They call Thailand the land of a thousand smiles. This is actually a fairly accurate description, there are plenty of smiles to go around.
Tourists smiling drunkenly, shop keepers and tuk tuk drivers smiling as they rip you off, and older locals smiling because they have no fucking idea what you’re saying to them.
The well beaten path of Thailand’s tourist industry has become a haven for travelers of all walks of life. The heard of tourists leaving a wake of trash and five-star hotels as they spill their way from island to island. In search of the next major party spot or all-inclusive resort, both equally jammed packed with people, just, like, them. Treating the country like a rental car and the local people as if they are there to serve them and get the fuck out-of-the-way. Of course its nice to get my caramel non-fat frappe with extra whip and dance the night away to techno music while paying for drinks with a 300% markup from time to time. But is a careful balance between letting your mind go, and losing your mind.
Don’t get me wrong, the locals have done a very good job adapting to the hoards of tourists that trample their culture. They ensure as much of the foreign currency stays in Thailand as possible. You can’t walk more than five steps without being offered a suit, a ride to an overrun attraction, or be asked to look inside a shop.
“Looking is free”, “No suit? Maybe a haircut then”, “Very special price for you my friend”.
If it wasn’t for the wonderful (sometimes dirty) beaches and the steady stream of alcohol diluting down your blood, you might be tempted to grab a chop stick and shove it into the next unoriginal pricks eye. Leave him on his knees screaming for his sight on the side of the road, only to go rent a scooter and proceed to run over the back of his legs several times. Then drag him down the street by his hair as an example to all the other suit salesmen.
Alright, maybe that is a slight pessimistic exaggeration. I would only run over his legs once.
If you are adventures enough to get off the western road of Starbucks, steak houses, and luxury accommodation, you will find a more reserved local experience. The humble and genuine interaction that makes you admire and respect the rich culture and aura of this Asian country. The placement of the hands palms together and the bow of gratitude. Showing you the respect you are certain is not reciprocated by most visitors to their country.
Thailand has an abundance of gorgeous islands. Each with its own breathtaking views and amazing beaches. We found it extremely enjoyable to slow the pace of our travel down to a crawl and spend an extensive amount of time in each of the few places we chose to visit (long in comparison to what we normally spend at each location). We only ended up visiting Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, and Chiang Mai. With pit stops in Bangkok and Phuket to organize transportation and dental arrangements.
You may not be able to decifer exatly where we stand on this love hate relationship with Thailand. I think it all boils down to the fact that we hate to love it.