Why does everyone go to Thailand? What is so special about this country that literally everyone I have ever talked to about Thailand raves about how wonderful it is? Well luckily, just this last month, I got to find out. In January, Kane and I spent 28 days in Thailand and we would have stayed longer if our visas weren’t going to run out. For all of you who have been to Thailand, you already know that the Thai tourism visa only allows 28 continuous days in the country and they are strict about their over stay laws, since many, many people want to stay.
We arrived in Krabi, Thailand after a week in Singapore and at first glance I wasn’t sure Thailand was going to live up to all the hype. After the cleanliness and efficiency of the very developed Singapore, the fact that Thailand is still a developing country could not be ignored. Things move slower in Thailand, traffic laws are more malleable, and schedules are more of general guidelines. Thailand isn’t as clean as a country that has $5oo USD fines for littering, ah hem Singapore, but it keeps most of its land garbage free and if you avoid the excessively touristic islands (Koh Phi Phi) you can find the pristine beaches that grace thousands of computer screen savers in offices around America. Railay beach is a good place to start, it is seriously stunning.
In the end our trip didn’t involve as much island hopping as we had hoped, an unseasonable monsoon forced us northward before we could see islands other than Koh Lanta, but the rest of Thailand didn’t fail to impress. The cultural capital of Thailand, Chiang Mai, is a lovely city nestled in the northern mountains that offers up a dazzling array of temples to visit and foods to sample. The hippie enclave of Pai, 762 steep mountain curves from Chiang Mai, offers mesmerizing views of the Thai countryside. And last, but not least, for us was Bangkok, an international city filled with skyscrapers, expensive malls, and delicious local street food.
After seeing some of the country, I think I know why people keep coming back to Thailand; Thailand has found the perfect recipe for tourism. The country is extremely cheap to travel around, you can eat a good street food meal for $1.30 USD and dorm rooms are as low as $2.50 USD a night. Travel is hassle free with almost every guesthouse, hotel, or hostel offering door to door transfers to the next town for very reasonable prices. The food is amazing, from the tourist starter meal of pad thai to the fiery drunken noodles to fresh caught crab in yellow curry there will always be something new and delicious to try. The land is beautiful and well cared for, the beaches are clean and the water is so inviting that you feel like you could stay floating amongst the tropical fish forever. The culture is flourishing, a feat that feels particularly amazing considering how often increased tourism means the death of the local culture. And the people simply are some of the most genuinely friendly people I have ever met. I didn’t think it was possible for us to have so many good experiences in one country, but everywhere we went in Thailand we always felt welcomed.
From the local restaurant owners on Koh Lanta who always talked to us, gave us free hot tea, and even invited us into their kitchen to learn how to make drunken noodles to the guesthouse owners in Chiang Mai who insisted on feeding us whatever they were eating, the Thai people always seemed to welcome us with open arms. Of all the wonderful things about Thailand, it is this warmth that I will remember long after this trip is over and it is this warmth that will one day bring me back to the land of smiles.