35 Random Observations About Thailand

We ended up spending seven months in Thailand. We didn’t plan to stay so long but Thailand has a way of sucking you in with its gentle Buddhist ways, the fiery cuisine, and an style of living that’s both easy for a foreigner to adapt to but exotic enough to keep things interesting. It’s the quirky details of daily life that we loved the most.

1) It’s actually the year 2555 in Thailand, which uses the Buddhist calendar.

2) Thailand generally feels very safe. Simon accidentally left the keys in our motorbike at least 10 times and it was never stolen.

3) Thais worship their King and there are giant billboards with his photo on everywhere.

Thai King billboard4) Before a film at the cinema everyone stands up for the national anthem accompanied by a video of the King. EDIT: Aaron commented and let us know it’s not actually the National Anthem but a song called “San Sern Pra Baramee”, which translates as “Bless the King.”

5) In fact, the national anthem is played in public twice a day and everyone stops and stands in silence for it – which can be bizarre in a crowded train station or market.

6) The cinemas are among the best value in the world – modern, comfortable, and cheap – especially in Bangkok.

Transport

7) Motorbikes (scooters) are the most common form of transport. Whole families, dogs, ladders, and even bicycles are carried on them. Often driven by ten year olds.

8 ) Motorbikes can serve many purposes – and can be transformed to kebab or ice cream vans or, by adding a sidecar, taxis.

Motorbike ice cream vanKebab shop motorbikeMotorbike taxi with sidecarLadder on motorbike

9) Petrol in rural areas is often sold by the side of the road in old whiskey bottles.

Petrol in whiskey bottlesBuddhism

10) Monks from young to old are everywhere in bright orange robes.

Monks in Chiang Mai11) They are often found on mobile phones, listening to iPods, and taking photos.

12) Monks have right of way when crossing the street – we learnt the hard way when Simon nearly ran one over!

13) Women shouldn’t touch monks.

14) There are ATMs in some temples.

15) Many temple gardens have inspiring and motivational signs hung from the trees.

16) Colourful spirit houses are found everywhere and Thais give offerings to the spirits to keep them happy. Apparently, the spirits’ favourite beverage is ‘Unknown Bright Red Fizzy Liquid Inna Bag’.
Spirit House, Thailand

Etiquette

17) Feet are considered unclean – which means no pointing them at anyone or putting them up on a chair. Shoes should always be removed when entering temples, homes, and some shops and businesses. (When in doubt, look for the pile outside).

18) Shoes are also to be removed at public toilets and rubber sandals are provided which are inevitably too small for Simon’s honking great clown feet.

19) Heads are considered sacred and touching other people’s is frowned upon. Touching your own seems to be OK.

20) When speaking Thai add ka (for women) or krap (for men) at the end of everything to be polite.

21) The wai is the common way to greet or thank someone and is made by holding your hands to your chest as if in prayer.

Food

22) Food is everywhere – street stalls sell pre cut pineapple and watermelon, meat on sticks, piles of chillies and shredded payapa for som tam salad, as well as full meals.

23) Thais like their food spicy – there’s a difference between farang (foreigner) spicy and Thai spicy. Real men eat Thai spicy.

24) Three types of chilli are often added to noodle dishes – dried chilli flakes, fresh cut chillies in vinegar, and chillies in fish sauce.

25) Sugar is added to many dishes, especially noodle dishes.

Pad thai, som tam, wing bean salad, & noodles at Pun Pun

Pad thai, som tam, wing bean salad, & noodles at Pun Pun, Chiang Mai

26) There are no set meal times – Thais like to snack throughout the day which suits Simon just fine.

27) Food is eaten with a spoon in the right hand and a fork in the left to push food onto it. Chopsticks are used for noodles.

28) I love coconut ice cream served from street stalls for 10 baht ($0.30) but I skip the white bread Thais eat it in (they take ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’ very literally). I also skip the weird toppings – peanuts, condensed milk, kidney beans and sweetcorn are common.

Coconut ice cream29) Thais love coffee. There are trendy cafes serving cappuccinos in the most unlikely settings.
Simon with a fancy coffee

People

30) First names are usually used rather than surnames with the honorific Khun added before the name for both men and women.

31) There are a disturbing number of old white men with young Thai women, although we’re sure they’re together for love.

32) Thais love to release lanterns on special occasions, especially for the Yee Peng Festival. As you release the lantern into the sky you release your troubles—especially if you tie him to it.

Yee Peng festival, Chiang Mai

Yee Peng festival, Chiang Mai

33) There’s less concern for health and safety here. We usually like that things are more relaxed but we were terrified for a guy gardening on the edge of the 6th floor roof.

34) Young Thais are ultra cool.

iberry cafe, Chiang Mai35) Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles for a reason. Be sure to join in.

