Thailand – Part 3

Thailand – Part 3

Marble Palace Bangkok

Last week in – Part 2 – you will have read about temples, food and food safety, prostitution and Chang Mai. The week before in – Part 1 – I gave some statistics, spoke on how to get around and about Bangkok.

Beach at resort hotel in Phuket

Getting away from the heady, heavy cities and out to unspoilt beaches is one of the best parts of visiting Thailand. You can book an all inclusive week at one of the resorts and relax, soak up the sun and enjoy buffets of delicious Thai food. The hotels usually have reps from the tour companies at hand. They have catalogues with pictures and descriptions of their tours and day trips. Think glass bottomed boats, fishing, island hopping, snorkeling and diving, learning Thai crafts such as fruit carving and Thai cookery. The resorts also have regular shuttle buses that do round trips so you can pop into town or try out the various local beaches. You may find better prices if you go into the town and chat to other tour operators.

Resort hotel bedroom

I would recommend you have as many Thai massages as you can while in Thailand. They are dead cheap and these ladies manage to take the kinks and knots out of your muscles and joints. Thai massage – is quite different to a Swedish or Sports massage. You are usually clothed and no oils are used. Thai ladies pick up your limbs and twist and rotate them. They roll you about and rearrange you. They press and prod you. It sounds uncomfortable but it’s not. You let yourself go limp and they do all the work and it is heavenly. The other bonus is a Thai massage is around 2 hours long.

Traditional clothing of the hill tribe ladies in Chang Mai

Make sure you keep space in your suitcase for shopping in Thailand. You can have a custom made suit or outfits run up by one of the many tailors. You can also find designer knock offs or over runs. Just be aware that bringing home designer imitations can be illegal in some countries. How about carved wooden items to hand crafted jewelry? You can buy CDs, fabrics and really just about anything from flip flops to pots and pans – dirt cheap. My best was the night market in Chang Mai. Night markets are common in Thailand. But a regular to Chang Mai reckons the Sunday market there is even better. Do try on or at least measure clothes against your body as Asian sizes are smaller.

Wood carving

Every country has some unique saying or custom and Thailand is no exception. Thais positively adore their royal family despite them being fairly remote from their people it’s an offence and deeply insulting to say anything bad about the Royal family. Another custom is to stand to attention when the national anthem called the “Pheng Chat” in Thai and meaning ‘national song’ is played. They play it every morning at 8.00am and every evening at 18.00 pm. Westerners only need keep still.

More Buddhas

Thailand is for the most part safe. They have some crazy festivals. In particular the – Songkran – festival, when they throw water on each other. see here. A friend had his camera ruined when he was caught in the thick of a waterfest. It’s also unwise to carry huge amounts of cash on you. Rather draw cash you need to which is easy to do in Thailand.

Every now and again you get uprisings between the – red shirts and yellow shirts. The uprisings are soon contained but can cause road closures and other inconveniences. A hat and sunblock in such a hot country are mandatory. Especially on walks and excursions.

Best time to visit? Between November and February. It’s cooler then and it’s also less likly to rain. Between March and May temperatures soar above 40’C and it is unbearably hot. July to October is the rainy season.

Here are links to sites that offer accommodation in Thailand – Agoda, Asia rooms, Hotel Thailand and Sawadee. It’s a common gesture to leave a tip on the pillow for the cleaners who serviced your room.

For more ideas on what to do and where to go visit the following Thai-blogs, Go Thailand, Bangkok, and Chang Mai.

Red truck taxi in Chang Mai

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.

Thailand – Part 2

Thailand – Part 2

Floating market Bangkok

Last week in – Part 1 – I gave a few statistics, advice for getting about and what to do in Bangkok.

Boat propellor at floating market

They have a saying amongst visitors to Thailand – What wat is that? A – wat – is a Buddhist temple. And as you can probably gather, there are lots and lots of them. Nearly 41 000. Any tour will always include a couple of wats. They usually have a special Buddha and space to light incense and worship. You are required to remove your shoes when you enter a temple. It is also plain good mannered to be dressed respectfully. We saw big Buddhas, small ones, an emerald Buddha, a reclining one, golden ones, wooden ones, fat ones and more. They do become the same, only different, after a while. But I loved the spiritual undertones that exist in Thailand. People light incense at shrines in the middle of a busy street.

