Until this trip to Thailand (also known as the “Land of Smiles”), I have never been to Asia before – not even South Korea! Ever since I immigrated to the States from Brazil, my trips had always been contained to domestic travels and once I received my green card in 2014, limited to travelling to Europe. This trip to Thailand was also the farthest I’ve ever flown so it was definitely quite the experience.
JFK to BKK (Bangkok)
1 stop layover (Doha)
Cost: $856.46 roundtrip
One of my good friends, Jonathan, was based out of Bangkok (he works for the United Nations) and had been asking me over the years to visit him and his family and that he was more than happy to host me and a friend. I was due for a well-deserved trip and because Thailand was so far, my friend Katrina (one of my forever travel buddies) and I decided to take two weeks off!
We decided to organise our trip into the following:
- Bangkok (5 days)
- Chiang Mai (4 days)
- Chiang Rai (1 day)
- Koh Chang (3 days)
A lot of places in Thailand do not accept credit cards but there are plenty of ATMs. Please prepare cash in advance of the trip or just carry a debit card (ideally without a foreign transaction fee) to use at the ATMs.
Flights to Thailand (and Southeast Asia in general) may be expensive, but always keep in mind that you make up the flight cost with the cheap and affordable accommodations and food!
One thing to be mindful of is the cultural etiquette of Thailand. There is etiquette revolving around greetings as well as attire when entering temple grounds.
What is a wai? A Thai greeting, it is a slight bow, with arms pressed together as done while praying (basically ). When you say “hello” or “thank you”, please make sure to say the greeting with a wai. It is also polite to return a wai if someone greets you with it as well.
It is also imperative to dress modestly when visiting temples. Please make sure to cover your knees and shoulders. You will be denied entrance if not dressed appropriately! It is also respectful to remove your shoes when entering temples and houses.
If you don’t own any modest clothing when entering the temples, there are usually vendors that rent wraps and scarves to help cover knees and shoulders by the entrance!
When it comes to respecting Buddha, please keep in mind that Thailand is a primarily Buddhist country, and any statues and sites that include the image of the Buddha should be treated with the utmost respect. This also means that when you are in front of a Buddha statue, please make sure not to raise yourself higher than the image of Buddha (eg. sitting on the raised platform for a photo). The easiest way to guarantee this is to always kneel in front of Buddha statues.
One of the major “DON’Ts” in Thailand is disrespecting the king, let alone the royal family. There are strict laws around the institution of monarchy and while the current king is no where near the same level of love and respect as the previous king (his father), it is a punishable offense to badmouth or insult the king.
As a deeply Buddhist country, it is expected to see a lot of Buddha souvenirs (trinkets, small statues). While it may be legal to purchase small Buddha statues as souvenirs, it is technically illegal to take them out of the country. It is safer to just buy trinkets of elephants instead.
Also, just don’t touch people’s heads. In Thailand, the head is considered sacred and the cleanest part of the body so it is deemed offensive to touch people’s head or hair. However, this shouldn’t be the reason why you don’t touch people’s heads – it’s weird and inappropriate in general. So just don’t.
Please remember to add kha or khap at the end of almost every sentence to be polite. Kha is used by women at the end of greetings and khap is used by men.
When taking a taxi, always make sure to use the meter – do not negotiate fares in advance as they tend to be far more expensive than running the meter. An easy way around this is to download the GrabTaxi app (which is basically Thailand’s Uber)!
OTHER PLACES ON THE LIST FOR NEXT TIME
- Phanom Rung
- Hindu shrine complex regarded for its outstanding architecture
- Located near the village of Nang Rong, far east of Bangkok
- Doi Inthanon
- One of the most popular national parks in Thailand
- Famous for its waterfalls, trails, remote villages, picturesque montane farms, viewpoints, sunrise/sunset watching
- Racha Islands
- Two islands: Ko Racha Yai and Ko Racha Noi. Ko Racha Yai is inhabited mainly by farmers and fishermen
- Best place to head to is Ao Tawan Tok, U-shaped bay where the sand is as white as snow and has the same consistency as talcum powder
- Could be a good day trip from Phuket
- At night the island gets very dark which gives stargazers some amazing views of the stars
- Koh Phi Phi
- Maya Bay
- Panoramic views from Phi Phi Viewpoint
- Famous turquoise beaches with the fishing boats
- Not an island and super touristy but famous for its beaches
- Khao Sok National Park
- One of Thailand’s most beautiful wildlife reserves
- Jungle forests, limestone karsts, rivers and lakes in the Surat Thani province of southern Thailand
- There are several trails in the park from which visitors can choose to enjoy trekking through the jungle to spot wildlife, photograph beautiful waterfalls, swim in natural pools and admire stunning vistas from elevated viewpoints
- Other islands: https://www.touropia.com/best-islands-in-thailand/