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A taste of Thailand… Our first impressions

A taste of Thailand… Our first impressions

Last Updated on February 22, 2021

Expectations are such a pain to travel with. Giving in to them means spending time categorizing experiences into two columns: what you expected to see, and what comes as a surprise in each country you visit. The two of us have built up countless expectations about Asia in our lives – having waited until late 2011 to get here! But let’s say we ditch the expectations for a while and just talk about our first impressions of Thailand, without revealing into which category each of the following observations fall. We hope you enjoy (or are at least slightly amused by) our newbie impressions of The Land Of Smiles, along with some fun facts about Thailand that you may not know.

Our first impressions of Thailand

Like living in a buzzing bee hive, there are more motor scooters here than we’ve ever seen in our lives…

motorbikes in thailand

…and they transport entire families…

Thailand first impressions

…and even pets!

scooters with pets in thailand

Poodles seem to be the most popular pets by far.

poodles thailand

But there are also cats everywhere! (Just like in Italy)

Thailand first impressions

Forget Paris! Thai teens and tweens make perfect hipsters, and fashion is a huge part of daily life.

Thailand first impressions

Seeing monks everywhere is normal, regular, every day life in Thailand. Not just in temples, either. It’s quite normal to chat with them on the bus, see them buying iPods, carrying laptops or on their Blackberries in traffic on their motor scooters.

Thailand first impressions

Though they do get special treatment, with their own sitting areas in bus stations and airports and on the bus, the seats in the last row are usually reserved for monks.

for monks only - thailand

Buddhas are everywhere, too –  standing, sitting, reclining.

Thailand first impressions

Each of the 40,000+ temples that house the Buddhas are striking and unique.

https://globetrottergirls.com/polaroid-elephant-shower-in-chiang-mai-province-thailand/

Thais revere elephants. They are religious symbols found especially in temples.One of our favorite first impressions of Thailand!

elephant images thailand

Real elephants, however, are rare.

Thailand first impressions

In Thailand, public transport can vary from Bangkok’s ultra-modern sky train to traditional cycle rickshaws.

public transport thailand

Songthaws (covered pick-up trucks) seem to be the most common means of public transport…

songthaws in kamphaeng phet

…followed by tuktuks.

Thailand first impressions

Thailand fun fact: Thais love Foursquare! There is always at least one person checked-in at restaurants, bars, coffee shops, even temples or bus stations – they love it so much, we’ve even seen Foursquare t-shirts at markets. When tips are in English, we get great local tips this way.

foursquare in thailand

From modern social media to rustic gas stations on islands and in remote villages… There are plenty of ‘real’ gas stations, too.

gas stations in thailand

Feel like dropping out of school? Can’t be fussed to go for your driving test? Pick up any type of ID or Diploma you need on Khao San Road in Bangkok – some of these look seriously legit.

khao san road fake ids

We’ve all heard of Thai massage, but had no idea how seriously Thais are about any kind of massage. Foot, back, shoulders, neck, Thais love to get a massage on a trip through the market.

thai massage

Fish spas are a freaky but fabulous Thai institution.

fish spa in Thailand

Many big, fat, old, white Western men manage to date young, sometimes gorgeous, Thai women. (Just an observation.)

big old fat guy with thai wife

Thailand is 95% Buddhist and monks are everywhere, but there are many Muslims and mosques to see, and Islam is widespread throughout the South.

muslims in thailand

Distracted by beaches or sightseeing, tourists in most countries might not even know the name of the country’s leader, let alone be able to pick him/her out of a line-up. Not in Thailand, where His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej waves down from posters and billboards literally all over the place. In fact, there is also a film of scenes from throughout the King’s life played to a standing audience before every movie shown in Thailand cinemas, too. 

king images in thailand

The Beach’ is not the deserted dream destination that it was when the movie was filmed there.

Thailand first impressions

Morning, noon and night, Thais either eat or pick up nearly all their meals at markets. Wouldn’t you, if all your take out food was guaranteed to be healthy and cheap as chips?

food markets in thailand

This is one of the most fun observations about Thailand: If you pick up your dinner at the market, you get the hot food (or salads, or fruit) in little plastic bags.

bag food thailand markets

Whether at the market or in a restaurant, Thai food is so delicious, we order it three times a day. Who needs cereal, when you have this?

Thailand first impressions

How donuts found their way into Thai cuisine is a mystery, but there is not a single mall without a (Mister Donut, Dunkin Donuts) donut shop.

