“What do you like about Thailand?” I’ve been hearing this question regularly for the past year. Once I announced my decision to turn my one-year adventure of teaching abroad into a potential career, I’ve been hearing it even more.
The first thing I always mention is the food. First of all, the food here is so delicious I’ve almost forgotten about my favorite ‘western’ meals. Whether I get it from the canteen at my school, the food cart on the side of the street, or at a restaurant at the night market, I am never disappointed. Want a dish that is sweeter? They have it. Craving a curry with a side of rice? They have that too. Want something spicy? You came to the right country. Just about every dish you get here is going to have chili peppers in it. Personally, I love spicy food. If it doesn’t have chilies in it, I add them. The locals are always amazed when a farang (foreigner) can eat the spicy cuisine.
The food is very inexpensive. A meal can cost you between 30 baht (roughly $1 USD) for a single dish at a food cart to 120 baht if you decide to get crazy and split several dishes with some friends at a fancy restaurant. A couple of my favorite dishes include: som tum which is a blend of veggies including papaya, tomatoes, green beans, peanuts, fish sauce and A LOT OF PEPPERS (you have been warned); kow pad gai ka prow is a stir-fry of chicken, basil leaves and a lot of peppers, served with rice; and you can’t forget the tom yum goong, a spicy Thai soup with lemongrass and shrimp. Aroi mahk!
Islands & Beaches
The second thing that comes to mind is the beautiful islands and beaches in the southern part of the country. Each island has its own personality and different atmosphere. I hate using this reference, but the movie The Beach with Leo DiCaprio was shot on a small island a short boat trip away from the island of Koh Phi Phi. It is just as nice in real life as it is on the movie. If you are looking for a party then you probably want to check out Koh Phangnan, home of the world famous ‘Full Moon Party’. Although it hosts one of the craziest all-night ragers I’ve ever attended, it also has a few beaches on the northern part of the island that’s nice and quiet. Another great area (and probably my favorite) is Railay Beach in the Krabi Province. Though technically not an island, you have to take a short long tail ride to get there. This place is home to some the best rock climbing in the world and the water is crystal clear and the perfect temperature. Spend enough time in this small community and you start to meet and hangout with the local business owners. You may even get offered a job bartending!
Another thing that I love about Thailand are the people. The reason they call this wonderful country the ‘Land of Smiles’ is made apparent almost immediately. The Thai’s are always willing to help you out and genuinely want to make sure you are comfortable. Several times a week, you will be asked to join someone for a meal. Walking down the street to grab something at the market? You will probably be asked by a group of Thai men to join them for a drink of whiskey because ‘it’s good for health’. On more than one occasion I’ve had total strangers ask me if I need a ride somewhere because I was walking down the side of the road. When I first arrived in my town via bus, someone I was sharing a seat with offered me a ride to my hotel into town. Another time, when I came back on a late flight, there were no taxi’s available and a guy offered us a ride home in is songtao for free.
These are just a few of the many reasons why I have fallen in love with this country. Everyday brings more reasons as to why I’ll be staying longer than my original time frame. If you are reading this article, then you have already considered buying the plane ticket and trying out this lifestyle. Buy the one-way ticket. You wont regret it.