Living in another country and culture you feel a responsibility to represent your own country and culture properly, well, some of us feel that responsibility. Properly is a highly subjective term, at a minimum you feel the responsibility to not be ‘that guy’ representing your culture.
When visiting Thailand I encourage you to feel that same responsibility, enjoy the “do” list and avoid the “don’t” list and, for me, you’ll be well on your way to representing both country and culture properly.
– Remember you’re in another country- it’s different from your country, that’s why you came, change your expectations, be happy when expectations are exceeded and understanding when they are not; remember the good, the bad and the indifferent are all part of the experience.
– Visit the big tourist sites- hit the Choa Phraya sites, check out a floating market, visit the weekend markets
– Visit the off-the-beaten path sites- the Jim Thompson house, the Golden Mount, ride the water taxi
– Sit by the Choa Phraya river, put your phone down, drop the selfie stick and just watch the world go past
– Drop the guide book, forget all the blogs advice and tours, just wander a bit and get a little lost, Bangkok is great for that.
– Smile- you’ll get 68.55% better service, Thais truly enjoy a foreigner that smiles
– Eat local- don’t visit Thailand and eat at McDonalds and just eat Pad Thai, try a bowl of noodles on the street, try anything that looks good, just point to what someone else is having
– Walk- yep, it’s hot, but you see, hear, smell and feel a lot more than cruising around in an air-conditioned taxi.
– Visit Lumpini Park in the early morning (like 7am)
– Be in a public place at 8am or 6pm for the playing of the National Anthem
– Take public transit- Skytrain and MRT are both clean, fast and feature great air-conditioning, oh and they’re cheap; busses and water taxis are also great ways to get around
– Use your hotel to help you book taxis
– Hire a taxi if you find one you like- if you take a ride in a taxi and like the driver, ask him if he’s for hire. Many times a driver can take you on various city tours and get you back to the airport- just as you appreciate a good driver, the driver appreciates a good customer.
– Act respectful when visiting temples and tourist sites
– Remember that feet are a big thing in Thailand, don’t show anyone the bottom of yours
– Remember that Thai’s are very open about questions of age and income
– Travel smart- stick to well travelled, well light areas, don’t flash your cash
– Imbibe responsibly- if you’re done, be done and go home, we’re not as funny as we think we are, save it for another day.
– Wear sunscreen
– Visit sights early in the morning to avoid the heat
– Visit a roof top bar to see the sprawl of humanity
– Stand on an elevated walkway (Asoke, Sathorn both have good ones) during rush hour and marvel at the traffic, do appreciate that you’re not in it (BTS stations near to the walkways) and learn that Thais can practice the art of patience during each rush hour; notice the lack of horn honking, always amazing when compared to the likes of HCMC, NYC and just about all other major cities.
– Expect to understand all aspects of the culture and don’t judge the culture
– Act an expert on the culture just because you read a blog or guide book, you’re here, watch, listen, learn, ask questions and take back some good memories
– Judge the culture- different doesn’t equal wrong, different doesn’t equal inferior, different is different.
– Take pictures of poverty- I hope you don’t do it in your country, don’t do it here
– Think your selfie is important enough to make an ass of yourself, important enough to walk or climb where you shouldn’t or important enough to put someone else in a compromising position. A better ‘don’t’ would be: enjoy the sites and sounds and make memories for yourself, you know you came here, don’t take selfies.
– Expect absurd discounts at markets and street stalls- yes, bargain and discuss pricing, but don’t expect 90% discounts
– Discuss politics if you’re not well informed and know who you are speaking with
– Discuss the royal family
– Get frustrated if someone doesn’t understand your English- English is a second language to Thais with many Thais learning English ‘on the job’. We English speakers have many different accents, speak slowly, be patient and don’t expect the lady selling noodles on the street to understand all accents and verb tenses.
– Use taxis that are just sitting on the street- why is a taxi sitting idle? Hail a taxi that is rolling.
– Wear shorts and sleeveless shirts into temples
– Touch monks
– Be surprised to see toilet paper on the meal table
– Expect to find a knife or salt on the meal table
– Wear Singha, Chang and Redbull tank tops- unless your goal is demonstrating that you’re a tourist, if you insist on wearing any tank top, please don’t raise your arm to hold the hand rail on BTS, the only thing worse than a sweaty tourist in a tank top is that sweaty tourists’ sweaty underarm in your face.