There are some places you’re so excited to visit that the hype never lives up to the expectations. Thankfully, Thailand was not one of those places. Forever immortalized in cult classics like the Hangover 2 and The Beach (don’t’ worry, that’s sarcasm), life in Bangkok and the islands (hello Full Moon party) are portrayed like some kind of mystical adult Disneyland. I loved Thailand so much so that I actually looked into moving there (a comfortable one bedroom could cost as little as $200 a month, which is pretty hard to beat in the States). Here are a few of my favorite things:
Mountains, Water, City, and Country
I’m perpetually on a mission to find the perfect place that has both the mountains and coastal and is urban yet sprawling, forever trying to achieve the ideal balance of city life and natural wonders. Thailand just may be that place. Chiang Mai, the lush green North offers a fantastic reprieve from the hustle and bustle of tuk tuks and trains, while the South is the beachy, exotic South Pacific gem you always pictured. It’s everything you could possibly want in a vacation spot and more.
The standards of luxury in Asia far exceed anywhere I’ve seen in the world and the crème de la crème of that is the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok. With a literal easy button to summon my private butler, James (as I like to call him) if I had nothing to ask of him, he would spend time cleaning out my hairbrush and leaving presents in my room. With that kind of service, who needs a boyfriend? It’s also not hard to spoil yourself when massage parlors are on literally every corner and cost as little as 3 dollars a half hour. And don’t even get me started on the markets. Everyone at home got about 3 souvenirs each, and little do they know it all cost about a penny….whoops, secret’s out.
But that Food…
Outside of the 50-cent street food which was still some of the best pad thai I’ve had in my life, the markets in Thailand are a foodie heaven. Not only do they have a plethora of exotic fruits I’d never seen before, but most of the sit-down restaurants forced me to handle spice, which permanently expanded my taste buds (I like to equate it to stretching out your stomach). It also pushed me to the limits, with snacks like scorpions and silkworms really testing just how adventurous of an eater I really was. Yes, I ate the bugs. And no, they did not taste like cheese puffs (thank you, lying tour guide).
The Animals are So Cuddly
It’s no secret I’m an animal lover, and while I didn’t get my picture with a tiger (for anti-cruelty reasons), the Patara Elephant Farm more than made up for it. Way more than just a ride on Dumbo, you literally get to take care of one of these amazing creatures for the day. As in full on in the river, bathing with them. It’s an experience unlike any other and one you will truly remember forever.
There’s a whole bunch of WTF
The butt of many pop culture jokes, ping pong shows and lady boys are very much real. Not just that, the ping pong shows aren’t even the most provocative kind of shows available – there’s a whole smorgasbord board of whips and chains and naughty fun after dark. My curiosity got the best of me and needing to report back what all the hype is about, the most disturbing part of the whole experience was how nonchalant everyone was about it. Seriously, outside of the Americans, they act like it’s a normal bar where girls just happen to be in the background shoving razors and things up you know where while the men are more concerned with getting their beer. It’s certainly strange.
They Love White People
No, really. How we have tanning salons, they have whitening salons, which entails slopping some type of paste on your skin and sitting under a light until it soaks in. If you happen to be born with light skin, you’re basically a celebrity as it’s only fair-skinned beauties in their cosmetic ads. And don’t even get me started on blue eyes… random people on the street will come up and take pictures with you. But it’s great, finally somewhere where people appreciates me for me. Thai people, I love you back.