Feb 20, 2016

Thailand My Ass: 10 Things Nobody Tells You About Thailand

First, I have to warn anyone that has any emotional ties to Thailand: don't read the following. You won't like it and you might get offended which is not my intention, I'm just being honest to benefit any future travelers headed there. So if you are someone who's contemplating going to Thailand, you might want to read the below list first. Keep in mind though, I'm by no means trying to deter you from visiting — my Thailand trip was all kinds of awesome (mostly thanks to country's breathtaking nature and seeing things like 2 million bats flying out of their cave near Pak Chong (where I stayed in the best hostel EVER) like seen in the 5th photo below) and I don't regret it one bit, what I resent is the misrepresentation of the country so I decided to put together a list of '10 things nobody tells you about Thailand' so you'll know what you're getting yourself into. And here they are.

Misleading representation.
Do me a favor: go to Google Image and search for Thailand. Beautiful, right? Looks really beachy, right? Well, don't get too excited, most of Thailand isn't a sandy beach: sure, there's somewhere between 3.000 and 7.000 kilometers (1,900 and 4,300 miles) of coast (thanks to the coastline paradox I can't give you an exact number), but there's 510,890 square kilometers (197,260 square miles) of land so you do the math. And even if or better yet when you venture to the coast, a lot of it is crowded, crazy crowded, so the chances of you actually seeing anything that looks like the stuff you see in those photos is close to nothing. But not just the Internet, even when you turn to a renowned guide book, you're offered an immensely overzealous and far from realistic description, "Friendly and fun-loving, exotic and tropical, cultured and historic, Thailand radiates a golden hue from its glittering temples and tropical beaches to the ever-comforting Thai smile". Overselling at its best, I have to say.

No body speaks English.
Ok, 'no body' is a slight exaggeration — during my 3-week stay I did in fact speak to a few locals (3 in total) whose English was excellent, but the rest of Thailand speaks Thainglish at best which can be quite bewildering. Here's an example: me and my boyfriend are at the Elephant Nature Park listening to the guide talk about elephants and their teeth when I very enthusiastically turn to my boyfriend: "Wow, I had no idea elephants have 4 teeth and that they grow in 6 cycles." My boyfriend, confused, responds: "What the fuck are you talking about, she said elephants have 36 teeth. And what cycles, there's no cycles!" I later consulted Google and as it turns out, elephants have 24 teeth which in fact grow in cycles, just for comparison.

Traffic is horrible.
Whether you're in a car or on foot, Thai traffic is a bitch. In the 3 weeks that we were there, we were involved in 3 car incidents, two of them called for police intervention. And as a pedestrian you're no safer: sidewalks, zebra crossings and pedestrian traffic lights are sparse and even those that do exist, most likely don't work or aren't observed by the drivers, so walking the streets of Bangkok and other major city is a blast for adrenaline junkies, to say the least.

Prepare yourself for smog — and lots of it. 
Since mopeds and scooters and motorbikes are relatively inexpensive (a lot cheaper than in Europe, for example) everyone seems to drive one and thus the smog is insane. You see people walking around with masks and you think about getting one because smog in Thailand is REAL. After walking around one of the bigger cities for as little as half an hour, you wipe your face with a tissue and it's black — no joke. Imagine your lungs living there ...

It can get really REALLY nasty.  
While walking around cities, I had to bypass spit, snot, vomit, dog poo, monkey feces, pigeon droppings, horse dung and even fucking human shit — lying in the middle of the pavement. Not to mention that there's probably some 20 public garbage bins in the entire Thailand so there's rubbish littered literally everywhere. There's a law against littering in Singapore, for example, maybe Thailand could take a cue from them. But judging by how locals frivolously spit on the ground even on trains and throw garbage out the window, I'm guessing I better not hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

People aren't all that friendly. 
And I'm definitely not alone in this opinion. One of my online friends praised Thailand for it beautiful nature and gorgeous landscapes but said that she never returned 'because it wasn't very friendly' and I couldn't agree more: when we went out to dinner in Phuket, we ordered and ate the first dish but when we wanted to order again (consult number 10 below), the waitress told us that the kitchen was closed. So we asked if we could get just two more beers instead, but she said that they had no more beer, any beer — and then the waitress went to take an order of a gentleman (a local, what else) sitting at a table next to ours who ordered and got food from the 'closed' kitchen. So much for friendliness. But a German gentleman we've met in Phuket said it best, "Thai people just smile and rip you off," — so much for 'the ever-comforting Thai smile'. But even the fake smiles aren't all that common, trust me.

