Thailand comprehensive travel guide
Thailand gets over 11 million tourists visiting a year. It may be a developing country, but you can buy just about anything you want here, and cheaper than at home (assuming your first stop is Bangkok). As such, only bring a few items of clothing with you; you can buy tshirts, shorts, bikinis, jackets, trousers etc by the armful for very little cash when you first arrive. Same goes for sunscreen, sunglasses and the contents of your toilet bag. Getting laundry done is cheap and easy. Plus, given that it’s a tropical country and you’ll be pretty active, you’ll probably want to ditch your clothes after every couple of months anyway.
Be prepared for culture shock
Even though you will have no trouble finding a McDonalds or Starbucks in Bangkok, Thailand is still very very different to America or Europe. Some snobby travel writers whine about Thailand becoming too Westernised and just like everywhere else. They’ve obviously walked around the country with their eyes shut. When you first arrive in Bangkok, you will find it extremely hot, incredibly chaotic and pretty overwhelming. You will be craving a McDonald’s just to go somewhere which is clean and quiet.
After the first day or so, once you’ve got over the jet lag and started getting your bearings, you’ll begin to enjoy it a lot more. Most people begin their time in Bangkok staying around the Khao San Road area – and it’s a good place to be based, especially the Rambutri / Pa Athit area next to the river which is quieter and better value than Khao San itself.
This is where you can stock up on cheap clothes and CDs, sample lots of great Thai food cooked up by street vendors, sit around in plethora of bars, meet lots of other travellers and generally chill out. You can also browse and book a bigger selection of Bangkok hotels online too if you’re looking for a little more luxury. There are some excellent boutique hotels in Bangkok if you want something unique too.
I have to admit, when I first got to Bangkok, I absolutely hated it. Now I’ve been living here for a year, I’ve grown fond of the city and found quite a few great things to do. So, even if you feel like leaving Bangkok the moment you arrive, give it a chance. You have to be prepared to brave the Bangkok traffic and get out of the backpacker ghetto – but you can avoid the roads by heading from Khao San down the river on one of the ferries to Saphan Taksin and get onto the BTS Skytrain there, which will take you all over BKK. Taxis are cheap and plentiful, but be prepared to get stuck in Bangkok’s notorious gridlock.
There’s the obvious tourist stuff like the Grand Palace and the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho; the Bangkok Canal (Klong) tour for that Venice Of The East feel (and to reenact James Bond’s waterway chase too if you want); taking in the spectacular skyline view at Vertigo, South East Asia’s highest open air bar; and finding the green spaces amongst Bangkok’s concrete jungle for some respite. Visit Jim Thompson’s House for a tour of a beautiful traditional Thai house stacked with beautiful Buddha antiquities – and it also has a great restaurant. Indeed, there is a plethora of great restaurants and nightclubs in Bangkok too, like Crepes And Co .
See The Real Thailand – Volunteer and teaching work
There are plenty of opportunities for volunteer and teaching work in Thailand, and for a foreigner it is the ideal way to see the real Thailand and live and work amongst the Thais. There are teaching jobs available all over the country which you can pick up quite easily while in the country. Teaching English In Thailand has the full details of what you can expect about trying to get an English teaching job in Thailand. For volunteer opportunities, check out TransitionsAbroad.com and VolunThai.com – and save the gibbons! Lastly, you might want to consider visiting one of the foreigners serving time in Bangkok’s prisons to offer some moral support and take some food and reading material – it’s a sobering reminder that while you’re in Thailand, you definitely should make sure you stay on the right side of the law.
For more Travel tips, please return to our front page.