Yi Peng T-shirt image

 

Trail Wallet

Have you been to Thailand? Leave a comment and tell us your observations.

93 thoughts on 35 Random Observations About Thailand

  1. Great list! I am currently staying in Bangkok and have some additional notes:

    – There’s a 7-11 store on virtually every corner
    – Bangkok has 24 hour delivery McDonalds :)
    – Motorcycle drivers seem to have right of way on pavements/sidewalks
    – 95% of tut tut drivers will try to scam you
    – Thai’s are very image conscious and prefer to wear denim and shoes… and look down on me and my vest and sandals despite it being 37 degrees.
    – Chatuchak Market in Bangkok is the best market in the world!
    – Bangkok is so clean, but yet you see hardly any rubbish bins around

    • Thanks Henry – great additions! I forgot to mention the 7-11s as we were so used to them by the end. And the motorbikes on the pavements in Bangkok drove us crazy!

      We’ll have to get to Chatuchak market next time.

  2. Good list! I can never get enough of Thailand. Btw, with regards to buying petrol in bottles, I found that it’s much cheaper to just go to a gas station. Still, it’s very convenient…(but probably crazy dangerous)!

    • That’s true – it’s far cheaper to go to the gas station but they don’t have them in the southern part of Koh Lanta so we had no choice. At least we didn’t have to worry about running out.

  3. I especially love the sofas in the theatres! There is nothing like watching a movie on a lazyboy! haha And no Thai Spicy for me. I said my pet (no spice) for the entire first month, and yet I cried at every meal. But alas I could not stop eating for the food is SO delicious. I endured the tears and pain. haha. Great article. There are SO many things I miss about Thailand…..I need to go back.

    • We love the sofas too. They have them in some cinemas in England but it’s ridiculously expensive so Thailand is a great place to indulge. Glad you enjoyed the food despite not liking it spicy. That’s dedication :)

  4. Thanks for the memories – I can’t wait to get myself back to Thailand! One question: how did you stay for seven months? Were you making border runs every two weeks??? Seems like a major hassle. I’d love to spend more time there, but the visa issue makes it seem impossible.

    • We got a double entry tourist visa in advance. You need to get it outside of the country – Laos is the nearest but we got ours in England. With that visa we could stay for two months then hop over the border and come back the same day to get another two months. You can also extend each of these two months for an extra month at the immigration office making a total of six months (i/e 3 months before you have to do the border run). We then went to Burma for a proper trip, flew back in and got another 30 days on arrival (you only get 15 days if you arrive overland). You could also get another double entry tourist visa to start it all over again. Hope that makes sense!

  5. Once when I was in Bangkok I got on a bus and went to sit down, when a Thai woman reached over and hit me! I had been sitting down next to a monk, and would probably have brushed against him. A good travelling lesson for me :)

    • Oh yes, that’s another one – women never sit down next to a monk. No wonder I feel a bit nervous around them – too many rules to potentially break!

  6. I haven’t been to Thailand yet, but a lot of these things hold true in other parts of Southeast Asia as well. Motorbikes with a family of 6 and their dead pig start seeming normal after awhile.

  7. Interesting list! Haven’t been to Thailand yet, but seems that there are a lot of things to look forward to there. Big fan of the snacking all throughout the day thing :-)

    • Haha! That’s the very cool iberry cafe in Chiang Mai. They have loads of weird things and the Thais love the photo opps so that girl has stuck her head in the big plastic head!

  8. Thailand is the top of my list for that end of the world. Thanks for the overview. The ice cream sandwiches sound pretty odd, but maybe worth a try.

  9. Nice list. Looks like you really enjoyed your time in Thailand.

    Just one small observation- the song played in theatres isn’t the national anthem, it is “San Sern Pra Baramee”, which translates as “Bless the King.”

    And yes the sofas in the expensive seats in the theatres are marvelous. Just make sure you don’t recline them too far back before the movie starts or you will look ridiculous trying to scramble to your feet when then King’s song starts.

  10. I was in Northern Thailand forty five years ago and have fond memories of the great food and the wonderful people.

  11. Thanks for the post guys. You’ve made me really nostalgic for Thailand today! And the photos of the food… Serious craving now

  12. Wow! Just stumbleupon’d this site. After living in Thailand for 2 years, I’ve found that most bloggers don’t get it. You guys did. Congrats, grrreeeeaaaaattttt list!

  13. Do you ever get tired of the Farang/Thai price structure?
    In many situations, it seems would rather lose business than give you the local price.
    How about a post about how the vast majority of Thais insist on overcharging the Farang.