Thailand fun facts

We are still not sure why, but birds in cages hang in front of Thai homes, stores and in temples.

birds in thailand

Thais love energy drinks in tiny brown bottles. 

Thailand first impressions

Thais also love their coffee! From coffee shops to road-side stands, the coffee is excellent and there is almost always free wi-fi (and that is enough to make us want to live here).

coffee stands thailand

This Thai mannequin, used in stores everywhere, really creeps us out – unlike the ones in Mexico! 🙂

Thailand fun facts

Thailand fun fact: Thais live in the future. Seriously – 543 years to be exact. According to the Buddhist calendar, while we ringing in 2012, Thailand was celebrating the year 2555. 

2555 year in thailand

Most towns in Thailand have unique, golden street signs and traffic lights with interesting statues.

street signs & lights in thailand

Our language skills have been seriously tested – how to learn to speak Thai, when written it looks like this?

written thai language

We can wholeheartedly conclude that a Thai girl wearing a traditional Bavarian dress is just wrong – especially because she worked at an all you can eat Bavarian beergarden in Phuket, which is also just wrong. 

Thailand first impressions

Thais refer to foreigners (white Caucasians) as farang. It might sound offensive (like being called ‘cracker’ or hillbilly) but the term is a fairly neutral term for a westerner. 

Thailand fun facts

Fancy eating bugs? In Thailand, you’ll find fried insects in many of the markets.

Thailand first impressions

You could play it safe, though, and eat at McDonald’s, where even Ronald McDonald greets you with the traditional Thai Wai

Thailand fun facts

Like in Latin America, the electrical wiring leaves much to be desired.

Thailand fun facts
Also like Latin America, soda drinks often come in plastic bags, but here in Thailand, the bags are branded.

pepsi in a bag

Thailand’s reverse osmosis water filtration system makes hundreds of these re-fill stations available with fresh, filtered water for as little as 1 Baht ($0.02) for two liters.

Thailand fun facts

Selling pirated DVDs of brand new blockbusters or unlocking iPhones is not just reserved for the streets, this is also commonplace in major malls. 

unlocking iphones

So far we are loving finding out these great quirks about Thailand – a place that used to feel so far away, but has come to feel so familiar. Please share your observations of Thailand in the comments below, or let us know if you have any questions about planning a trip here one day – we would love to share a few tips about traveling in Thailand.

Lili

Tuesday 23rd of February 2021

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Sherry

Sunday 1st of December 2019

I visited Thailand for the first time a month ago and I WISH I had seen your post before I went. Having said that - you are absolutely RIGHT on every point (with pictures, no less). Everything seemed like an adventure and the people are most forgiving and welcoming to tourists. A smile is all you need. Thank you for your insights.

Dani

Friday 13th of December 2019

Thank you so much for the kind words, Sherry :) I hope you loved Thailand as much as I did!

Jen

Wednesday 28th of August 2013

Just spent a week in Phuket relaxing on the beach, followed by 5 nights in Bangkok. Tonight we depart on an overnight train to Chiang Mai. I'm ready for a little relaxing again!

Dani

Wednesday 28th of August 2013

How did you like Phuket? Have fun in Chiang Mai - we miss the excellent food up there! Have a Khao Soi for us :)

Akila

Monday 12th of March 2012

What a fun and awesome post! Absolutely love it --- it captures some of the best highlights of Thailand so well. Love, love, love it. :) (And, we thought that Ronald McDonald giving the Thai wai was hilarious. Did you go inside? They sell pineapple pies and corn pies since the Thais consider corn to be a sweet dessert rather than savory. Very interesting.)

Dani

Monday 12th of March 2012

Thanks Akila :) Yes we checked out the menu at McDonald's but I couldn't make myself eat a corn pie - just too weird! Tried sticky rice & corn and wasn't the biggest fan, to be honest. The ham & egg pie looked interesting and if we weren't vegetarians we would have probably tried it ;-)

Duncan @ Travelistic

Monday 12th of March 2012

I love all these pictures - it looks incredible!!

I must say I have always been wary of Thailand just because of the seedier side of it, and i get the feeling you may be treated badly as you are a tourist. I have heard a few horror stories!

That's not to say Thailand isnt an amazing, beautiful place to visit!

More pictures please :-0)

Duncan

Dani

Monday 12th of March 2012

Duncan - we definitely got ripped off in some place because we are tourists, but we've also experienced the complete opposite in other places where people were genuinely friendly and happy to show us their lovely country.