Thailand: Land of a Thousand Smiles
After an entire post on the negative sides of travel, Thailand has done wonders for our morale. Our experiences here have reminded us just why we love travel so much.
We came to Thailand knowing that it is a hugely popular tourist destination, and has been for decades. Knowing how an influx of tourists can often be detrimental to whatever attracted them in the first place, we were skeptical about how authentic of an experience we would have in Thailand. There was no question that it was going to be beautiful, but we knew we’d probably have to take in our surroundings selectively; looking past the hoards of tourists and hawkers to focus on the natural beauty and culture.
Despite our expectations, and the reality that Thailand is a very popular destination for all kinds of people, there remains a magical quality to the country that seems indomitable. Even though we visited major tourist hubs such as Bangkok and Chiang Rai, we were still able to experience the real culture and spirit of Thailand with ease. Whether it meant opting out of the tourist-designated floating market in favour of the more local one in Bangkok, or renting a motorbike to take us to the rice fields and stilt houses of rural Thailand just outside Chiang Rai, we found ways to explore off the beaten path.
And that’s what we found to be so unique and lovable about Thailand: it’s touristy in the best ways, but at the same time if you want to have a real Thai adventure, it’s there for the taking. The tourist hubs have everything a traveller could want: a range of good accommodation, endless options for transport, cheap and tasty food choices, and enjoyable tours to temples and other attractions. Thailand allowed us to feel safe and comfortable, while still offering us all the authenticity and fulfillment of an untouched travel destination.
Speaking of feeling safe, Thailand is known as “land of a thousand smiles”, and we found that this slogan could not be more accurate. Some of our experiences in other countries left us disappointed with the lack of human connections we were making on this trip. We left Sri Lanka slightly jaded after a build up of bad experiences with people ripping us off and interested in us only for our money. Thailand has made us realize just how jaded we have become. The genuine friendliness of the people here has knocked some sense back into us, and helped us recover from our hardened outlook.
Our apologies to the man at Wat Chedi Luang for giving him the cold shoulder, as he simply tried to welcome us to Chiang Mai and give us tips on what to see in the area. We noticed ourselves backing away, convinced he was just another hawker trying to push his business. Thailand has been full of experiences like this, helping to reignite our passion for travel and realign our perspective on the world.
All of this, and we hadn’t even made it to the famous beaches yet…but that’s a story for another day.
“BKK Lumpini Homestay” (Airbnb), $23/night for a double room – Recommended
Montrara Happy House, Chiang Mai, $23/night for a double room with breakfast – Recommended
FUN-D Hostel, Chiang Rai, $18/night for two dorm beds – Recommended
STC Homestay, Udon Thani, $26/night for double room with breakfast – Recommended
Saphaipae Hostel, Bangkok, $25/night for a double room with shared washroom – Recommended
Stephie – Khao soi (spicy red curry soup with steamed and fried noodles), $1.80, Cafe 29, Chiang Mai
Eric – Khao man gai (chicken two ways: boiled and fried over rice), $1.50, Soi 38 street food stall, Bangkok
Both of us – Khanom buang (tiny crispy crepes filled with coconut meringue and shredded mango – made fresh to order), $1 for a dozen (!)