Thailand is a beautiful country, the south as much as the north. Many people leave out the north, but it is definitely worth checking out! My personal favourites: Chiang Mai and Pai (see my post about Pai to read more). Some general word of advice on the people, the food, accommodation and transport, that I have gathered and experienced from the last four weeks of travelling through the country:
The people are super friendly with huge smiles on their faces and as long as you treat them with kindness and respect they will treat you the same way. Thais have this beautiful way of putting their hands together and bowing when saying thank you (Khop Khun Kaa/Kaap), part of the Buddhist teaching. They are always friendly and calm, I have not once met or seen an angry Thai. Most are always willing to help and go out of their way to show or explain something to you.
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Sunset over Koh Phi Phi with its beautiful boats and clear turquoise water
White sandy beaches and turquoise water on Koh Larn
Since the north is much less touristy you will be able to explore the culture and traditions a lot more. I was fortunate enough to be part of a volunteering project on a farm in Samong (half way between Chiang Mai and Pai) where I was very much integrated into the way of life in Thailand. From how they sleep, eat, work on the farm, to help preparing an event at the temple close by with all the locals, or even witnessing a funeral. One of the best authentic experiences learning about their culture and Buddhist way of life! To anyone who is interested and wants to check it out, here the link to the Organic Mindful Farm http://www.mindfulfarmers.org - I can only recommend spending a few days there. Even though it is very simple and you will be sleeping on a tiny mattress in the jungle between all the frogs and creatures, it is definitely worth it!
The food in Thailand - Oh My Gosh! I just love it! There is so much choice; from all the different curries (red, green and yellow) to the different noodle dishes (like pad thai or pad see ew, etc) to the rice dishes with so many delicious fresh vegetabes! I have not had one bad meal! And that says a lot within four weeks of travelling through the country. Being a vegetarian was easier than expected, as long as you asked for a certain dish without the meat, instead of asking what vegetarian meals they have (it makes a huge difference even if you wouldn't think so. When I asked if they had a vegetarian meal they would just say no; but if I asked whether they could make a certain dish without the chicken/pork it was no problem at all). Oh and try their fruit smoothies! I had one pretty much every day, they are so cheap and just so delicious! Full of fresh fruits and many nutritions.
Accommodation and transport is very easy in Thailand as well. I never had to pre book anything. Usually it is a good idea to have a rough idea of where to go when first arriving in a new city/town and have a starting point regarding places to sleep for the night, but I would always just go up to the different hostels/guesthouses and ask for prices. No one ever turned me down or said they were full (it is low season at the moment, being June, which probably helps). It is also cheaper doing it this way! If you pre book online, there are always commission fees you pay without knowing, and you have a set price online. I always start haggling if staying for longer than one night and usually they always give you a discount! You just have to ask for it! Transport is always best getting from the local bus station. Again no reservation or pre booking needed. I usually like to buy my tickets one day in advance if possible just to be sure I definitely have a seat and will get the bus I want to take. Inform yourself beforehand how much the local bus will cost, which is usually the cheapest, just to have a rough idea if someone is trying to sell you something for much more than that (which they often try to do).
All in all a great country to visit, such beautiful landscapes, great culture and buddhist way of life. It is also the most developed from what I have heard and read out of the Southeast Asian countries, which I am bound to find out on my Thailand - Laos - Cambodia - Vietnam route.
Stay tuned if you want to read and hear more! Or get in touch if this left any questions unanswered. Spread the word through sharing, liking or recommending this post and website!
The spectacular view of Mae Salong in north Thailand
Working on the Mindful Farm with the other volunteers
Two locals eating and chatting (hence not smiling in particular with a full mouth)
Delicious vegetable stir fry with rice and fried egg - one of my personal favourites