"I landed in 1980 in Bangkok, and I stopped to eat ten times between the airport and the hotel. It was all lemongrass and ginger and chilies." – Jean-Georges Vongerichten
Thailand is a staple on the backpacking trail and a huge tourist destination in South-East Asia, having a little of something for everyone. Lush jungles and waterfalls for the hikers, elephants for the animal-lovers, sandy beaches for those wanting a relaxed break, and Bangkok for those who love a vibrant city. Add to that a population who are fairly well versed in English and the culture change is easily negotiated. That said, here are some tips that everybody heading to the area should know!
Bussin' round Bangkok, just watch the colours
Neither the train, the metro, or the skytrain can take you into Bangkok's Old Town, which leaves you either grabbing a tuktuk, a taxi, or a bus. Would 100% reccomend the bus, just be sure that you check the colour and not only the number that you need to get as they all stop in different places and there is nothing worse than jumping on a red 501 only to learn that it's the blue one you need... Like seriously, we nearly missed our train to Chiang Mai having missed that one!
Thailand, and especially Bangkok, has a crazy phenomenon where every morning, every lunch time and every evening, the streets become a parking lot rather than roads. Like clockwork the roads shut down every day and a 15 minute journey at a normal time can easily take over an hour. This is fine if you're just heading back to your hotel but if you're rushing for a plane or train you may want to get off at the next available stop and jump on the skytrain instead!
Thailand by train
It's hard to justify jumping on a 13-hour train journey when you can get a plane that takes a fraction of the time for the same price, but 100% get the train at least once! So much of Thailand's appeal is the lush jungles and mountains and there is no better way to see it all than by train. Yeah, you may be asleep for most of the journey, but that view out of the window during sunrise or sunset makes it all worth it. Taking a local train for a shorter journey will also allow you to stick your head out of the window for a unique perspective.
Look out for that dress code!
Thailand is chock-full of stunning temples and it's almost an inevitability that you will want to walk into one at some point during the day. If you're a guy then there's basically no issue at all but, if you're a girl, most temples have a bit of a strict dress code that won't let you in if your shoulders/ knees aren't covered. From memory, I think the Royal Palace in Bangkok was the only place to force these restrictions on both men and women. So, unless you want to be posing for photos in a souvenir store outfit (like we did - oops!), you may want to pack in a pair of longs into your rucksack for the day!
So much of Thai life happens on the street which leads to some super vibrant street shots and markets. It also happens to be the place to get the best food! Continuous stalls all vying for attention mean you can easily pick up some of the best Thai food you've ever tasted for about 40 baht (£1) from a tiny stall by the side of the road. Don't miss out!
How safe is Thailand?
We got asked this question a fair amount once we got back and to be honest, it's super safe. While common sense prevails in terms of not flashing all your gear around, crime in Thailand is usually more to do with scams than violent robbery - just be sensible and ignore taxi drivers who tell you attractions are closed or people who look official at train stations and head to the counter. The comedian Bobby Lee once said that if you see someone wearing camo and carrying a machete in Thailand not to worry, they just sell coconuts and it's true. So go out and enjoy it!