Just got back from Thailand ya’ll! What a crazy trip! I had six days, six nights to go exploring and thanks to my friend, we got quite a bit accomplished in short time. I had spent my time in Chiang Mai and Bangkok to see some temples, watch the elephants play, try out some food, watch some Muay Thai and party a bit (not a lot and there’s a reason why that I’ll get into later). It was really humid there and I thought D.C. was bad but it was great that it didn’t really rain while I was there (I think it did once while I was indoors somewhere). It was cool to see my money stretch out as it is approximately 36 baht:1 USD so I was able to save quite a bit because my friend let me crash at his place (which was a high end hotel).
Anyways, as far as food goes, you can’t really go wrong with restaurant choices in Chiang Mai as there were less American restaurants in comparison to Bangkok where there’s plenty. Bangkok was kind of a hit or miss on food choices and it was kind of a struggle in finding good ones since they don’t use Yelp and rely on Trip Advisor or Google Reviews. The local food carts were everywhere around Thailand and it was cheap and good! I think you start seeing them around 7ish in the morning. Don’t expect to see pancakes or sausage biscuits with egg and cheese but more of the same food you would find throughout the afternoon such as pork, chicken or beef on a stick with sticky rice packs that makes it easy to munch on or fresh fruit like mangos (mmm…).
For those on a budget, I’d stay away from the tourist traps like the upscale malls (in which there are plenty but really nice inside), Hooters (ok looking women but pricey), Subway, Starbucks, McDonalds, Burger King and etc. They’re about the same price, more or less in comparison to America. A lot of the local spots will have fresher ingredients and you’ll spend way less. But after exploring around different provinces around the city, I did notice a lot of locals (not just expats and tourists), usually the middle to upper class going to a lot of these types of American places. But for myself, I wanted to experience what I can’t find back home, even though I did end up going to some of these American places. Shame! What can I say, these companies have capitalized and are indeed everywhere you travel to! I tried pad see ew, pad thai, spicy Thai curry chicken, curry soups, fish and ginger chicken dishes at about 4 different restaurants and they were all good.
I was surprised to see so many 7-Elevens around Thailand! Apparently, according to Wikipedia, they’re the second country to have the most 7-Elevens in the world. It was convenient and definitely different from the ones back here in the states as you’d find brands and foods that you wouldn’t normally find (Thai coffee and green tea flavored everything). Also, they have an interesting rewards program where they give you Sanrio stickers to use for 7-Eleven credit towards a lunch box or pencil holder.
On another note, sex tourism is definitely high in Thailand. I didn’t want to get caught being drunk around the streets at night because of two reasons: 1) ladyboys and 2) being robbed. Apparently, it was quite calmer than usual because of King Bhumibol’s mourning where people wear black and neutral colored clothing and do good deeds to pay respects to the Thai King. Many establishments would close early like 11 or 12 AM instead of 2 or 3 AM or even 6 AM. But many of the strip club bars and massage parlors would still open early like 9 AM and close around 1 AM to 2 AM. Around Nana province, there were a lot of ladyboys standing around in front of parlors trying to lure you inside or freelancers around bars and corners. Many of them you can tell that they are a ladyboy while some are pretty passable and I wouldn’t want to end up in the awkward situation (insert creepy eye emoji here). But apparently, there is a huge market for them, hence the heavy saturation around Thailand. Not my cup of tea…
As a social experiment, I used Tinder to see what the online dating scene was like. I never go beyond seeing what the match results are because I’ve had bad luck with online dating and prefer face-to-face approach but to each is own. Of course, using guesstimates, 50% were ladyboys while approximately 40% were local women and 10% were tourists or expats. Many of the ladyboy profiles will use terms like: LB, ladyboy, trans while Thai females would use terms like: 100% Thai or Not a ladyboy. Also, many of the ladyboys and women that are soliciting sexual encounters would include a Line ID/number. For the male that’s looking for love that’s a female, don’t go expecting to find Ms. Right in the streets of Thailand.
As for the culture, it was great to see the architecture of Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai and the Grand Palace. These are easily one day trips but the elephant park felt a little long and could be cut down to a few hours rather than the entire day. But there are definitely many places to go shopping whither it is night markets or malls. If you’re looking for a deal, stick with the night markets where you’ll have to haggle. That’s one thing about Thailand. Everything is about haggling whither it is taxis, street vendors, tourist attractions and etc. Be prepared to talk them down. But as for the locals that I met, they were generally friendly people but many of them were very money driven and social status is a big thing and the color of your skin is as well. I guess most metropolitan areas has its pretentious side to it and as a first time visitor in Thailand and Asia in general (not counting my birth), it was interesting to see how it’s very similar to places in the states.
On a final note, I had a great time and would gladly come back again but would have to see more of the country side but before I return I must explore its surrounding countries like Cambodia and the Phillipines.