  14. I lived in Thailand for only a short while but was told that red fizzy liquid is Fanta and yes real men eat Thai spicy but if it is a little too warm put some sugar on it, it helps to counter-act some of the spice. For anyone going or has been and may go again I recommend Phuket, yes the name is funny but it has some of the most beautiful scenery and beaches, slightly more expensive but what is a few Baht? Also away from the hustle and bustle that is Bangkok. Also as far as visas, I’m not suggesting this, there are a lot farang living in Thailand with expired visas and as long as they have money and aren’t causing trouble they will be fine, but I wouldn’t take the risk. Thai price Vs. Farang price, yeah it’s quite steep, always haggle or make Thai friends, they probably have friends or family that will be able to provide you the service you seek at a better price or will help you haggle

  15. Great list! We have not been to Thailand yet but will hopefully be spending over a month there during our trip. Love that gas is sold in whiskey bottles – hilarious!

  16. You are so on the mark with this – nice one! A few others from me:
    – If you’re in Chiang Mai at Loi Kratong – Thais go quite literally crazy with fireworks. This festival that is the major festival with Yee Ping, and is all about floating troubles away in a peaceful manner, is really quite nuts!
    – In keeping with festivals – the new year Songkran festival is a riot, with water/flour fights across the entire nation

    I had a good chuckle at your observations on monks – so true!

  17. Pingback: Most excellent blog posts: June 2012

    • Thanks Victoria!

      You have to be in a busy public place like a train station or market at the times the anthem gets played so it can be easy to miss.

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  19. Your observations in this post are spot on. I came to Thailand for 3 weeks- that was four years ago :) I’ve gone from living in a terraced house in the centre of Cardiff to living in a hut in the countryside on the edge of the Khao Yai. I haven’t regretted a minute of it.

    Another to add to your list:-
    If you’re in the countryside it’s impossible to walk anywhere. The Thais aren’t used to seeing people walk for enjoyment/relaxation. You will be stopped every few minutes with a passer by stopping and offering you a lift. In the end it gets easier to just accept- take the lift- return home and start again.

  20. I love this post especially the pics the go with it. I like Bangkok and the last time I was there was in 2004. It seems that nothing much had changed which for me is a good thing. I am always in awe of ethnicity being preserved despite the global modernization of everything. I plan on going back in the near future. Thanks for the heads up!

  21. Sawadee kaa , thank u both for sharing with us ur beautiful moments in the land of smile my berfect country in the whole world I’ve visited Thailand for more than 20 times and am looking for more it’s just the ideal distention to me wish u all the best .

  22. Awesome list and gorgeous photos. Particularly love your last one in Chiang Mai at Iberry ice cream (my favorite ice cream shop when I visit Chiang Mai).

    And I know what you mean about Thailand sucking you in. I initially came here for a year. 10 years later, I’m still here :)

    Very nice blog, btw.

  23. Man! Reading through this article and the comments makes me want to visit Thailand so much. I love love spicy food and cultures that hold on to their traditions. I can’t wait to go.

  24. It really blew my mind the first time I went to a movie in Thailand and everyone stood up for the king! I thought it was funny (only because I was surprised!) – but I had to stifle my laugh when I saw how serious everyone got. I think it’s kinda nice that they do it actually.

  25. I’ve read 2 of your posts about Thailand. First is 18 reasons why Chiang Mai is right for digital nomads and the second is this posts.

    I’m Thai who lived in CM for 6 years during high school time and blogger who blogging abt world heritage sites around ASEAN.

    Your observations are well thoughts.

  26. Thailand is amazing; Chiang Main in particular. i spent 3 weeks there last march and will be going back in January for seven weeks….some of the most beautiful people on earth, and so friendly! Great pictures, thanks for sharing!

  27. Thailand is an amazing destination which enables you to slow down you pace and look around. I spent almost one month in Thailand before and i still felt not enough. I will travel to Thailand again perhaps next year.

  28. Hi Erin and Simon,

    I love your information to give us a guide and I just let’s you know that I have been share your website in my Facebook and add to my list. Thanks you, I’m your Fan!!! From on!!

  29. Love all your information! We are planning to stay in Chang Mei for a year but we have a Great Dane? Trying to get as much info as we can before we leave which will most likely be in a year.

      • I just brought my dog with me to Thailand when I moved to Chiang Mai three weeks ago. To those of you posting above who are bringing your dog please feel free to get in touch if you need any advice/support. I’ve just started a blog about travelling and living in Thailand with my dog. The first entry is about getting here and settling in, as seen from my dog’s point of view. She’s been great and has settled right in.

