Now that I have been living in Thailand for about a month now, I feel like I have had an adequate amount of time to make my first impressions about several aspects of life and culture here in Thailand. There are so many different things that make Thailand so unique and truly like nothing I have ever experienced before (that is the whole point of this shindig, isn’t it?). So without further ado, I am going to give my insight and recommendations on all these new and amazing (mostly) parts of my life!
The night street markets are one of my favorite parts about being here. There are so many tents and stands of people selling different foods, clothes, jewelry, homegoods, doing nails, the list goes on and on. I am lucky enough to have several markets within walking distance of my apartment. This seems to be pretty common for most considering they are EVERYWHERE. The options are endless when it comes to the markets. Some of my favorites at the market include: most of the stands with cheap clothing (great for teaching, might I add), the smoothie stand, the twenty baht bubble tea stand, and the ten baht mini waffle stand. If you don’t have a sweet tooth like I do, there are still plenty of savory Thai food options as well. I have not gotten too adventurous with the food department yet, which I will explain why later, but my favorite savory option is the spicy pork and rice. Regardless, you cannot go wrong with the night street markets.
Temples are one of the main attractions in Thailand as Buddhism is a large part of the culture here. During orientation through CIEE and OEG, you will get to take an excursion to the Grand Palace located in Bangkok. This temple left me speechless and pictures do not do its beauty justice but this is a must see during your travels here. I had the opportunity recently to visit several temples in Ayutthaya which is only about 45 minutes north of where I am placed. These temples lie on ancient ruins and are also incredibly stunning. My friend from orientation and I did a bike tour that goes around 8 temples there and it was really cool to adventure on our own to experience them. Other temples I have had the opportunity to visit being so close to Bangkok are Wat Arun and Wat Pho; the latter includes a very large reclining buddha and is the birthplace of the Thai massage which is also highly recommended during your time here. I mean, who doesn’t love a massage? And for cheap too! I think the temple that blew me away the most so far was Wat Tham Suea, otherwise known as the Tiger Temple, located in the Kanchanaburi province. You take a rollercoaster-like ride up to the temple where you will find the big Buddha. This temple was breathtaking and each story you climb up the stairs, you become more and more eye-level with the Buddha. I barely even have the words to describe it.
The shopping malls here are like nothing I have ever seen before. Back in good ‘ole upstate New York, my shopping mall only has one story. I have not seen a mall here that doesn’t have at least 4. It is truly insane. The mall in my city is called Future Park Rangsit(link) and I have had the pleasure of shopping there a few times already. It has everything you could possibly need such as Thai clothing stores, American clothing stores, grocery stores, sports stores, a movie theater, and even a market (I told you they were everywhere)! They also hold events like movie showings on a little grass turf which would be so cute for a little date night.
Another mall I have had the pleasure of going to is a more popularly known one in Bangkok called ICONSIAM. This mall truly blew me away as it has 8 stories. The group I went with just had to go to the rooftop and see the amazing view overlooking the entire city. There are also so many stores, similar to Future Park, but the market inside of ICONSIAM is what I found to be the coolest part. It was so beautifully decorated and so unique. There was water flowing in between all the market stands and there were so many different types of food options. This is definitely a must see place if you ever venture out to Thailand.
The nightlife in Thailand is also like no other. Khao San Road is a classic spot in Bangkok where there are tons of bars and clubs. Some of them have rooftops and some are basically in the street. There are plenty of food options on the street. There are even people selling bugs to eat, which is gross in my opinion, but if you tip them then they will let you catch a photo for the mems!
Another place I have gone and experienced the nightlife in Thailand is in Pattaya City. Walking Street in Pattaya is a very unique spot. Similar to Khao San, it has bars and clubs up and down the entire road. It also has some classic rooftop bars that overlook the ocean for a beautiful view. Although, if you are looking for a more Thai experience, I would steer clear of Pattaya, as it was mainly filled with tourists and foreigners.
Nature has been one of the parts of Thailand that I have been slacking to see, but I have had the chance to go to one magical place called the Erawan Waterfalls located in Kanchanaburi. Erawan has 7-layers of waterfalls where you can hike up through each level. My personal favorite layer was the fifth one, because it had several shoots of water and different layers within itself. A lifejacket is only 20 baht to rent which you will need if you want to swim in the waterfalls, which I recommend; it was totally worth it. There are also tons of big fish that swim around each layer and they actually love the tourists! They are not afraid to come up to you and nibble around your feet so if that makes you uncomfortable then I suggest just doing the hike! Either way you will have a lot of fun and see some stunning views.
So far, I have seen Pattaya Beach which was gorgeous, but we took a speedboat to a nearby island called Koh Larn which was the main star of the show. On the speedboat, we were dropped off at Monkey Beach which was so cool because of all the wild monkeys, hence the name. If you wandered over to the rocky parts, you could find the monkeys just hanging around! If you have a snorkel and goggles, I would recommend swimming around the rocky areas; there are a ton of different colorful fish that you can lay your eyes on, which is so cool. There were a couple beachside restaurants where you could get seated and eat or get beachside service to your beach chairs! They had tons of drink stands as well where you could get smoothies or alcoholic beverages for your beach hangout. The coconut smoothies were to die for. I hope to island hop more during my stay in Thailand and would highly recommend it as these are some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
If you are like me, you can also have a luxurious two night and three day stay at a lovely Thai hospital. As I said before, I have not gotten too adventurous with the market food yet. I owe that to catching a bacterial infection in my stomach during only my second week here, also known as food poisoning. Although this was definitely a low point of my experience in Thailand thus far, the staff at the hospital was great and took care of me better than I could have myself, which I suppose is the purpose of a hospital. I also have to say, the room was incredible. It seemed more like an upscale apartment rather than a hospital room, just including a hospital bed instead of your standard full or queen. The healthcare over here is definitely way more affordable than back in the states, and if you teach abroad with CIEE, then you will be enrolled in iNext travel insurance in which you can file a claim and get reimbursement. This was definitely essential to me while looking around for a teach abroad program. Despite this being a low point for me, I was well-taken care of and ready to get back to school by the time I was released and that was all thanks to my nurses and doctors here!
In conclusion, my first month here has been nothing short of amazing. Trying new things and experiencing a new culture and living style is what teaching abroad is all about! And I hope this gave you some insight on what all the different aspects of life look like here. There is something to do for everyone! If you are more on the adventurous side, then nature and temples may be more for you. If you like to party, check out the popular nightlife spots and beaches. I have not been disappointed and I am sure you won’t be either!