Reclining Buddha Bangkok

The floating market in Bangkok was our best. People trade all sorts of yummy food from their boats. They whizzed up and down the canals scaring the life out of me with raised propellers. We got to taste some interesting fruits and snacks. And that brings me to food in Thailand. I usually whine about lack of food for vegetarians when we travel. Thailand has food to die for. For vegetarians look out for egg and tofu stir frys, green and red curries, various types of rice or noodles to accompany the meal and a selection of dips and sauces too. We tied all sorts of exotic fruits we had never seen before. Even tried sprinkling our fruit with salt and chili flakes – as they do in Thailand.

Chang Mai

There are food markets all over and they are open early till late as Thais generally eat out. Thais typically eat small portions of food all day long rather than three big fat meals. They like to socialise when eating. Each person gets a different dish and they all eat from each others bowls. Street food always carries the risk of an upset tummy but I was fine. My husband didn’t fare so well but we can’t be sure it was the food. Read this link – for more about Thai street food but the golden rules – only eat where other people eat, only eat what you have seen being cooked, buy drinks that are unopened in a can and avoid fruit and salads that have handled.

Patong beach

While in Chang Mai we did a day trip, taking in a wat en route of course, to see the – Karen hill tribe people. They are also called – long necks – as they wear brass rings around their necks, adding more and more, until they do indeed, have very long necks. They also had trekking, elephant rides and trips across the border to The Golden Triangle where the borders of Thailand, Burma and Laos meet. Here’s another tip. Shop around for tour prices. They can vary considerably and operators are open to bargaining.

Rickshaw chang Mai

Prostitution is rife in Thailand and a source of revenue for families. In western countries prostitutes are often victims of sexual abuse and/or have substance abuse problems. Thai girls find their way into prostitution mainly because of poverty. They are usually young girls from rural areas who are supporting husbands, children, siblings and parents. Most of their families know what they do but pretend not to for fear of losing vital income these girls provide.

A selection of Thai fruits

Thai women are slim, attractive and demure. Men fall for them as they have easy and uncomplicated personalities. But these girls are out to make money. a case of that here. They attach themselves to a holiday maker and become his ‘wife’ during the holiday. They lay on attention and give the impression the guy they are with is the best man ever. You see them at the airport crying as the guys are leaving. As soon as the guy’s back is turned, the Thai ‘wife’ is on to the next bloke. She usually keeps in touch, and it doesn’t take long before the Thai girlfriend is needing money for this or that, swearing undying loyalty and love. Meanwhile they are spinning this yarn to every bloke they had.

A bar with ladies in Patong

I am not going to pass moral judgement on this. What two consenting adults choose to do is up to them. Thais are accepting of the practice and there is no sneering or looking down on these girls at all. Although prostitution is illegal very little is done to put an end to it. There are the occasional raids on the bars, money changes hands and then it’s back to business as usual. What I will mention is that over half a million Thais are living with HIV AIDS – source here.

I was determined to go to a – ladyboy – club to see what ladyboys look like. These guys look just like women. Very pretty women. You would not know they are men. It happens that tourists make out with one only to discover the true gender and get a hellava fright.

Next week in – Part 3 – you can read about shopping and markets, what to do and what not to do.

Steps to temple in Chang Mai

Go to – My Holidays and Trips – at the top of this page to read about other places we have visited. Or just click on – this link.



Travel in Thailand in 2007

Thailand is a three part article. Part 2 – follows next week and Part 3 the week after.

Buddhist shrine on street in Bangkok

People come back from Thailand raving about the place. I have friends who visit Thailand annually. One guy loves the gentle natured people and heads straight out to the rural areas to rough it in the villages. Another goes over to lounge in the sun and shop, shop, shop. And yet another goes over to have as much sex as he can. (more on that later) Clearly Thailand is a mixed bag of holiday opportunities. Nineteen million people visited Thailand in 2011 and 55% of visitors are return visitors.

