Sunset over Koh Phi Phi Leh, Thailand

Thailand Final Thoughts

Mar 3, 2015 - ourglobaltrek

Over the course of three separate visits, we have spent almost three full months out of the total six we’ve been on the road just in Thailand. We feel like we know Thailand inside out. It was our home away from home, a place of comfort and familiarity. Yet we could totally imagine going back in the future to visit places we’ve missed or revisit favourites. That is the magic of Thailand – it has something for everyone of all different tastes, plans, and budgets. It’s nearly impossible to adequately sum up everything we’ve thought about this kingdom, but here we go:

His Final Thoughts

Carlos lying on the hammock on Koh Kradan, Thailand
Carlos lying on the hammock on Koh Kradan, Thailand

To begin with, Thailand was extremely easy to travel in. Here, we didn’t have to deal with the lack of information we had in Myanmar or face the lack of infrastructure in Laos – it was simple and effortless to get around. Thailand has been thoroughly explored for years and many locals spoke basic English. We never really felt lost, even the first time around (and even easier the next two times). A multitude of transportation options meant we were always certain to find an option tailored for our needs and budget – we found buses that had massage seats and free meals as well as trains that were spotlessly clean and convenient (so much better than the ones in Vietnam). Thailand was also a budget-traveler’s dream. Even with expensive courses and splurging during new year’s, we still managed to live less than $35/day/person. From temple-hopping to island-hopping, we enjoyed everything this beautiful country had to offer without breaking the bank.

Despite being a relatively small country, Thailand was geographically and culturally diverse. Starting in Bangkok, we traveled north first, to the old capitals of the kingdom. Both Ayutthaya and Sukhothai introduced us to ancient Thai architecture and their majestic temples – we spent quite some time exploring the ruins. The walled city of Chiang Mai served as a base during our first stay and was also the stage of many of our firsts in Thailand, such as a kickass movies theatre experience in Thai cinemas. Chiang Rai was home to the jaw dropping White Temple. We couldn’t have asked for a better introduction than northern Thailand.

Rounds two and three saw us also starting from Bangkok, but traveling south, to the idyllic beaches of southern Thailand. The Samui Archipelago was our stage to celebrate the end of 2014 and welcome 2015 in true Thai fashion with our friends. It was a blast! On the west side in the Andaman Sea, we hopped from island to island, discovering one paradise after another. The untouched Koh Muk was definitely one of our most treasured places, with seemingly only a few other people on the island with us. It’s impossible to describe the beauty of Koh Kradan in words – the sand banks and the corals surrounding the island provided us with the perfect spot to relax and explore marine wildlife. The remote Koh Rok islands also ranked pretty high on our list, with our first clownfish and monitor lizard sightings. Leaving the remote areas of the Andaman Sea, we joined the tourist crowds on the Phi Phi islands, where we learned that beauty and being in a Hollywood movie can be a heavy burden – the masses of people visiting the islands were definitely destroying it. Phuket and Ao Nang in Krabi were our final stops in southern Thailand, where the Muslim village of Panyee and James Bond island were highlights.

In many ways, Thailand reminded me of Brazil with its warm weather, religious background and countless idyllic beaches. Its a smaller version of my home country, where they learned how to benefit from their culture and natural beauty to attract millions of people every year. No wonder I liked Thailand so much! I can only hope other people around the world can someday enjoy Brazil the same way that I have enjoyed Thailand.

Her Final Thoughts

Julie at the White Temple in Chiang Rai
Julie at the White Temple in Chiang Rai

Having visited three times, for about a month each time, we had a very unique perspective of Thailand. Typical tourists experience a place for a few days and often only see the foreigner-oriented aspects like famous landmarks and souvenirs. On the other hand, locals are often too busy living their regular lives to enjoy the best parts of the country they live in, especially considering they have to jostle with tourists. For Thailand, we were lucky enough to straddled the line and enjoyed the best of both worlds. While we immersed ourselves in the local food, transportation, and such for almost three months, we also traveled the country extensively and visited many of the most treasured places in the kingdom.

Thailand was more than just a tourist destination for us – it was a place where we took lessons and learned a variety of new skills. A simple half-day cooking class has been a tradition for us, but we were pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to make some Thai classics during our Thai cooking class. I will definitely be attempting to recreate those pad thais and curries once I have a kitchen again. Carlos took a week-long (5 day, 6 hours/day) Thai massage course, which I have since been benefiting from regularly. Anyone who has ever been to Thailand knows that massage parlors are everywhere. Instead of just getting massages, we had the privilege of learning the Thai art of healing. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, we became certified PADI Open Water scuba divers. It was not something I had ever considered before, but with Koh Tao as the cheapest place to get certified in the world, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I can’t express enough how cool the underwater world was. Now, when I look at a world map, not only do I see the many countries and diverse landscapes of the world, I also see the countless underwater destinations to be discovered. We owe it to Thailand for bringing these new skills to our lives.

Like I mentioned, our extended overall stay in Thailand gave us the rare chance of living the local culture. With a heritage deeply rooted in religion, some of the most famous, historical, and sacred places in the country were temples and palaces. They were beautiful with distinct Thai-style chedis, but after so many, they all seem the same. What I remember most vividly was our conversation with a monk, which opened our eyes to monkhood as well as Buddhism in general. Thailand is a monarchy, and King Rama IX is idolized. Pictures of him and Queen Sirikit were everywhere; soon enough, we even found images of the king to be comforting (because it meant we were back in Thailand!). Watching Muay Thai was a thrill and a glimpse into the national sport. When an important fight was on, everyone we passed by on the streets had their eyes glued to their TVs. While this may not be considered culture in the traditional sense, 7-Eleven was a huge part of our Thailand experience. Considering how many people visit daily and the prevalence of the stores throughout the nation, it is as much of the culture as massages or pad thai. Their breadth of business was incredible – you can do everything at 7-Eleven.

As if we haven’t already talked about Thai food enough, I will mention it once again here. Street food in Thailand was awesome, and rivaled that of Taiwanese street food, though of course it was different. Every dish was a symphony of flavours in perfect balance. Our favourite corner in Bangkok and street in Chiang Mai provided a brief taste, though I am far from a Thai food expert. In-between our visits to Thailand, we found ourselves craving the cheap but delicious street food meals. Thai food alone is worth going back to Thailand.

I can now definitively say that I have seen and loved every part of Thailand. When we boarded our plane to Nepal, I was undoubtedly sad, but I had a feeling I will probably be back again sometime in the future, even if it’s not during this trip. Thailand – till when we meet again!