16 things to know before travelling to Thailand

I’ve recently returned from the holiday of my dreams to Thailand. I’ve literally been dreaming about the trip for the last 17 years, and I’m so pleased Will came along for the ride. You can read more about that here. You can also view our video here.

Anyway, there were a few things we were surprised, shocked and delighted about over the two weeks, and we wanted to share our experience with you.

Mosquitos are little bastards
Oh my actual god though. My housemate gave us some industrial bug spray that we used in like two days. After that, it was practically a free-for-all on my body. I was basically one big itch. And it’s not like they were just NORMAL bites – they were practically fucking MOUNTAINS. If you’re susceptible, like me, grab some Jungle Spray with that DEET ingredient in it, or whatever. Or just don’t ever go outside.

Avoid animal tourism
Leaflets, leaflets everywhere offering trips to see elephants, tigers and other animals in zoos. Don’t do it. The elephants are often chained and they are NOT SUPPOSED TO BE RIDDEN! The tigers at tiger temples are also regularly sedated so they are all floppy and cute for you to get your Facebook picture with them. No no. I was desperate to see elephants. It was the one massive thing on my bucket list and I wanted to make sure we did it right. We chose the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary.

There is no riding of the elephants – despite their large and strong build, elephants do not have the spines to support a rider. Long days of being ridden, either bareback or with a saddle, can cause painful damage to their spines not to mention the additional pain caused by the saddle itself and the wear on their feet from walking all day with improperly supported weight.

Chains, bull hooks and the like are not used to subdue, coerce or manage the elephants. In Thailand, there is a long-standing tradition of training elephants for the tourism industry. The training method, called the Phajaan or crush, is exactly as it’s English translation would suggest – a method to crush the spirit of the animal. Bullhooks and chains are part of this method and are usually continued to be used while tourists are enjoying their ride through the jungle. BIG NO.

We did the afternoon half-day – it was enough, from about 11:30am to 6pm, with pick up from the hotel. We got water throughout, lunch and snacks. They also gave us souvenir bags made by a local village.

Never pay full price
Like, never. There are wonderful, wonderful markets with anything and everything, already at a cheap price. Check out the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar and the Sunday Market in Bangkok. We found out that it’s super fun to haggle. I mean, don’t take the piss – they are trying to make a living. But knocking a few hundred baht off an item gives you a little thrlil – try it!

Don’t take the piss out of the King
Thai people absolutely love their Royal Family. There are MASSIVE shrine things everywhere, and the country has been in a state of mourning since the King died last year. In fact, it was recommended we wore a black ribbon when we went to visit The Grand Palace. I found it pretty funny at first – like, could you imagine huge shrines to Liz and Phil all over the UK!? But make sure no one hears you say ANYTHING about old Kingy – it’s actually illegal.

Absolutely do not feed the monkeys
We went on a boat trip to Monkey Island which was lovely – we saw the monkeys, they were SO cute. There was a mummy one with its little, tiny baby clinging onto it –  I nearly cried. Until I saw a couple of them absolutely terrorising another tourist. Actually vicious. Keep ya distance.

Embrace the butt spray
The word ‘bathroom’ in Thailand is err…relative. Expect no toilet roll, ever. If there is some, it’s a miracle. Instead, embrace the butt spray. I first encountered these in Dubai, but they always had toilet paper so I never had to worry. Coming home to England after Thailand, we actually MISSED the butt sprayer. It’s a fresh feeling – don’t knock it til you try it.
Yes, people are actually that nice
At first, I worried about Thai people coming up to us all the time just to chat, because I assumed they would be trying to sell us something. I then felt guilty, because they are actually that kind and helpful. They’ll recommend places to go, what time to visit somewhere, what to eat…all with a smile and will wave you on your way. Super refreshing.

Greet people with the Wai
This was another one that threw me a bit when we landed. Most Thai people greet you with ‘hello’ (sawadee ka) and perform a little bow with their hands in ‘prayer’ position just under their chin or upper chest. I was so shocked and I didn’t know if it was good form to return it. Do. It’s really polite and by the second week it was second nature to greet people like that.

The scam is real
So many scams! You can usually tell pretty quickly though. Usually, these come in the form of men offering a tour at a ‘too good to be true’ price. They’ll take you, but will ask for more money at the end – we knew about this and didn’t go, luckily. Another one is taxis – insist on them putting the meter on, otherwise they can just choose a price out of thin air. If they don’t have one, get out. We only used one taxi, until we realised Thailand (the main cities anyway) have Uber – yay! So much easier. There are also people that say an attraction is closed, i.e. we got told The Grand Palace was closed about sixty times on the way to it – don’t listen. They just want to take you somewhere else for more money.

Eat all of the food. All of it.
I mean, within reason. It took us a couple of days for our stomachs to er, get acquainted with the food. Ahem. Anyway, once you’ve settled in, just go for it. We chose something different every night, and took FULL advantage of the street food carts. Our main rules were, if there’s no queue, don’t buy. You can get meat on sticks for like ten baht, it’s amazing. The fresh fruit is wonderful. Try mango and sticky rice – they pour a sort of condensed coconut milk on it and IT. IS. AWESOME.

Road rules do not exist
Like, at all. Try your best not to die.

Beware the bucket
This is no ordinary cocktail. It’s a toxic mix of spirits, mixers and that godawful Thai Red Bull that will make you feel very, very odd indeed. Drink at your own risk – even I was a bit tiddled and I can handle my drink (lol).

Dress politely for Buddha
Remember what I said about the King? Buddha is even more of a big deal. If you look like a Western hussy, like I usually do on a daily basis, they will not let you fling your assets at Mr Buddha. Grab some Thai pants or sarong from a market at about 150 baht (about £3.50) and wear a t-shirt that covers your shoulders. It’s worth it – the temples are absolutely beautiful, and learning about Buddhism was a fantastic experience. You can see the monks going about collecting alms and people visiting them. For the love of god, take your shoes off before going into the temple and keep your mouth shut and don’t point at anything.

Ladyboys are beautiful
Absolutely so jealous. Will had to stop me going over to one because I wanted to ask how she got her contour SO on fleek. You really will have to double-take! Head to a go-go bar – one that doesn’t require entry or payment for ‘shows’ if possible – it’s an experience!

Get loads of massages. Treat yo’ self
We paid 180 baht (£4.00) for an HOUR long foot massage that was just absolutely amazing. They also cracked our backs and did all this reflexology stuff. They even gave us tea afterwards. For that price, I’d get one every day!

Spot the 7-Eleven
There is 7-Elevens EVERYWHERE. Just everywhere. Even up in Chiang Mai where there’s no other building around for miles. They also sell everything. Thirsty? 7-Eleven. Need a plaster? 7-Eleven. Got a craving for a chicken burger in a bag, with seaweed crisps side? Yep, 7-Eleven.

We had the best time ever – we’re already planning our next trip around the globe. Where should we go?

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