The travel guides tell us that Thailand holidays are all about tropical beaches, elephant rides and incredible temples and while all that is true, we also know that there are some wacky and wondrous experiences to be had. From drinking out of little plastic bags to selling gasoline in whiskey bottles by the roadside (beware of that one!), there are plenty of weird and wonderful things to see while in Thailand. Although they make great stories to tell your friends, some of them you’d probably rather avoid having to experience firsthand. Dive head first into the wonderful, but prepare yourself for some of the stranger things you may see.
Yeah Nah: You thought Aussies could be confusing and hard to get a straight answer from. The Thai culture considers saying ‘no’ to someone a particularly uncomfortable thing to do. Their way of avoiding this while remaining polite is to answer with ‘yes, but...’. For example, you may ask a waiter if they have any mustard. The waiter will answer ‘yes, but ketchup’. This means they have no mustard, but they do have ketchup instead. This may seem confusing at first but you’ll get used to it. Just don’t mistake it for foolishness or lack of understanding. Raising your voice and repeating your request in a slow and purposeful manner will only make you look like a fool.
Don’t Mention The King: Like seriously, don’t say a word. Don’t even think about you-know-who! The King and indeed the entire Royal family are extremely highly regarded in Thailand, hence why pictures of His Majesty are displayed everywhere. Speaking or acting in any way that is disrespectful to the King or Royal family is an extremely big no-no. Even if you drop a coin and it is rolling away, do not stomp on it to stop it as all currency features an image of the King or his relatives and this would be extremely insulting.
Beer or Water? No doubt this one has gotten plenty of Aussies into a bit of a tight spot. The popular brands of Singha and Chang make both beer and bottled water. So if you’re at a bar or restaurant and simply order a Chang, the waitress may not know whether you want a beer or water. Most times they will clarify by asking, but you can make it easier by specifying which when you order. If you’ve had a few too many beers and decide you need a water to be responsible, all your good intentions could be foiled if you don’t make it clear that it’s water that you want.
Boy She Looks Good: Don’t be surprised if the best dressed woman on the street, train, boat or stage is in fact a ladyboy. While you may be impressed with her style, her figure or her make up skills it’s best not to stare as in Thailand, ladyboys (or katoeys) are accepted and are quite common. In fact many ladyboys are on TV, in movies and are makeup models at top department stores. This all stems from the Thai form of Buddhism which believes that if someone isn’t doing harm, then what they do is no one else’s business.
Eau de Thailand: Walking the streets of Thailand is a riot of smells. From fragrant street markets to the smell of the sea, a stroll around your hotel can be an assault on the senses. Unfortunately with that comes other smells of the not so pleasant variety. In Bangkok, don’t be surprised if you’re strolling along smelling jasmine one minute before being hit with the pungent smell of sewage the next. It’s all part of Thailand’s charm.
Garish Garnish: Western visitors marvel at all the pretty little vegetable garnishes that adorn even the most simple plates of food in Thailand. Although those hand-carved radishes, tomatoes and cucumbers look incredible, they’re also probably covered in bacteria. So while the tradition of hand-carving vegetables may have taken years for the Thais to refine, it’ll only take you a couple of minutes to eat it and end up with the runs. Be happy to look and maybe take a picture but do not eat them.
Girls Girls Girls: Getting a massage is an absolute must-do while in Thailand. Not only did the Thais pioneer their own divine massage technique, but massages here are also insanely cheap. So cheap in fact that most visitors will get multiple massages a day, every day they’re in Thailand. However avoid visiting massage parlours that display signs advertising ‘happy girls’ or ‘nice girls’. In fact, steer clear of any place that mentions women or girls in their advertising otherwise you may end up in a brothel.
Luxe on a Budget: If you’ve always wanted to stay in a luxurious 5 star hotel but have never quite managed to make the budget stretch that far, Thailand is the place to do it. Bangkok in particular offers some of the best deals for top-of-the-line hotels, but all across Thailand luxury resorts are available at a fraction of the cost back home. You can get some fantastic 5 star hotels for as little as $100 a night.
Many Massages: No holiday to Thailand is complete without getting at least one massage. However once you’ve had one, you’ll see how fantastic and cheap they are and you’ll more than likely be getting 5 or 6 a day. Massages back home generally cost around $100, so your jaw will hit the floor when you’re only charged $3 for an hour long foot massage. You’ll never want to leave.
Authentic Cuisine: Many visitors to Thailand are surprised when the Pad Thai they order doesn’t taste like the one they get from their favourite Thai joint down the street. That’s because much of the Thai food we get back home has been Westernised to suit our palettes. So don’t expect things to taste the same, but that’s the best part about it, it’s incredibly delicious and 100% authentic. You’ll never look at Thai take out the same ever again.
Feast at Every Meal: There are so many fantastic little delicacies to try at every meal and it’s all so cheap. It’s great to order a few dishes to share, this way you can try a bit of everything. Just don’t expect it all to come out at once, as this is very much a Western concept. In Thailand, food is made to order and comes out as it is ready meaning everything is hot and fresh and is enjoyed the way it is meant to be eaten. So order 4 or 5 courses and eat until you can’t eat anymore, the dishes just keep coming.
Ooh La Thailand: Thailand has somewhat of a strange but reliable reputation for having some of the best croissants in the world. Just why they’re so good seems to be a closely guarded secret, other than the fact that the Thais seem to have nailed the French technique. So while you’re visiting, make sure you try at least one croissant however we dare you to try and stop at just one. Rumour has it that the croissants in Thailand are actually better than the ones you get in France!