick up truck was so different than anything I’ve ever done.
We rode elephants and had the chance to pet a tiger.We also went on a bamboo raft ride down the river to see a Thai tribe. That little tribe was a really great cultural experience. It was such a versatile city and definitely more modernized than Bangkok.
I must say, riding elephants was the chance of a lifetime but I won’t do it again. After we were on the giant mammal, our guide would hit him if he wasn’t going fast enough and it was a horrible feeling to be a part of that. I felt so guilty. After the ride, we had the chance to have elephants do tricks with us in which the owners weren’t hurting the elephants at all. This was really neat to be a part of. They lifted us up in the air with their trunks and shoveled sugar cane and bananas into their mouths as treats. Then they put on an elephant show to show off their impressively intelligent minds. They painted pictures, gave massages and even played soccer.
As for the tigers, some of them were so visibly drugged up I couldn’t bring myself to get in the cage with them. But some people on the trip really enjoyed petting the tigers. It’s all about what you know and what you believe.
This place was paradise. If you go to Phuket, please go to Phi Phi Islands and to islands around there. That was the best part of Phuket. We stayed in Patong Beach and it was so humid so when you got to the beach, the ocean breeze felt like a slice of heaven. The beaches are very pretty, but once you see the the islands that are a boat ride away, it will outrank every other beach you have ever seen. We had a few free days and went ziplining, beaching and island hopping. Phuket was an incredible place to stay and the pictures can’t do it justice.
Was that enough to convince you why? If not, here is a summary of how I felt. Thailand itself was beautiful and so were the people. Thai people are so kind everywhere you go and almost all of them can speak English. It actually makes you feel stupid if you don’t speak another language fluently. The Thai culture is something that is indescribable unless you have experienced their genuine nature.
Here are somethings I haven’t mentioned that just add to the trip overall.
Traffic is insane. There are almost no rules. You run a lot of red lights, people drive the wrong way on the shoulders and you see multiple people riding in the bed of a truck. It was exciting and scary all wrapped into one. Pedestrians don’t have a right of way, you stick your hand out and start walking in the middle of the road to get someone to stop. It’s a lot different from home but a really cool experience.
Stray dogs are everywhere and it will make you sad. Thai people see them as pests and we saw some dogs get rocks thrown at them. The dogs themselves didn’t give us any problems and some of them were so gentle and kind. Buy them crackers and love them up if they don’t seem disease ridden.
Everything is super cheap, which makes you buy everything. It is about 32 Baht to $1. You can get a T-Shirt for $3 and I got plenty of cultural souvenirs.
Be open to experiencing anything. We went to a monk chat that I wasn’t expecting to be high on my list of favorite things I did, but it was. I learned so much about Buddhism and why they live the way they do and it truly opened my eyes to why their culture is so friendly and giving. Take opportunities and run with them.
This is definitely a really short synopsis of my trip, so feel free to message/comment with any further questions you may have.
I have a special place in my heart for Thailand and will always treasures the memories I made there.
Have a great rest of your day and until tomorrow,
Anna Marie ❤