Thailand to most people is a country of hidden treasures, many people know of it, but never take the initiative to visit or learn about this South Asian Mystery. That is a shame, because not only is Thailand a country of adventure, royalty, character, and tradition, but it is a secret gem that any travel addict needs to see. If you plan to go to the country soon, or simply wish to learn more, here are nine incredible moments I encountered in Thailand!
1. Bangkok does not have a downtown
This might not make sense that one of the largest cities in Asia does not have a center, but Bangkok (the capital of Thailand) is a giant cluster mixed into one! It does not mean there is nothing to do in Bangkok; it means things might be a ways away from each other.
2. Temples are everywhere
Our tour guide would jokingly say that there are only two things to see and do in Bangkok "Temples, shopping, temples, shopping, temples, shopping."
That could be a bit of an exaggeration, but it still is pretty accurate!
Outside the Golden Buddha Temple
Bangkok is world renowned for many of its Buddhist Temples, many of them are UNESCO world heritage sites. Each one is uniquely different and awe-inspiring. May it be the Grand Palace, Wat Pho (The Reclining Buddha), or the Golden Buddha (the world's heaviest golden statue), you will be delightfully surprised by each one!
Temples of the Grand Palace
Iconic Statues in the Grand Palace
Wat Pho Temple, The Reclining Buddha
The Golden Buddha
3. Everything is CHEAP
It's not an exaggeration. When in Bangkok or Thailand in general, it is a recommendation to go to the Weekend Market. You will find anything and everything here. When I walked through the market, I bought two pairs of designer shorts for 350 Baht ($10), three bags of Thai Lays Chips, I'll go into those later, for 105 Baht ($3), and a Thai foot massage for less than 350 Baht! Even a two-hour Thai massage for a family of four can be around 1753 Baht ($50)! Don't be afraid to bargain while in markets as well. If you are in more touristy destinations like the Floating Markets, the vendors tend to bump up the prices.
Weekend Market, Bangkok
The Floating Market
4. Food. Is. Spicy.
Once again, not an exaggeration. I was prepared beforehand about the spiciness of Thai food, but it still can come as a shocker. Personally, I am a person who cannot get enough of spicy food, but if you are not a fan, many restaurants in a more metropolitan area of Thailand will have more mild dishes for foreigners. I recommend sticking to traditional dishes to Thailand, because not only will you be immersed in their culture, but the chefs are more experienced with these recipes, foods like American Dishes, can be dangerous because the ingredients may not be fresh or may not be known how to cook them properly. If you decide to be apart of a tour like my Family and I, the tour guide will usually bring the group to restaurants that serve many options. However, not all dishes are spicy. You'll come across dishes like Pad Thai that come in multiple varieties, or try desserts like Mango and sticky rice. If you're up to the test, try the national fruit of Thailand, Durian. It is known for it's odd and odorous smell, but once you taste it, it is worth it!
Mango and Sticky Rice
5.The King and Queen are a big deal
Travelers are often unaware that there is royalty in Thailand, but once you set foot in this country, you will get to know them, maybe even a bit too much. All across Bangkok, Ayutthaya, and Pattaya, posters, and signs of royalty hang. The son of the royal family is spread across the nation as well, who is known to be the heir to the throne. A When in public, Thai people will state their love and respect for the King and Queen, but in private, some may hold a different view. It is considered to be illegal to show distaste for royalty. Not only this but with Thailand's most recent Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-Ocha, it is illegal to watch movies such as Les Miserables and the Hunger Games, due to fear that they may spark a revolution.
Building with a poster of the Prince
6. It's hot.
Like, scorching. All through the year, temperatures may average around 90 F (30 C). Pack light, breathable, loose clothing, wear sunscreen that is 50 SPF, and always hydrate! Some say that the reason why food is so spicy is that the sweat will help cool off from the heat! Many told me before coming to Thailand in the summer that the majority of the time it would be raining, but luckily, that was false! Only in the southern region of Thailand, it is monsoon season during the summer. So, unless you'd like to visit places like Patong Beach in Phuket, you should be good to go!
7. Buddhism is a vital part of Thailand
Many believe that Buddhism is not a religion, but a way of life. Around 90% of the population identifies as Buddhist, with at least 1% of the population as Christian, 9% Muslim. It is often tradition as well for young boys to join a Buddhist monastery at a young age. Every other street has a small shrine to pray to, and during your time in this country, you will be fully immersed in this rich tradition. A significant part of the Thai life is the greeting of Wai, a gesture of respect by bowing and the raising of your arms in the prayer formation. Taking part in the many of the Buddhist customs is a fantastic way to receive the Thai experience truly. Make sure to do research before hand about the life of Buddha and the Buddhist faith before visiting!
Buddhist Monk Ceremony
8. Pattaya is shocking
Every country has its flaw, and it would be wrong not to address a real part of Thailand. Human Trafficking is still a major problem in South East Asia, and the notorious "Walking Street" is the capital. From the entrance, it looks something similar to the Navy Pier in Chicago, but once entered, it is a shocking reality that needs to be taught. It is not a recommendation to visit this part of Pattaya. However, there are still many great, safe adventures to do around the city, may it be taking a boat to the beaches of Koh Lorn, or seeing a Thai kickboxing match! It was said by our hilarious tour guide "Good boys go to heaven, bad boys go to Pattaya!"
Walking Street Entrance, Pattaya (The King's Photo is on top)
What surprised me most about Thailand is each destination always unleashed a new and thrilling experience. May it be...
Riding a raft across the River Kwai, while also learning about its dark history during WWII
Iconic Bridge over the River Kwai
Getting in touch with Buddhist tradition with the temples of Ayutthaya
Receiving the feeling that you are in the King and I at the Summer Palace or Grand Palace
The Summer Palace
Riding an elephant
Be in awe by the entirely blue beaches of Patong Beach or Koh Larn
or learning the philosophy of keeping face (not complaining) by the friendly, peaceful natives, there is always an adventure waiting for you!
But there is still an incredibly important surprise that I need to bring up.
9. 7/11's are everywhere
There is seriously a 7/11 on every block. Count how many you see during your trip and you'll be overwhelmed! When you go inside one, don't forget to try the crazy and unique flavors of Lay's Chips!
If you want to go to Thailand, or other countries, I recommend going on a tour. We went using affordableasia.com. There are also many other affordable travel groups such as Trafalgar and Contiki!