Ten things I love about Thailand:
- People are amazing! Thai friends and strangers – always polite and friendly, smiling and helpful. My Thai life would’ve been so different without the wonderful people I’ve met so far.
- Thai food is delicious, available everywhere and anytime and it can be very cheap!
- Not only food is cheap – almost everything is cheap: housing, any kind of transportation (buses, trains, flights), clothing, bags, shoes, movies, beauty treatments, and even (plastic) surgery and medical care (hence the medical tourism).
There are exceptions though: chocolate and other imported goods are still quite expensive, unfortunately! Also, internet connections are comparatively pricey.
- Thai massages are extremely relaxing and so very cheap!
- The Buddhist religion, lifestyle and traditions. In short, the most basic precepts are: abstain from taking life, abstain from stealing, abstain from sexual misconduct, abstain from false speech, abstain from taking intoxicants.
- The weather is great – it’s (almost) always hot! Coming from a cold country like the Netherlands, this is a major plus!
- City life in Bangkok – I love the skyscrapers, I love how the city never sleeps and how you can get anything at any time, I love the city lights, the energy and buzz…
- Due to cheap transportation, paradise is never far away! Weekend getaways to the islands or to wildlife and nature is just a bus/train/plane ride away!
- Thailand is so diverse, you can experience anything in this beautiful country.
You can live the rich city life in the Big Mango, the basic city life, the expat city life or the more local city life. Then, there’s life in smaller cities like Chiang Mai or life in smaller Burma-border towns like Mae Sot.
As for activities, it goes from elephant riding, tiger cuddling, snake watching and touching to hiking, biking, climbing, zip-lining to sailing, jet-skiing, snorkelling, scuba diving to UNESCO world heritage sites/museum/tribes visiting.
- My work! If it wasn’t for my work, I wouldn’t even be in Thailand. So, yes, ECPAT International deserves a place here!
Ten things I hate about Thailand:
- The nasty (child) sex tourists that Thailand attracts due to its status as one of the main (child) sex tourism destinations. Prostitution and especially child sex tourism is still ILLEGAL, I just wished the enforcement was much better.
- Corruption is still widespread in the country. Anyone with money can get away with anything. This leads into the next point:
- Hierarchy is still clearly visible in Thailand’s modern day society. Although I find it somewhat logical that royalty and monks are superior, there are various factors still deciding ordinary people’s status in Thailand: income (the rich rank higher than the poor – this also shows in daily life: cars are the queens of everything and pedestrians are the ones to watch out, which is so contrary to the Western legal responsibility in a motorised vehicle approach), occupation and education (which often goes together with income or one’s parents’ income), age (the older, the better), social connections and family. There is a term for those people ranking higher in society: ‘HiSo’ (high society). It isn’t nearly as bad as India’s caste system, but any kind of inequality troubles me.
- Traffic is horrible in Bangkok. Traffic jams and busy roads, the way people drive and the accidents, the cars used (they are definitely not very environmentally friendly!) and the pollution that comes with them…
- Rainy season really means rainy season – when it rains, it pours! And as a consequence, the city transforms into a semi-underwater world where dirt and garbage is floating around and nasty water is draining from the roofs.
- Speaking of garbage and nasty water, Thailand is not only the ‘Land of Smiles’, it is also the ‘Land of Smells’. With a population of nearly 64 million people (of which nearly 10 million are living in Bangkok) and underdeveloped sewage and garbage disposal systems, there tend to be funky smells around. This is especially the case when you’re near the khlongs (canals)…
- Appearance and first impressions are key, so women have their ‘beauty duties’ and are expected to fulfil those in order to look immaculate.
This means dressing up and having make up on at all times. I only comply with this when having external work meetings – I think the weather in Thailand is too hot for applying stuff on your face!
It also means staying out of the sun and/or carrying umbrellas to prevent tanning as being as fair as possible is the ultimate goal – 90% of magazine ads consist of whitening products and treatments, often using chemical ingredients to reduce pigmentation or remove layers of skin. Having a more Western approach, I actually prefer sun-kissed skin over pale vampire looks.
- People walk really slowly… I can’t stand it! I’m used to walking fast-paced, even when it’s hot outside, but there are human obstacles everywhere. There is no system for escalators (like in the UK), so people stand anywhere and there’s not way through. I guess easy laid-back living also means slow living…!
- The conception that it is OK for females to act girly and childish.
Shrieking or screaming over little bugs or celebrities is totally acceptable.
Also, many adult women are obsessed with cartoons and other ‘cute stuff’. I like animation movies, cartoons and cutesy stuff and I thought I would be happy to be able to be ‘open’ about this, but somehow it is too extreme here… Some people decorate their possessions (car, office desk) with all their favourite cartoon figures and you can buy ANYTHING in ‘cute’ form. These obsessions are a little too much… Although, my friend Pia has caught me being drawn to shop windows with cute stuff and she has accused me of “becoming Asian”!
- Most farang friends I meet in Thailand are here only for a short period of time… This means that I keep meeting great and lovely people and I keep saying goodbye to them a few months later – which I hate. Of course it’s not really goodbye (it’s a small world after all), but it still sucks…