Final thoughts on Thailand (2018)

We’ve been to Thailand three times since May 2018.  The first time we visited Bangkok and luxuriated in the idea of being newly retired.  The second time we visited Phuket and Koh Samui, lounging on the beach (and getting some much needed emergency dental work).  The third time we visited Chiang Mai, Sukhothai, and Bangkok, largely sightseeing, eating, and seeing movies.  Below are some thoughts on our time in Thailand.

WatPho6

Wat Pho.  We take this shot every time we visit.

 

 

 

 

  • We adore Thailand.  The food is amazing, the people are friendly, it is easy to get around, and there are some beautiful things to see.  We are already planning another visit in 2019.
WatPho4

Wat Pho

  • Thailand has the best soda water.  Seriously, if you are ever in Thailand, go to a 7-11 or Family Mart (they are on nearly every block) and look for a bottle of Singha soda water.  (Look for the red lettering).  Big bubbles that last forever — I’m talking you can put a bottle on your nightstand and it will still be bubbly in the morning.  Or even two mornings later.  No lie.  And only 9 Baht (or about 30 U.S. cents).  Yum!  (Newsflash!  We just discovered they have Singha soda water in Luang Prabang as well.  Yeah!)
WatPho3

Wat Pho

  • Thailand also has the best packaged snacks.  Again, go to a 7-11 or Family Mart and look for a bag of Tong brand peanuts.  (Look for the blue bag.)  Crunchy, pea-nutty, deliciousness.  And, check out the fried broad beans while you are at it.  And Robert really likes the pre-made sandwiches at the 7-11.  He thinks they are the perfect breakfast before a morning of scuba diving.
WatPho2

Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

  • Thai food (outside of Sukhothai) is fantastic.  Robert likes Vietnamese better, but I think Thai is the best food in the region.  Nothing quite compares to a bowl of khao soi, a plate of penang curry, some smoky pad thai, or some freshly made green papaya salad.  Now, if we just had the stomach room to have all of those dishes in one meal….
WatPho1

Close-up of the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

  • Bangkok Airways has to be one of the best regional airlines around.  Clean planes, friendly staff, and a meal or snack on every flight.  Plus, they have small little lounges with snacks at pretty much every airport, and the snacks always include popcorn.  And, in places like Sukhothai and Samui, they control the airports and they are often a wonderful little oasis of green gardens and beautiful flowers.  Plus, in Sukhothai, you can even watch zebras and giraffes from the waiting area!  I don’t even mind flying on a prop plane when I’m flying Bangkok Airways.  (Oddly, their prop planes can be more comfortable than their jets.  Go figure.)
Wat Saphan Hin 2

Wat Saphan Hin

  • The Phuket taxi cab mafia are beyond powerful.  They have largely kept Grab and Uber out of Phuket.  Grab supposedly operates, but we couldn’t get the app to work in Phuket (it has worked just fine elsewhere) and Grab charges a surcharge so it is just as expensive as the taxis.  And the taxis are so expensive.  For example, the taxis wanted the equivalent of $15 dollars to go the under 5 miles from Kata to Patong.  In other words, they wanted half as much as we were paying per night for our hotel to drive us less than 5 miles.  Unreal.  Do yourself a favor and just rent a scooter.  Or, if you can deal with the aggravation of never being certain when it will arrive or quite where it will stop, take the new Smart Bus that runs between the two areas.
Wat Sorasak 1

Wat Sorasak

  • The drivers in Chiang Mai are actually courteous.  Over and over, they would stop and let us cross the road.  Quite the change from most of Asia.
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Wat Sri Chum

  • It is kind of crazy how different Phuket and Samui are.  Phuket has the Patong area.  We would never stay there, but if all you want to do is party, it is supposed to be fantastic.  We, on the other hand, didn’t even like it during the day (the only reason we went was to visit my dentist).  Phuket also has the Kata Beach area, where we stayed.  Plenty of shops and bars and restaurants.  Parties if you want it, but not in your face.  But, absolutely crawling with Russians on package tours.  Samui (at least the Bophut Beach area where we stayed), on the other hand, was way more chill than Phuket and seemed to attract a mix of visitors.  We probably should have spent all of our time in Samui, but it was way more expensive than Phuket when we were there.
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Elephant sculptures in Samui

