It's fair to say we would have loved to experience the Thailand of 20 years ago. We spent a couple of months there and while we had an amazing time, it was definitely busier and more commercial in many areas than we expected. I guess that's what happens when a country is that beautiful.
As well as incredible beaches, culture and food, Thailand was also good for a few laughs. Here's some of the things we found amusing along the way.
A tropical island with it's own burns unit
Thai islands are famous for their fire shows and it's a genuine pull for many travellers. However, it's gone a bit too far on Koh Phi Phi, a stunning island in the Andaman Sea. When you combine skipping ropes on fire with buckets of cheap alcohol, you have a recipe for disaster. But this is South-East Asia, so rather than stopping the fire shows or tackling the booze, Phi Phi has built a burns unit on the island, and believe us, a lot of people had to use it!
Turbo charged tuk-tuks
Before Thailand we'd only experienced tuk-tuks in India and Nepal. These are little metal shells cobbled together and powered by a lawn mower motor. Getting over 10km/h is a struggle, but it gets the job done.
In Thailand they decided to take it up a notch. We couldn't believe our eyes when we got into this shiny pimped up version and soon found ourselves flying through the streets of Bangkok. Bizarrely, they cost more than a taxi, but they're far more fun.
Dealing with the heat
Hot weather and sand bring two problems that involve using a lot of water. Firstly, the obvious one is that it makes you extremely thirsty (we were going through at least 2-3 litres a day). The other is that in a country as hot as Thailand a minimum of three showers a day is necessary. We met an Australian and another Brit who were on a minimum of four. The daily routine goes something like this:
– Wake up after sweaty night sleep (Thailand rarely drops below 25oc)
– Go out / go to the beach
– Shower to remove sand or sweat
– Return before dinner
– Dinner / drinks, still hot so still sweaty
– Repeat cycle
Monk chat that took a turn
In Chiang Mai (a city in the North-West of Thailand near the border of Myanmar) we took up the opportunity to have a chat with a monk. Initially we thought the discussion would be about Buddhism, however, it soon became clear that the monk was more interested in talking to us about us.
Here's his side of the conversation:
'Where are you from?... England?!.... I love Chelsea! I love football! Who do you support?.... Reading?... They are very bad. They lost to our enemies the Red Devils last week. We have to play them next week and they are coming to hell at Stamford Bridge'.
The conversation only got weirder when he asked about where the two girls sitting opposite us were from:
'Where are you from?.... Germany?.... Ah yes, home of Adolf Hitler. Something we should never forget, even though we don't want to remember. Germany also lost World War I.... Do you support Schalke FC?..... You look pale and unwell. What's wrong? You should see the doctor. Thai food makes foreigners ill'.
Clearly political correctness is yet to catch on! : )
Bangkok on a Budget
Gone are the days of really cheap accommodation in Bangkok, don't get us wrong it's not like the UK or Australia but it's not like the Thailand we heard about from backpackers 10 years ago either. To stay on a budget we slept in a couple of memorable places. Memorable for all the wrong reasons.
The first place we stayed (which shall remain nameless) was of a size that you could get from the bed to the toilet without touching the floor. This trick got old pretty quick, living in such close quarters in the heat was recipe for for disaster so we decided to move.
So we found a really big room and for 100 baht less (that was a lot to us on a year long trip). The catch? The bed was a gym mat, you know one of those rock hard blue ones you used to practice roly polys on at school, yep just like that!
Cicadas for dinner
You might get a little more than you bargained for when visiting a Thai Monastery. We arrived at one on the outskirts of Pai and met an incredibly friendly monk. After taking us through an impromptu meditation session he proceeded to ask if we were hungry.
Before we knew it he had a net out and was swooping around catching cicadas which he fried with chili for us as a snack. Thank goodness we had our unusual food loving friends with us to eat most of the offering!
If you're looking for the best things to do in Thailand, check out our blog all about our favourites!
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Have you been to Thailand? Had any unique experiences you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments below.