We’ve now officially been in Thailand for three weeks! So why has it taken us so long to get a post up? Well, after spending two years in Latin America, and then a year in Australia, we’re still digesting being in a new place. And we gotta tell you, it’s wonderful and exciting and challenging all rolled into one. It finally feels like we’re traveling again, experiencing new sights, sounds and smells. Jules has been here before (although 8 years ago) and this is my first time in Asia.
We’d been anticipating this trip so much that it almost didn’t feel real when we first arrived. Not until we entered noisy Phuket Town, ate our first plate of Pad Thai, and felt the sticky air envelop our skin, did Thailand start to come alive. Although the crowds of tourists can be frustrating and the motos make it almost impossible to cross the roads, we feel a sense of ease here. We can’t wait to continue exploring the country, but for now here are our 5 first impressions of Thailand.
I’m actually pleasantly surprised about how good the food is here. Don’t get me wrong; I love Thai food. But often times foreign food in the US or Australia is different to the food in that particular country. Mexican food, for example, is very different in the states than it is in Mexico. So I was stoked to find out that Thai food at home is actually pretty authentic compared to the amazing plates we’ve been served up so far.
In saying that, the food in Thailand is still a more delicious version of the dishes we’d order at our local Thai joint in Melbourne. Not only that, but there are so many more vegetarian options! In many parts of Latin America, the concept of vegetarianism isn’t fully understood. Here they understand it right off the bat, and no meals arrive with chunks of chicken or sprinklings of ham. We’ve been stuffing ourselves with Pad Thai, fried rice, spring rolls and endless types of curries and soups. Although the food can be a bit spicy (curry in particular), we’ve learned to say “mai ped” no spice, which usually ends up being the perfect amount of spicy. I still have my burrito cravings from time to time, but we haven’t gotten sick of Thai for breakfast, lunch and dinner yet!
Looking back at my packing list, I don’t know what I was thinking. I packed three sweaters and a pair of blue jeans. I should have just packed a bikini and called it a day. It’s fairly hot and definitely humid. Luckily we’ve spent the past couple weeks around the Southern Coast which has been surprisingly breezy. It’s also been a bit hazy here, which is a nice change from Australia where it felt like the harsh sun was always beating down on us. My hair on the other hand has completely rebelled and turned into a giant ball of untamable frizz. Oh well.
After spending years in Catholic Latin America, where Jesus stickers were posted on everything from tuk-tuks to children’s lunch boxes, we’re enjoying a change of culture. We’ve only been here for a few weeks so we’re still learning about the Buddhist and Muslim religious influences, but it’s super interesting. Sprit houses, miniature temples set up to appease the spirits, dot the busy streets of Phuket. In the South women in hijabs and burqas drive around on motor scooters and sell delicious Muslim curry at the night markets. It’s fascinating to see these religions co-exist side by side. One day we went to visit the giant Buddha, a popular religious site in Phuket, and then later that day heard the call to prayer in a small Muslim community.
It’s no wonder Thailand has become such a popular tourist spot, because it is gorgeous. The humid weather gives the countryside lush greenery. Along the coast, limestone rock formations tower over the blue water. I have the luxury of being on the back of the motorbike while Jules drives us around, leaving me plenty of time to soak up the landscape. The interior of the islands are thick with bush and trees, perfect for exploring. The beaches are quite pretty, although the nicest ones seem to be overrun with tourists. We’re hoping to get off the beaten track soon to find some undiscovered coastline.
As most of our travels have been in Latin America, it’s hard not to compare the two. In Latin America we could speak the language, which made traveling in general way easier. In fact, I think we took for granted how many advantages and opportunities were available to us by speaking the language. We were invited into houses to chat for hours over tea. We joined impromptu soccer games and went to children’s birthday parties. Knowing Spanish was our key into so many authentic and awesome situations.
Here we’re back at square one. Which is good, in a way, because it’s reminding us how most backpackers travel. Taking local transport is much more difficult and we can’t haggle prices as well. Thanks to the influx of TEFL jobs in the region, most locals that work in the tourism industry know at least some English and our grasp of the Thai language is growing a bit with every conversation. Communication is still difficult though, but it reminds us of one key aspect of traveling that we maybe started missing in Latin America – getting outside our comfort zone.
Travel bloggers have a bad habit of romanticizing the places they visit. So when I say that the people of Thailand are some of the kindest that I’ve met in all of my travels, that may seem like an exaggeration. But it’s not. In our short time here we’ve been met with such a warm sense of hospitality. Even in touristy areas where our faces would just blend in with all the other backpackers, locals have been so polite.