After hearing countless stories, I wanted to see what Thailand was like for myself. Thailand is an affordable place to visit. You can have a luxury beach holiday, eat out every night and still have plenty money to spare for massages and shopping. What’s not to like?

Ladyboys in Patong

If we are visiting somewhere exotic for the first time, we prefer to do a package holiday. We found a package deal on-line with Flight Centre but having visited Thailand, I can honestly say that it’s possible, and probably cheaper, to put your own holiday together. Our trip started in Bangkok. From there we went to Phuket where we spent a week at a swanky beach side resort. Next we went up to Chang Mai for a last few days before heading back to Bangkok and home again. The deal included airport transfers and all flights in Thailand. The tour gave us a feel of the north where Chang Mai is located, the middle where Bangkok is and the south where Phuket is situated.

I was looking forward to seeing Bangkok. I’d heard it was a bustling city and is a cultural and shopping mecca. Bustling doesn’t come close to describing Bangkok. It’s home to 12 million people. Getting from the airport to our hotel took forever in a taxi. Traffic frequently grinds to a halt leaving the city gridlocked. Not a great way to spend a holiday. The city has come up with genius ways to commute such as a skytrain, scooter taxi, underground train, tuk tuk, cycling, river boats and ferries, and of course there are the usual forms of transport such as bus, train and catching a taxi. A small warning regarding tuk tuks or taxis. Get your hotel to book and confirm the price to avoid being ripped off.

Golden Buddha Bangkok

My first bit of advice is to take the airport rail link to get to town. It’s faster and at least it moves. The same applies for your return trip to the airport. The very last thing you want is to be stuck in traffic and miss a flight. Standards and quality of accommodation vary considerably. Many establishments are not unmindful of the fact that men come to Thailand to meet prostitutes and have very strict rules about who can visit your room. Generally the cheaper places and guest houses are more forgiving than hotels in that respect.

Traffic in Bangkok

We did a city tour of Bangkok taking in the Grand Palace in the Old City, a floating market, a couple of wats (more on them later) and a general drive through the city. We would have liked to go walkabout in China Town but sadly the traffic made it impossible to fit in the full itinerary. My advice would be to hire a bicycle and visit the key attractions yourself. However, I have to say that we didn’t always find street names and resorted to counting roads and making notes of landmarks so we could find our way back to our hotel.

Beach resort hotel Phuket

Thais are well known for their friendly and sweet dispositions and they really do smile a lot. Souvenir T-Shirts brandish slogans such as – “Thailand – the land of smiles.” Don’t be surprised if a couple of Thais join your table at one of the food markets. They love to interact with ‘farang’ or foreigners, but for all their friendliness, they don’t speak much English and asking for a meal to be cooked in a certain way or for directions is probably a waste of time. Do make a note of some key Thai words to help you communicate in Thailand. The Thais will love it.

Now, although I am glad we visited Bangkok, it’s not the sort of place I would go back to. Too many people, getting about is a nightmare, air pollution is 3 times acceptable levels, noise pollution is also above accepted safe levels, it’s hot as hell and humid to boot.

Greenie making a domation at a temple

The highest market prices were in Bangkok. I saw items I had bought in Bangkok selling for far less in Chang Mai. In some areas the prostitution is in your face. You can’t walk down the street without girls and ladyboys coming on to you. My advice. Spend the minimum time in Bangkok and head up to Chang Mai. It’s inland and much cooler. It has a laid back bohemian vibe. Chang Mai is smaller and you can walk about without getting lost. And you buy everything for much less than in Bangkok. They have a red light scene in Chang Mai but it’s more discreet.

In – Part 2 – next week you can read about temples, food, prostitution and Chang Mai. In – Part 3 – the week after I talk about shopping, markets and give some tips of Thailand.

Coral Island

Read about other destinations in the Greenie Travel archives – here.

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