We’ve just made it to Malaysia, but before we launch into how excited we are to be here, we figured it was time for a Thailand roundup. Happily, the good far outweighs the bad, but in the name of balance I will address both. I’m trying hard to avoid saying “It was the best of Thais, it was the worst of Thais…” but apparently I can’t help myself:
Best of Thais
1. The fruits! Fruit shakes have ended up being our number one favorite, because this was one consistently delicious item throughout our travels. Sometimes the noodles were exceptional, sometimes they were questionable; but overall, the fruits won out. Sneaky trick on their part though – early on, Michael noticed they added sugar (in the form of cane or palm). We made our best effort to ask for our fruitshakes without this addition.
2. Bidets. Need I say more? If you’ve ever experienced this kind of cleanliness, you know what I mean. I never thought I would be a fan, and it took me some time to adapt, but these things are genius.
3. Transportation. I’m not sure how this made the “best of Thais” list, but the sheer entertainment value of tuk tuks, scooters everywhere, songthaews, blantant transportation scams, and getting rides from Thai authorities (we think it was the Krabi police who kindly drove us to where we could catch a songthaew) makes for a new perspective of getting there from here.
4. The personality. Although the friendliness started to wane on the southern islands, I’ll never forget how nice the people were in Chiang Mai.
4.5. Haggling. I wish I could walk into Ann Taylor and offer to pay them less than half of what they’re asking! Can you imagine trying to do this back home?
5. Food stalls. Roti with bananas and chocolate – mmm! They’ll put everything in a roti: cheese, fruit, condensed milk, Nutella, meat, or some combination thereof. We also devoured some spring rolls, satays, kaew soy, and glass noodles. Inexplicably, Michael has lost 10 pounds! I think I’ve found them…
Worst of Thais
1. This is easy – the transportation rip-offs! They will sell you a ticket, drop you off somewhere random, and you have no choice but to then buy your next ticket from the same outfit! You’ll be sold a ticket to one dock, but lo and behold, you end up at the wrong one. Oh, guess what? There’s a ticket booth right there with a helpful agent who can set you back on the right path. It is really infuriating to be told bold-faced lies, but it sure does happen on the tourist trail. And it’s not as simple as going to the official ticket office, like we would in the States. An empire has been built on scams like this, shaking unwitting tourists out of two and three dollars at a time.
2. The heat. Not for us, although I really do feel like I’m melting sometimes. The water is so hot right now in the Andaman Sea – about 90 degrees Fahrenheit – that the coral is bleaching. This means it dies, losing its color and its habitat for other marine life. Hopefully the rainy season cools it off, and quickly.
3. Disrespectful tourists. Sometimes I would cringe when I overheard things my fellow Westerners said. One guy went up to a food stall (serving Thai food, mind you) and said “What, you mean you don’t have any, like, burgers?” Then there was the guy who got locked out of his room and tried to beat the door down at 4am, yelling to his roommate in an American accent. And the endless parties where everyone trashes the beach. And the trash and the trash and the trash… The trash washing up on shore absolutely broke my heart. Michael managed to make this profitable one day when he was picking up trash on Phi Phi and found a book, which he then sold at a bookshop.
4. Travelers diarrhea… ’nuff said. Thank goodness for antibiotics.