The country as a whole isn't all that tourist friendly.
And the prices of their tourist attractions can attest to that: the locals get into the Khao Yai nature park for 40 THB (Thai Baht), while tourists have to pay 400 THB. But there's more: all historic sites in Ayutthaya, for example, are free of charge for the locals, while everyone else pays 50 THB, but tickets for Muay Thai boxing matches are probably the biggest rip-off since tourists pay around 600 THB while the locals get in for a fee of only some 20 THB. So the let's-rip-them-off stance isn't just a matter of personal preference, the country as a whole is shamelessly after your wallet and all that's in it — even the officials: once, I had to bribe an officer working at a parcel office to give me my ticket I already paid for in advance. Go to Postojna Cave or Chicago's Skydeck and you'll pay the same amount of money for the same experience whether you're from Slovenia, the States, Zimbabwe or Cambodia. Or try going to a museum in London, it's free, imagine that — for everybody.

The rules don't apply to everybody. 
I saw guards shooing away tourists telling them (or better yet trying to show them with hand gestures) they can't smoke/drink/eat/stand/sit/whatever where they were and then that same guard turned around and unwrapped a sandwich or borrowed a lighter to a local so they could light up in that very same spot. It really was astounding.

A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members. 
Whether you attribute that quote to Gandhi or not, you can't deny that it holds water. And judging by gobs and gobs of stray dogs, Thailand sure isn't the greatest of nations. But it wasn't just the sheer multitude of homeless four-legged fur-balls that bothered me, it was their condition too: I've never seen so many limping, mangy, scratching, bleeding, you-name-it dogs (not even in Bosnia) — it truly was heartbreaking. But not just dogs, children aren't getting the best of treatment either: I've seen grandmothers sending their grandchildren off to tourists to beg for money on train stations, I've seen parents recklessly driving on mopeds with three small children holding on to them, no helmet, no nothing, I've seen kids some 12 years old working behind counters in stores when they should've been in school or at home sleeping.

Food isn't all that great.  
Or better yet the portions. Because the food, despite the already mentioned ginger-turmeric overload, can be delicious. But the portions ... I mean, a Smurf on a diet eats more, I swear to Papa Smurf. Not to mention that I've been to restaurants where they had different sized portions: on the smaller side ones for tourists and bigger ones for locals — thanks, Thailand. 

When I came home and told all of this to my mom and my brother, they both said, "India's worse." Well, you know what? I know India is worse, but I didn't go to India, I went to Thailand — and nobody says that about Thailand so I'm telling you now: Thailand as you know it, is a myth, smoke and mirrors. "Oh, it's so beautiful, everyone's really friendly, everywhere you go they speak English and the food is great — that's Thailand." Yeah, right, Thailand my ass.

     P.S.: Just in case any of you wants to know what in any of the photos is, here's a hint: I usually name all my pics, so to get to the name just right click on them as if you are trying to save them and then a window appears where you can change the name of the file and that will give you all the details. Also, you can find more random everyday snaps on my Twitter or Instagram feed.

     Thanks for stopping by and looking and reading (obviously) my mishmash jumble of pot-pourri-like craziness, it means the world to me. Therefore, you're welcome to pop by again next week to see what's new on the blog — I post once a week every week, most likely somewhere between Wednesdays and Sundays. But beware, I'm not signing and sealing that in blood so your best bet is to follow FPS via email (or Bloglovin, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Google+) to never miss an update. Or simply come by again sometimes!