There are so many reasons to love Thailand — many more than the 22 listed here — but these are some of my most favourite things about the Thai culture, and should give you some insight into why so many people make this country their vacation destination!
1. Orchids, orchids and more orchids!
These gorgeous flowers garnish almost ever drink, plate, and hotel pillow. They spill out of stalls in the flower markets and are the perfect accessory to throw in your hair when headed to the beach.
Used largely as tractors and tourist attractions, elephants can be found all over Thailand. Most are domesticated, and are quite small compared to their African ancestors. You can visit them at an Elephant Sanctuary, but try to avoid riding them at any old tourist attraction, as they are usually poorly treated. Learn more about how to interact with elephants ethically here.
3. Cheap, Fresh Seafood
Whether you are in the heart of Bangkok or sitting in the sand watching the sunset, you are going to be eating some of the freshest seafood you have ever had. Boats filled with ice display the catch of the day and beachside restaurants, and it will be barbecued right on the beach just the way you like it! Average price for a full meal? Around $6.
Markets can be found all over the country selling everything and anything. Stalls are packed with souvenirs, clothing, furniture, jewellery, and bulk items that are shipped home and sold for ten times the price in North American stores.
This dangerous concoction is found in abundance on the islands, and is a mix of hard liquor, a way-to-sweet juice or soda, and ice all thrown into a child's sand pail. (It makes for easy clean-up after a big night on the beach and the locals reuse them — pretty smart actually). Warning: Drinking buckets may lead to skinny dipping and tattoos.
A souvenir that I brought home with me, these traditional Thai tattoos are very painful, but take almost no time to heal! They are also fairly inexpensive compared to the cost of a tattoo at home, but can take a bit longer, as the ink is applied using a long stick of bamboo with a needle in the end, not a tattoo gun.
Ya, you will probably pay a little more, almost die, and not really get there any faster, but nothing beats your first ride in these strange little vehicles.
Need I say more?
9. Thai Gas Stations
No need for a fancy 'pay-at-the-pump' system here! Just pull over and fill up your tank with whatever blend works best for you!
10. REALLY Good Coffee
Thailand gets a lot of European visitors and what do Europeans like? Really good coffee of course. What does this mean? That in order to stay competitive, even the most ramshackle looking beachside restaurant has an espresso machine and someone who can make a fantastic cappuccino. I have had better coffee in Thailand then I have ever had in North America!
11. Street Food
It's cheap (only around $1-$2 for a meal), fresh, delicious and easy. What more could you want?!
12. Sense of Humor
There is nothing better than a culture that is aware of their stereotypes and embraces them. Whether it is a "Same Same But Different" t-shirt or a menu that states "We may have hot beer, stale food, and lousy service, but we never run out of it and we don't discriminate", it just makes me love this quirky country more!
13. Beer/Pop Machines
In my hotel in Bangkok there was more beer than pop in the machines. And it was between 25 baht and 30 baht, so less than $1, per can.
14. The Beach
No, not the movie — though it is played on a loop at bars and restaurants all over the country — the miles of white, sandy beaches that are found all along the edges of the country and are the definition of paradise.
15. Floating Markets
These centuries old traditional marketplaces can be found all over the country. Waterways lined with homes on stilts fill with beautiful wooden boats laden with fresh fruit, fully-cooked meals, art, and household items, creating colorful cultural traffic jams.
16. Khao San Road
This road that never sleeps seems to be where the world gathers when it comes to Bangkok. Travellers new to the country wander dazed down the street in search of a place to sleep passing sun-baked backpackers on their way out after months on an island. Bars and restaurants seem to never close their doors, rooms go for anywhere from $1/night to $300/night. You can grab a Starbucks, get a Thai Massage, buy a $2 t-shirt, have a full meal of street food, and grab a cheap beer from the 7-11 (yes, they have those there), without walking more than a block. It is a glorious, chaotic, international mish-mash.
Because Thailand was never colonized, their places of worship and Royal Family is still intact. This means that their temples and palaces are meticulously maintained and are stunning places to visit. They are also the best place to spot monks swathed in beautiful saffron robes (just make sure not to touch them if you are a girl!). Shoulders, knees, and cleavage have to be covered to visit, so make sure you are properly clothed!
18. Drag Shows
There is a huge drag scene in Thailand and you will find drag shows everywhere. They are wildly entertaining, and a lot of fun to attended once the sun goes down!
19. Scuba Diving
The water is warm and the reefs are colorful and full of fish. What else could you ask for in a place to dive?! Even better, the island of Koh Tao (off the north eastern coast), is full of hotels that offer PADI certification for dirt cheap.
20. Fire Dancing
There are fire-dancers on every beach, and these incredibly talented men and women are very impressive to watch. Try and ignore the feeling of invincibility that will wash over you after a few drinks and don't give it a try yourself — fire burns.
This incredible, annual water festival takes over the entire country and is SO much fun!
22. Feeling Free!
There is something so incredibly freeing about travel in Thailand. There are fewer rules, fewer people watching you — and once you get used to how things work, it is easy to feel like you could stay there forever!