Travel in Thailand â€“ Difficult?
If you ask me traveling is Thailand is an ordeal. I know there are probably many of you out there shaking your heads – “Travel in Thailand’s easy isn’t it? – It’s all laid on for you.” The answer to this is a semi-contradictory “Yes” and “No”.
It all depends what you want from your Thailand, or indeed Asia experience. If you’re happy to follow a well beaten path from one boozy guesthouse to the next, from one temple tour to the next or from one paradise island (and they really are) to the next, drinking Sangsom buckets and gaining sustenance from a diet of Pad Thai noodles and Banana pancakes then it’s easy.
Getting off the beaten track and seeing the “real” Thailand, the Thailand unaffected by tourism, that’s not so easy. I have made Bangkok my home. I have lived here for nearly two years now and made 11 previous visits so I feel I’m qualified to voice my opinion. I can now speak Thai pretty well and can also read and write Thai which means that as time’s gone on things have got easier.
The truth is that these “picture postcard” tourist places are sadly no longer representative of Thailand and Thai people. Tourism, though much needed in Thailand â€” indeed the economy would collapse without it, brings not only money and wealth but greed, temptation, crime and violence. It’s true that when I first came here, I too wanted to see these places and I believe everybody should, but you should also delve a bit further and discover the people unaffected by tourism and modernization â€” the people that still cling to their culture and traditions. Draw your own comparisons, I’m sure you will agree.
I would like to make one point very strongly â€” KHAO SAN ROAD is not Bangkok! I’ve lost count of the number of travelers I’ve met that are quite firm in their belief that they “hate Bangkok”. When asked where they stayed, the answer will inevitably be Khao San Road. There was a time when I would have argued the toss and on occasions have even taken people on guided tours to prove my point! These days I just smile and nod.
I have made a point of getting “off-the-beaten-track” to coin a phrase and thus my appreciation of Thailand is different. Thailand’s beauty lies in its people â€” their warmth and friendliness to strangers, their charming naivety, their helpfulness and in their culture, steeped in traditions handed down from generation to generation. Would anyone now be able to tell that the inhabitants of Samui island were once very simple folk, making their living from fishing and growing coconuts? â€” I would guess not.
I’ve travelled extensively and notched up over forty countries on my backpacker bedpost and I’ve finally chosen to settle in Bangkok. Why? â€” It’s the safest city I’ve ever been to. Forget what the “Lonely Liar” tells you. That may come as a shock to some, but it’s the truth. I faced threats and violence on a daily basis in London. Never once in Bangkok.
I hate the scheisters and the con-men that prey on young, unsuspecting backpackers in Thailand. I hate the lying travel agents. I hate the constant delays. I hate the bull-shitters that only understand English when it’s in their interest to. I hate the high pressure sales tactics of tourist mecca market stalls. I don’t want people to leave Thailand with these as their lasting impressions. There is so much more to Thailand.
Matt Paxman runs overland tours through Thailand. Check out his website.