Having travelled Thailand extensively in the past, plus I have now been living here for 9 months. I feel as though I can give to you some of the knowledge I have learnt, throughout my time here in the ‘Kingdom of smiles.”
1. The toilet situation. Get used to squatting because most places still have the good old squat toilet, public bathrooms, service stations have them to most. You will find that nearly all hotels will have western toilets as well as bars and restaurants in the touristy places. Secondly, you will always find a bucket of water and a pan and you will most likely be thinking ‘what the hell do I do with this?’ Well, its simple- its to flush.
2. Toilet roll. DO NOT FORGET!! Unless you fancy using the hose they so kindly provide, then don’t forget to carry toilet roll with you, as finding any bathroom with it already provided, is like finding gold dust. Also don’t flush it- bin it, as disgusting as it sounds to us westerners, you have to remember that the sewage system here in Thailand just can’t handle it.
3. Learn the basics of the language. Learning some of the basics of the language will gain you much more respect with the local people and will get you a lot further than your average backpacker.
Hello- “Sa-wat-dee” (Kha/Khrap)
Thank you – “Kòp kun” (Kha/Khrap)
“Kha”- is what females would add to the end of the sentences and “Khrap” is what the males would say.
No- “Mai Chai”
The Thai language is a tonal language so there are a lot of the same words used just meaning different things, it is all based down to the way you say them.
4. Always smile. It is is the land of smiles after all.
5. Take your shoes off. The feet are known as the dirtiest part of the body. Take your shoes off at temples and peoples houses. Some hotels, shops, bars and restaurants may also ask you to take them off too.
6. Beware of the strays. You will find that stray dogs are everywhere. They can bite and chase you but some of them are kind. Touch at your own risk. If you do, then just make sure your tetanus and rabies shots are up to date. For your own safety.
7. Royalty. I am going to keep this short. Respect, if you don’t, you could see yourself in jail. DO NOT TALK ABOUT THE FAMILY and you will save yourself a lot of trouble.
8. Cover-up. This rule mainly only applies to you if you are visiting conservative towns where not many tourists go, or the temples/sacred sites. It is just respect. Women should cover their shoulders and their legs to at least just below the legs. One thing I always carry with me in my backpack is a scarf, it’s small enough to roll up and you can use it as a pillow, blanket, scarf when it is cold, a head scarf or a shawl to cover your shoulders. Men are the same but they less strict on the males than the females.
9. Food glorious food. Don’t be afraid of the food. Eating the local food is a big part of travelling. Despite what your doctors will say to you at home about how dangerous it is eating from food vendors on the streets. I am telling you now, that you totally should. It is cheap and authentic. You just have to choose wisely as to where you should eat.
- Eat where the local people are eating.
- Eat at the busy stalls.
So pull up a little red plastic stool and enjoy the delicious cuisine on offer at every street corner.
10. Ice Ice baby! Don’t be afraid of the ice, again, same as the food situation, the doctor will most likely tell you not to touch the ice and not to eat salads/fruits that can’t be peeled because it’s all washed in their water. Well… Thai people don’t even drink their own water. The ice is all made from bottled/filtered water, so don’t worry. Another thing about ice is that Thai people have it in every kind of drink, even their beer and you know what…I quite like it and if you spend a lot of time here, I can bet you will also become accustomed to having ice in your beer.
11. National anthem. If you happen to be in a public place at 8 am and 6 pm. You will find that everyone will stand up when a song is played. It’s respect to do so too, as it is their national anthem. Thailand is a proud country so you will do well in respecting that.
12. BARGAIN, BARGAIN, BARGAIN. Never take full price for anything (unless it seems reasonable). Some things have fixed prices at markets. You are actually expected to bargain. I heard that at the night market in Chiang Mai, the market sellers communicate with each other by the colour bags that they give to the buyer. Each colour apparently represents how good the person is at bargaining. Bus and Train tickets cannot be bargained but TUKTUK and taxis can be if they refuse to put the meter on. Always make sure you ask for the meter first.
13. Don’t touch the monk. This especially applies to females more than men. The Buddhist monks are forbidden to touch women, so respect that.
14. Take photos. Take lots of photos. Some temples will ask you to refrain from taking them as they don’t want the flash to spoil the statues. Some other temples will ask you not take photos of the Buddha out of respect, but usually, it is ok. Take photos of the people too, in touristy places, expect to be asked for a small fee. In the less touristy areas, the local people are more than happy for you to take their photos. In fact, Thai people LOVE photos. They are constantly taking selfies or getting people to take photos of them, and it’s not just one photo, its hundred of photos in one sitting.
15. Keep an open mind. Thai culture is completely different to what you are used to in Western countries. You will find it hard to understand the way things are run and it will test the person you are but “Mai pen rai”.