Thailand, for better or worse, is always full of surprises. Personally, I’ve been a few times, and I enjoy the place. It doesn’t hit me on the level it hits some, but when I visited in my twenties I wasn’t on a spiritual journey and looking to find myself. I’m not a huge fan of fire dancing and I own a mirror, so I’m all set on that front. That said, every time I’ve visited I’ve found something I love about every part of the country.
It took quite a while, but I’ve been from Bangkok to Phuket, Pattaya to Chiang Mai, and every seedy little rest stop in between. Strange two-in-the-morning curry stops interrupting my Tylenol PM sleep, waking up in a well different climate, and discovering new people, foods, experiences, and locales is my thing, and Thailand certainly has a lot of that to offer. It’s Tuesday, it’s early, I’m going to hop into something I love about a few different parts of Thailand.
Phuket – The Snorkeling
I had honestly not thought about it when heading to Phuket. My first night in town I was more attracted to “Southeast Asia’s Only Club with a Glass Bottom Pool,” which happened to be above “Southeast Asia’s Only Club with a Glass Bottom Pool Ceiling.” Both of these flyers, for free admission, were being handed out by the same person. They didn’t even pretend not to be tacky and gimmicky. I appreciated it. After drinking until I lost count, I went to bed at a nice Bangkok time of about 5AM, and woke up at ten to get some coconut juice and sit on the beach.
A man came by and said “snorkeling?” After I told him there was no way I was paying 1,500 Thai Baht, or about fifty American dollars, for the experience, I shook on 800 and hopped on a misty and cool boat ride out to a sizeable kelp forest where I kind of did what I could only describe as a combination of snorkeling, freediving, and floating off the previous night’s party. It was an infinitely pleasant way to spend the afternoon. They gave us the typical tourist spiels and pulled up to a few small islands with stuff I didn’t want to buy, but other than that, a great no-hassle way to spend a day.
Bangkok – The Meandering
There’s hardly anything I love more than getting lost in Bangkok. Wandering into unknown neighborhoods, seeing people who aren’t used to seeing a tourist, and in general just kind of keeping myself out of trouble while being where I know I’m not welcome. But it’s easy, Bangkok, for all that people say about it, is actually a pretty safe place filled with helpful people who will give you tips and directions when you need them. Mind you, saving face is big there, so they might give you the wrong directions and hope you’re too far away before you figure out that they were wrong. But, that’s not malice, that’s just the way Bangkok is, just follow the next road and if you head the wrong way hop a taxi, tuk-tuk, or river boat back to where you need to be.
Chiang Mai – The Food
I’m not much for yoga or meditating, but if you are, you’re going to find plenty of that in the Chiang Mai region. What drew me was my own personal meditation over the food. From breakfast to dinner, it was all so unique and flavorful that I couldn’t help but stop for about five meals a day. Noodle-stuffed sausages, noodle curries, it’s a place for noodles. Also, something about the freshness of the pad krapow, meat grilled in basil over rice with an egg, made for a perfect wake-up in the mornings.
Chiang Mai is also known as a paradise for expats, and has the grocery stores to match. If there’s anything you’re missing from home while wandering around or living in Southeast Asia, you’ll probably find it there.
Pattaya – The Nightlife
This one doesn’t get a video, but really, it’s only because I couldn’t find one that didn’t have at least one inappropriate moment in it, even on YouTube. That should sum up what you’re going to find when you hit up Pattaya. Long a sanctuary for the seedier things Thailand has to offer, even entry-level party people are going to have a good time. Basically, if it exists, you can find it in Pattaya. Bars, clubs, and even great places to hang out on the street with locals and travelers alike are always within arm’s reach. If you’re looking to get into what all of the movies say about Bangkok, skip Bangkok and go to Pattaya, it’s where you’ll find pretty much everything you can think of. The best part? When the night is over there’s plenty of delicious and cheap food to take in to suck up the night and get you ready for the next day. Go ahead, go nuts.
- Todd Allen Williams, Senior Editor