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…
…and they transport entire families…
…and even pets!
Poodles seem to be the most popular pets by far.
But there are also cats everywhere! (Just like in Italy)
Forget Paris! Thai teens and tweens make perfect hipsters, and fashion is a huge part of daily life.
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.
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.
Buddhas are everywhere, too – standing, sitting, reclining.
Each of the 40,000+ temples that house the Buddhas are striking and unique.
Thais revere elephants. They are religious symbols found especially in temples.One of our favorite first impressions of Thailand!
Real elephants, however, are rare.
In Thailand, public transport can vary from Bangkok’s ultra-modern sky train to traditional cycle rickshaws.
Songthaws (covered pick-up trucks) seem to be the most common means of public transport…
…followed by tuktuks.
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.
From modern social media to rustic gas stations on islands and in remote villages… There are plenty of ‘real’ gas stations, too.
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.
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.
Many big, fat, old, white Western men manage to date young, sometimes gorgeous, Thai women. (Just an observation.)
Thailand is 95% Buddhist and monks are everywhere, but there are many Muslims and mosques to see, and Islam is widespread throughout the South.
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.
‘The Beach’ is not the deserted dream destination that it was when the movie was filmed there.
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?
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.
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?
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.
We are still not sure why, but birds in cages hang in front of Thai homes, stores and in temples.
Thais love energy drinks in tiny brown bottles.
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).
This Thai mannequin, used in stores everywhere, really creeps us out – unlike the ones in Mexico! 🙂
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.
Most towns in Thailand have unique, golden street signs and traffic lights with interesting statues.
Our language skills have been seriously tested – how to learn to speak Thai, when written it looks like this?
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.
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.
Fancy eating bugs? In Thailand, you’ll find fried insects in many of the markets.
You could play it safe, though, and eat at McDonald’s, where even Ronald McDonald greets you with the traditional Thai Wai.
Like in Latin America, the electrical wiring leaves much to be desired.
Also like Latin America, soda drinks often come in plastic bags, but here in Thailand, the bags are branded.
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.
Selling pirated DVDs of brand new blockbusters or unlocking iPhones is not just reserved for the streets, this is also commonplace in major malls.
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.