Our six weeks in Thailand were full of little surprises that became part of our every day lives. Here are 10 things I learned – both trivial and important.
1. There are 7-Elevens EVERYWHERE.
Sometimes several in one small street. This is Thailand’s main convenience store and you can do absolutely anything there – a friend of ours even had a visa service done there. It’s one of the cheapest shops so everyone uses it, and although very Westernised, they do sell some weird and wonderful things (blueberry cheesecake sandwich, anyone?). I can still hear the doors beeping in my head…
2. They also give you straws for everything.
Can of coke, bottle of water, it doesn’t matter. And they always get ready to put it in a bag too.
3. Bands love to cover songs – but rock bands particularly always copy the singing style as well as the instruments!
We saw one band play a softly-sung Feeder song, then go into Foo Fighters with Dave Grohl’s signature vocals. Another band played Nirvana with Kurt’s voice, System Of A Down and sang exactly like Serj, then Rage Against The Machine and sounded like Zach! The funniest thing was there were some songs where they didn’t know all the English lyrics but just made it sound like the original song by singing it the same way.
And as for “What’s Going On?” (you know the HEEEEYYYY YEAH YEAHHH YEAHHH one), it’s ALWAYS just as whiney as the real song, and for some reason Thailand loves it.
4. Not everyone is out to rip you off.
We were constantly warned against using tuk tuks in Bangkok, or buying rogue bus tickets, or about belongings being nicked on bus journeys, or hiring scooters and returning it to be given huge charges. My best advice is to do your research, but here’s the thing: more people in Thailand are out to help you. Most Thai people we met are the friendliest people in the world. They went out of their way for us, they were happy to have a laugh. We didn’t encounter any problems – but we did stay alert, just as we would anywhere else.
5. It’s just as beautiful as everyone says.
Pictures never do anything justice. Or you look at them and wonder if it’s really… real. That’s how I felt with a lot of pictures I looked at of Thailand’s beaches and landscapes. And now that’s how I feel about my OWN pictures of Thailand.
6. The wildlife is amazing!
The further south we went, the more wildlife we saw. Koh Lanta was incredible for it – and we didn’t even go into the national park! We had a family of monkeys cross the road in front of us, saw monitor lizards, and had to be careful on one of the beaches because crystal clear jellyfish and hermit crabs were everywhere!
Not to mention being inundated by macaques at Tiger Cave Temple, spotting a shocked-looking monkey at Railay, and having angel fish swimming around our feet in Koh Phangan when the water didn’t even cover our ankles! Plus, all over South East Asia, you’ll find tiny gecko lizards climbing the walls everywhere you go. 3 months and I didn’t get bored of these little critters!
7. The sunsets are phenomenal.
We arrived at the islands and our first night in Koh Phangan gave us the best sunset of our trip. It looked like the beginning of The Lion King. Then we went to Koh Tao and every day ended with incredible sunsets. And then Koh Lanta topped them all by treating us to an entire light show in the sky every evening.
Honestly, I’ve seen unbelievable sunsets in Australia so far – but nothing has come close to Thailand.
8. The elephant tourism industry has dark “secrets” that everyone should know about.
When I started this post, I planned for them all to be positive. But this IS something I learned in Thailand and it’s probably the most important.
Please read my post on our week at Elephant Nature Park, and if you’re planning to ride an elephant, PLEASE visit a sanctuary like this one instead. Your experience will be far more fulfilling and you won’t be contributing to this heartbreaking industry.
9. You can easily survive if you don’t like spicy food.
I’ll admit – we were a little worried about what we were going to eat in Thailand. Neither of us can handle much spice, and we’re also not huge fans of seafood. Ash didn’t even like rice until he realised soy sauce is amazing. We quickly discovered that Pad Thai doesn’t have to be spicy, and it became one of our favourite dishes. We ate lots of meat with rice and noodles, and my favourite dessert, although I loved mango with sticky rice, was roti (pancakes!). We also lived off smoothies.
10. April is IMMENSELY hot – but it’s one of the best times of the year to go!
40 degree heat isn’t the best temperature to explore cities, and especially temples where you have to cover up. It’s Thailand’s hottest month, but Songkran makes it an ideal time to visit. And for a few days, you have respite from the heat because you’re constantly soaked through with ice water!
What funny things have you noticed?