Small things like thanking us for looking at their menu even if we don’t eat at their restaurant, or apologizing profusely when they accidentally overcharge our meal by a dollar. Of course there are nice people and mean people in every country, but so far we’ve had overwhelmingly positive experiences. They don’t call it the Land of Smiles for nothing!
Have you traveled through The Land of Smiles? What were your first impressions of Thailand? Drop us a comment below or come find us on Facebook or Twitter!
18 thoughts on “Our 5 First Impressions of Thailand”
I love Thailand and am looking forward to following your journey and seeing it through your eyes.
Thanks Lorraine 🙂 We’re looking forward to sharing more exciting posts and pictures with you!
Thailand was my introduction to Asia as well and I have to say that I felt like I hit the brick wall and was left with nothing but a huge bruise on my head. I didn’t like it…in fact I disliked it so much I was really happy leaving Thailand behind me. The constant scams, hassling, noise and crowds is just not my piece of cake. I prefer less touristy destinations. I did enjoy Erawan NP though so if you do get a chance go and visit it! It was beautiful.
Hey Marta, how interesting how different our two experiences have been so far. We’re absolutely loving it! Agreed that some of the touristy spots can give you a headache, but that’s what exploring is for. Even in the densely overpopulated islands you can still find tiny beaches to yourself and hidden waterfall locations. Hopefully the rest of Asia is working out better for you 🙂
Marta, it’s unfortunate you had a bad time in Thailand on vacation. But like Jules and Christine said.. the touristy areas can really be frustrating. When you plan a vacation, it’s fun to check off the popular spots you’ve heard about but It’s best to dig a little further and find those hidden gems that haven’t been exploited.
I lived in Chiang Mai for 5 months and moved down to Phuket. I barely lasted a week in Phuket before I was dying to get out of there. It didn’t feel like Thailand to me. Luckily, I had local friends that showed me where the Thai people were. Many of the bars and restaurants in Kata, seem to be owned by foreigners and the locals were noticeably more aloof and not so friendly to tourists. Also, to me Patong is an explorer’s nightmare and currently overdeveloped with more high rises going up every day. If you go slightly north of all that it continues to get better and more secluded. Phuket is nice as a hub for getting to the other islands by ferry and Krabi is just amazing. Don’t write off Thailand…there’s so much more. @Jules and Christine…Thanks for the post!
Cheers Brian, loved your comment. Definitely agree that having local friends to show you around is the key to these sorts of places. You just can’t experience anything like it without local know how! Any tips for Chiang Mai? We’ll be there later in the year!
Great Photos guys, Have fun,
Thanks Dad, glad you’re enjoying them 🙂
We LOVED Thailand — I am so jealous (in a good way) of you right now. Phuket old town is super cool. But in our humble opinion the beaches are better a little further down. Ko Lanta was our home for a month and we could move there tomorrow. WE’ve heard great things about Ko Lipe as well. Enjoy!
We really enjoyed Koh Lanta, even if it was full of middle-aged Scandinavian families haha. The beaches there are much less crowded and very beautiful!
Ha, after 5 months in India Thai food didn’t feel too spicy at all 🙂
Haha I bet! We’re slowly working up to it 🙂
Sounds like you’re having a blast! I totally get you on the language front – we spent a lot of time travelling in South America and now my Spanish is pretty good, so I think I too would find it hard not to compare the experience with travelling in a region of many different languages. Hope you continue to enjoy discovering Thailand!
Yep language is definitely making it challenging, but it feels like we’re traveling again and really out of our comfort zones. You’d be surprised how many times i’ve gone to speak to people in Spanish when they don’t understand my English haha. Just confuses them even more!
I’ve never been to Thailand but it does seems very nice!! I’d love to taste the food and just discover the country on a moto, this must have been so fun! How long are you planning to stay there?
Yeah it’s so beautiful Nathalie! The food is one of the best parts haha. We’ve just spent a month in Thailand, and now we’re in Cambodia, but we’ll be back there later in the year for another few weeks. Maybe you should come join us for a holiday? 🙂
So glad to hear your new adventure is starting out on a high note! Loved reading about the food and the culture but as always enjoyed the pics the most. Great photos!
Thanks Daidri, it’s pretty easy to get some great shots in Thailand. The people are so friendly and welcoming.