Spend a couple of minutes Googling and you’ll soon find thousands of list of what to and not to do when travelling in Thailand, head to your local bookshop and you can find weighty tomes on the issue that could make you feel that travelling in Thailand is a never ending cultural maze and it’s probably a bit easier just to head somewhere a bit simpler!
Surely it can’t be that difficult to get things right in the Land of Smiles?
Well the answer is yes and no – something you soon get used to in a country that’s at once incredibly laid back and incredibly uptight all at the same time, although you’re unlikely ever to notice the uptight side as fortunately Thai’s are world beaters at keeping their more uptight side hidden.
For most visitors the do’s and don’ts are pretty obvious and don’t really require a list or book
- Don’t get angry and lose your cool – well that’s hardly surprising, can’t think of many places where getting angry and shouting at someone is going to make your day better. Don’t believe for one minute that Thai’s don’t get angry with each other (they do, they’re human!) but there’s no need for you to join in, it’s not going to make your travels any better!
- Don’t put your feet on someone’s head – hmmm, goes down as well in Birmingham as it does in Bangkok and can you honestly think of a time when you’ve actually put your foot on someone’s head and thought it was a good thing to do, unless you’re a WWF wrestler?
- Smile – hardly unique in the world and we’re pretty certain that smiling wins you as many friends at home as it does in Thailand!
- Don’t get into a fight – hardly earth shattering news. Getting into a fight surely is the last thing one would look to do on holiday, or at home.
- Don’t use illegal drugs – wow, another stunning unique piece of advice. Don’t break the law in someone else’s country? Seems pretty obvious to us
However, there are a few tips that go beyond the same old same old advice and can help you get the most out of an adventure in Thailand.
Relax and go with the flow
You’re on holiday (be it a long one or a short one) and you’re meant to have fun, relaxing and enjoying different experiences. Getting hot under the collar about this or that, a delayed bus or even a taxi not using their meter is only going to end one way and that’s with you losing part of your holiday to a healthy dose of ire and angst. Thailand’s different, things work differently and that’s half the fun. Sure the bus is already 45 minutes late and there’s still no sign of it, but is getting angry going to make it suddenly appear? Unless you’re David Blaine and have magical properties, probably not, so relax and take it easy, and life becomes far more enjoyable.
Try not to make assumptions about Thai people
It doesn’t take long to find article after article telling you what ‘Thai people are like’. Our advice is to ignore pretty much everything you read along those lines. Thailand has a decent sized population and within this there are great people, not so great people and then, the vast majority, regular people who are sometimes lovely and sometimes a touch grumpy! There are super rich people, incredibly poor people and then, the vast majority, pretty much everything in between. Like every country around the world, most Thai’s want to enjoy life, look after their family and friends and get through the working day to then pursue their hobbies and interests. Wow, there we go, just like everyone else around the world. Leave your assumptions behind and treat everyone as an individual. You’ll come across incredibly helpful people on your travels and, probably, the odd less than helpful person – but that’s all part of the fun isn’t it. And it’s not because they’re Thai, it’s because they’re human.
Why go on holiday if not to see and try something new? The more your try new things, the more fun you’re going to have and Thailand is an incredibly accessible place in which to try new things.
- Never eaten a red ant egg salad? Well, you can now.
- Never trekked through the mountains to a hill-tribe community – all it takes is a bit of leg power.
- Never driven a Tuk Tuk – hmmm, now’s your opportunity.
You don’t have to go the whole hog and have spicy curries or bowls of rice for breakfast (although if you don’t you’re missing out) but why not put your fears aside and jump in head first? Throw yourself into things, don’t be scared and you’ll make friends, learn about the country you’re in and some incredible memories and experiences of your trip.
Have respect for the local culture
At the risk of being obvious, the more you respect what’s going on around you, generally the better a trip you’ll have. Just because you do things differently in your country doesn’t always mean that that’s the way it should be done in Thailand. You might not like the way something is done in Thailand and that’s perfectly normal – but don’t expect Thailand to change its ways for you. Fortunately respecting the local culture actually isn’t that hard, particularly when coupled with the fact that most Thai people are incredibly forgiving towards visitor’s weird and wonderful behaviour. But do use your head and do your best to respect that things are different and as travellers it’s up to us to fit in, not the other way around.
Don’t be nervous
This applies to food, ice, travel, people and pretty much anything else you care to think of. Worried about an upset stomach? So are Thai people – they’re pretty cool but they aren’t super human. If you see anywhere with lots of Thai’s eating, then you can be pretty sure the food is excellent. The kitchen might not pass an EU inspection but the food will be fresh, brilliantly cooked almost certainly won’t make you sick (although the extra beers you have celebrating your food find might do!). We’re convinced that the ‘Dangers and Annoyances’ sections of guide books make worriers out of everyone but in reality, Thailand’s a pretty safe place to travel in, pretty healthy (unless you’re on your 10th large bottle of Beer Singha) and pretty friendly.
Don’t follow the crowds
It’s so disappointing when you meet someone who’s only experience of Thailand is a couple of nights in Bangkok and then an island such as Phuket or Koh Samui. Sure, a lovely holiday can be had but there’s so much more to this wonderful country than a big city followed by a beach resort where it’s more and more common to come across staff who are more than a touch jaded after years of trying to work out why visitors are so uptight. Put away the guide book and go with the flow. You don’t have to go to the back of beyond but if you’re heading to Chiang Mai, don’t just wander around the city and Wat Doi Suthep – make the effort to head to Chiang Dao or Doi Inthanon, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, the further you head from where everyone else is, the more fun you’ll have, the more experiences, friendlier people and an adventure to remember. Don’t stop at Pai, head to Mae Hong Song and Mae Sariang, far more beautiful if at little more difficult to find banana pancakes in!
If you really want to sample Thailand at its best, are keen to explore your adventurous side and be guided by people dedicated to helping you get off the beaten track, then join The Tuk Tuk Club. What are you waiting for? Remember, an adventure a day keeps the doctor away, or something along those lines….