  30. I took two cooking courses while in Thailand-one in Chiang Mai and one in Bangkok. It taught me that there is nothing like freshly-pounded chili paste for curries! Unfortunately this means I don’t like the stuff in a jar anymore, and I need to get a mortar and pestle. . . but it will be worth the effort! :)

  31. Really enjoyed reading your blog and your 35 observations. We love Thailand, especially Chiang Mai. Our next visit we are staying Chiang Dao Nest (roll on August).
    Phuket and Bangkok are also places we love. I always feel safe in Thailand

  32. Yes, Thailand is my favorite place to visit! I thought that it was just me so crazy about it! LOL Thank you for posting this blog, now I feel more comfortable to go there again. I been there twice 10 years ago in Bangkok, Pataya and Phuket. After that tragedy in Phuket a few years ago I was afraid to go there. Thank you for sharing your experiences and I really like that comments regarding Thailand on your webpage!
    I am trying to convince my husband to go there, he never visited that place.
    This time I would like to visit Chiang Mai, I never heard about it before.

  33. I love your shots – really great!
    I’ve just moved to Thailand and can relate to all of your observations. It is such an amazing pace to take in everything that is going on around you, Such a juxtaposition of spirituality and cosmopolitan development.

  34. My wife and I just returned from living and working in Thailand for 9 months… I miss it… Alot… Absolutely beautiful country, people, and way of life.

    Oh, and 16) Unknown Bright Red Fizzy Liquid Inna Bag –> Fanta!

  35. Hi the both of you, first of all great job with the travel budget app :) I have just downloaded it to be ready for my longer trip to Asia starting November 2013 :) Your blogg has been far the best I have found on the web! I have ordered many travel guides but all seems so touristic and I really want to experience some rural stuff instead of following the tipps of Lonely Planet all day long. Do you have any cool recommendations in regards to trekking / kajak adventures along rivers / lakes etc in Thailand and Laos? I have heard that Chiang Mai is really famous for trekking but I would like to avoid this spot as this is way too touristic for me :) thx for letting me know :)
    Happy traveling

  36. Thailand – is a great, fantastic country! I like this country from beginning to the end. It was my best first travel impressions, when I visited this country for a first time. Every time, when I read any review about Thailand, I can’t stop reading. It always something new you can find in each post about this country. Thank for your review!

  37. Awesome post. I am landing in Thailand in a month and I should be there for quite a while. I actually land on my birthday, and I am hoping to go to the Lantern festival while there on the 16th!

  38. I like your information for me a guide to Thailand. Awesome list and gorgeous photos. I particularly love your coconut ice cream. Thailand is amazing!

  39. You are very observant! I am Thai and I really enjoyed reading your list.
    The photos in no. 8 and no. 9 made me laugh. But, you did not mention “Tuk Tuk” in the transport section. Have you seen or rided a “Tuk Tuk”?
    No.14 is very new for me. I’ve never seen ATMs in temple before!

    • I’m Thai, so sorry if my english isn’t as good.
      I love how you explain Thai things in the way I don’t normally hear. You are welcome to visit our country all the time. : )

      The red liquid you see is called ‘Nam Daeng'(or hale’s blue boy) literally means red liquid. It tastes like syrup and we do drink them sometimes but normally it’s for young children.
      I don’t know why people think the spirits like it, or maybe the spirits are children?

      Ps. I’ve never seen ATM in a temple too. I don’t know why people would need it.

  40. What about the amazing and ubiquitous Thai massage! I had at least two a week while visiting the small islands around the beautiful larger island of koh Samui. Great way to chillax. Great blog BTW.

  41. I only spent a few days in Bangkok last time but plan on spending a lot longer next time around so it was good to see your double visa comment, noted that one down straight away. Any idea if you can do the same with other countries nearby..?

    The spicy food comment was funny, I ordered Thai spicy and always had a laugh as they would often hang around for a minute to see my reaction but I love spicy food and just carried on unsure whether I had disappointed them or impressed them.>!

    Also, although I was told not to do this I wandered around a lot of back streets and found some great wee food places, shops and even to my delight a couple of fire and acrobatic displays that very few foreigners appeared to be at which was good for me as I could see over everybody :-D

  42. I’m doing a high school exchange in Thailand for 8 months and some things I’ve noticed is that the students have t have tutor sessions after school to have a chance of getting into uni, Thai people are very open and accepting of homosexuality, there are heaps of lady boys (boys who want to be girls), kah and kup are also signs of femininity and masculinity… There are plastic surgery clinics everywhere as well as true cafes (in Bangkok)
    All the Thai women hold hands everywhere yet it is unnaceptable for a teen to hold hands with the opposite sex in public.
    There are different levels of the wai. For a monk you must have the bottom of your palms on the tip of your nose, for an elder your palms must be close to your chin and to reply to a younger persons wai you hands can be below your chin

  43. Love this! My family is currently hosting a girl from Thailand at my house and my grandparents are hosting a girl from Thailand as well. They are the sweetest and happiest definitely. I plan on going to Thailand in the next year to visit them and if I decide to take a Gap Year this coming year then I hope to stay there a bit longer and explore with the advice you guys have given!

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