What I wish I knew Before Moving to Thailand
Even though I consider myself a traveler, there are definitely some things I wish I knew before moving to Thailand. In reality, my traveling was relegated to the Western world. I'd been to Europe, Central America, New Zealand, and all across America. None of that could have prepared me for South East Asia. It's a different beast, and you need to adapt to survive. The following are a few helpful things I wish I knew before moving to Thailand.
Thailand 7-elevens are not like their American counterparts. In America, most people only ever visit a 7-eleven on a road trip to get snacks. Never meals. There is a certain stigma around food 7-eleven meals in America. This is not true in Thailand. 7-eleven is one of the easiest, cheapest ways to get food in Thailand. It's a bit more than local street food, but it also has cheese, which you will learn doesn't exist in Thai cuisine. The point is this is a place to get meals, not just to grab a candy bar. It's also a cool place to hang out. It's common for them to have a small seating area somewhere on the premises. I highly recommend trying their Thai tea. It's excellent. Also, hold onto the stamps they give you! You can either save them up to win prizes or redeem them for money off your purchases (each one is typically worth one baht).
Rainy Season isn't a joke
I'm from California, so I don't know what rain is. However, my wife is from Washington and went to school in Portland, Oregon. So she knows rain. But nothing could have prepared either of us for the rainy season in North East Thailand. Technically it lasts from mid-June until mid-October, but it all depends on the year. This year it lasted from mid-June until the beginning of September. So it was actually relatively short, but it was still awful. It rained for two and a half months. At one point, it rained for three weeks straight. I'm not talking rained on and off, I mean it rained for three weeks. It was so bad we had mold start growing on our clothes and stuff in the apartment. We had to buy vinegar to wash and wipe everything. As a heads up, vinegar kills mold. I found that out in my research and since it was readily available we stocked up. If you ever use this technique, avoid spraying it on metal. I learned that the hard way.
I was really bummed about not having Amazon when I moved here. I'm a huge fan of being able to order whatever I want and have it arrive in two days. Since we are in North East Thailand, we don't even have a proper mall. What that means is if Tesco Lotus or Big C doesn't have what we need, then we are pretty much screwed. We spent like three days trying to find some extra skirts for my wife, riding up and down the streets looking for clothing stores. All that to say, shopping isn't easy in our town. But Lazada makes things a little easier. It's essentially Thailand's Amazon. You can order almost anything on Lazada. It only takes about a week to ship and most of the time the shipping is free. When it comes to payment, you have several options. You can either pay by card online, pay at delivery, or pay at 7-eleven. And what's really epic, is if you are making a return, you can just print out the return receipt and drop it off at a nearby 7-eleven.
Bring a jacket
Thailand is super hot. Most of the time it's 80 or above. So in my wisdom, I decided to not pack a jacket or sweatshirt to maximize my space for other stuff. Big mistake. Just because it's always hot outside doesn't mean you don't need a sweatshirt. Thailand's air conditioning has two settings, on and off. If it's off, then you will feel the full brunt of the heat. If it's on, then it will be 60 degrees or so. There is no middle ground. You never feel comfortable. This is even more true of Thai busses. You will either crawl along in the afternoon heat or be iced out on an overnight bus. For more information about this, check out my tips for Thai bus travel. Moral of the story, bring a sweatshirt.
For the most part, medicine is available over the counter. In fact, you can even get antibiotics from a pharmacy without a prescription. For more info, check out this guide to Thai medicine. However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't bring some key medicine from the US. First, we've had poor experiences with Thai ibuprofen. It just didn't seem to work. So I would bring some ibuprofen. Second, bring Benadryl. The bug bites are crazy intense here. We regularly get bits that sting, itch, and swell. It's nice to have Benadryl on hand, but also grab some Tiger balm over. It’s amazing for taking care of the itch! Third, bring Sudafed. This one is a little more questionable because technically Pseudoephedrine has been banned in Thai pharmacies. That being said, I brought a small amount over and didn't have any problem. Just don't bring more than a box or two, and definitely, don't be dumb and try to sell it or something. Fourth, bring that good good. And by that I mean Nyquil. My wife got a killer flu here that knocked her out. Her cough was so bad that she couldn't sleep. We even went to the hospital where they prescribed us medicine to help the cough. It still did nothing. We needed Nyquil to send her into the fourth dimension where so she could get some sleep.
These are a few of the things I didn’t think of before coming here. I thought my skill as a traveler would carry me through, but SE Asia requires a whole new set of skills to get you through the trip.