  • Chiang Mai is one of those cities we immediately fell in love with.  We visited back in 2007 and we still loved it in 2018.  Yes, it is touristy.  Yes, it is full of digital nomads.  But, there are temples galore, plenty of cafes, khao soi on every corner, and a chill vibe that we adore.  And movies are dirt cheap!
Wat Sa SI 1

Wat Sa Si

  • Bangkok is one of those cities that needs time to grow on you.  When we first visited, we pretty much hated it.  Every time we returned, we liked it a tiny bit more.  At this stage, we pretty much feel at home in Bangkok, and I truly think we could live in Bangkok. We have our favorite hotels (all Accor properties because we always splurge in Bangkok).  We have some favorite eating spots (a Northern Thai restaurant right by the Sofitel So and the Or Tor Kor market).  We know how to use the public transportation system and even have a Rabbit card good for the next two years.  We can’t wait to return.
Wat Traphang Ngoen 2

Wat Traphang Ngoen

  • We can’t quite put our finger on why we didn’t like Bangkok at first.  One guess is that it is really just a big city.  It is dirty, it is smelly, and there really aren’t that many fantastic touristy sites to see.   The hassle/scams at places like the Grand Palace make it so we never want to go back there — and, in fact, on our most recent visit when we wandered near the Grand Palace I blurted out “don’t be nice to anyone around here” — a sad indictment of both myself and the touts.  And with the huge number of Western expats and chain stores and restaurants, Bangkok doesn’t even really feel all that different than any city in the U.S.  Plus, I’ve always been bothered by the blatant prostitution, the bar girls making me feel uncomfortable going into certain places, and the gross, middle age, overweight, Western men with 20 year old Thai women by their sides.  (I know, I know, judgmental much?  And, yes, I know the women are using the men just as much as the men are using the women, if not more so.)  But, once you accept all of that, Bangkok is a wonderful place to visit.  You can find any food imaginable and eat until you can’t move.  You can wonder through parks, such as Lumpini Park with its water monitors galore.  You can see current Hollywood movies.  You can ride the boats down the river.  You can see beautiful temples without getting harassed once you know where to go.  If you were there once and didn’t like it, give it another try.
Wat Mahathat 6

Wat Mahathat

  • Woe is you if you find yourself in need of a new bra in Thailand.  With the notable exception of the training bras, every single bra that is designed to do anything other than be promptly taken off is full of padding.  Even the sports bras.  I’m talking more padding in the bras than I have naturally, if you get my meaning.  I don’t get it….
Wat Mahathat 1

Wat Mahathat

  • Thailand has some strange alcohol rules.  For example, there is apparently a law that says you can’t serve alcohol between 2-5 pm.  I read it has something to do with those being the hours school kids are on the street.  But, it is only selectively enforced.  We didn’t even know about this rule in Phuket, whereas in Chiang Mai it was followed nearly everywhere.  I’m guessing the more tourist-focused the area, the less enforcement of the rule.
Wat Mahathat 9

Wat Mahathat

  • Who knew the Thais would pixelate out scenes of guns being pointed at people on TV, as well as scenes of alcohol and tobacco consumption?  Turns out they do.  At least on some channels.  Strange.
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Erawan Museum

About theschneiduks

Lisa has a degree in biology and another in law and has spent the last 20 years working as a patent litigator. She is a voracious reader of young adult dystopian fiction and watches far too much bad tv. She loves pretty much anything to do with zombies, and doesn’t think there is anything weird about setting an alarm at 6 am on a weekend to stumble to a pub to watch her beloved Chelsea boys. Robert has had many professions, including a chef, a salesman, an IT guy and most recently, a stay at home dog dad. He speaks Italian and hopes to learn Spanish on this trip. He loves nothing more than a day spent sailing, hopes to do more scuba diving, and rues the day he introduced Lisa to football (i.e., soccer).
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