I’ve been wanting to visit Thailand for a long time. Why?
- Cheap massages (!)
- Cheap thai food (my favorite type of food)
- Amazing beaches
- A new culture to experience!
- Newer reason: I moved to Seattle, and am required by law to take “sunlight vacations”
I’ve been here about a week so far, and Thailand does not disappoint.
Since I think pricing in other countries is interesting and useful, I’m going to discuss it throughout this post to give you an idea of what it’d be like to visit or even live in Thailand.
36 baht = one US dollar. This means 100 baht is roughly $3 and 1000 baht is roughly $30.
While I enjoyed Japan and the food was amazing, I found myself getting tired of sushi and ramen. To me, those are occasional meals. Thai food, however, I can eat for nearly every meal.
Weird and Interesting Food
Travel In Thailand
I met my friend Irina and her cousin at the Thailand airport. I met Irina at The Big Island, Hawaii on my trip there last February (when I was escaping Portland’s winter). At the airport, we were waiting in line for a taxi for what seemed like ages. Since I knew that Uber was in Thailand, I figured I’d give it a shot. The first two drivers couldn’t find us or didn’t try, but the third one worked and we got transit to the hostel.
On two occasions, I had the pleasure of riding on a tuk-tuk. These are the famous Thai “taxis” that notoriously swerve in and out of traffic at will. It’s quite a difference from the United States, where drivers are generally orderly. In Thailand, motorbikes and tuk tuks use the road like a free for all field. They’ll move into any space to get ahead, including into the lane oncoming traffic! Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I felt reasonably safe in the tuk-tuk. Those things can really accelerate, and it was a blast. They are more expensive than a taxi or uber, but they’ll get you to your destination faster.
- Cheapest: taxi
- Most convenient: uber
- Fastest/funnest/priciest: tuk-tuk
There’s also the BTS Skytrain, a very nice, air conditioned train that can take you to select locations in Bangkok.
We decided to see all of the temples, and our means of transit was a tourist boat that has about 8 stops along the Chao Phraya river, the dirtiest river I’ve ever seen. Trash and debris floated atop its milky brown water. I’m pretty sure if you swam in it, your skin would fall off.
The tourist boat was a great deal. It was only 150 Baht ($5) for the whole day. The exhaust it put out was terrible.
In Bangkok, once you see the temples and the markets, there isn’t much else there unless you’re a shopper.
GREAT GREEN ORANGUTANS OF SASKATOON, THE MASSAGES HERE ARE AMAZING.
Let’s just say that I’ve gotten about 10 massages in 10 days. My body is a bit sore from it. I’ve been getting the Thai style massages, in which they make my body do things that I previously assumed impossible. It’s really loosened up my tight left hip and my frequently sprained ankles feel a lot better.
For me, the massages have been the highlight of my trip. The standard cost is 300 Baht for one hour, which is less than $10. And the massages are much better than any I’ve had in the USA. Their hands are very strong and the Thai techniques are fantastic. I’ve noticed that they all do the same general routine, but it’s a very good routine!
It has not been uncommon for me to get 2 hours of massage in one day. Yesterday, I got a one hour Thai massage followed by a one hour hand and forearm massage (the writer’s special).
Thailand has a more intense vibe than I anticipated. Bangkok I can understand, but I’m at Kata Beach in Phuket now, and it’s a touristy, crowded, busy place. The beach here is nice, but it’s so full of people that it overrides the expected relaxed beach atmosphere.
I’m going to an island called Ko Lanta tomorrow that’s supposed to be less crowded and more relaxed, and I look forward to that.
When traveling in Thailand, food poisoning is a definite possibility. The bacteria here is different, and many of the street vendors don’t adhere to food safety and handling standards like we have in the United States. Buying food off the street is like the wild west.
Most of the food is safe and delicious to eat, but you can get sick here. I always travel with a bottle of Oil of Oregano, as it is a potent and natural antimicrobial. So when two days ago, I suddenly and completely lost my appetite and my stomach felt strange, I quickly had a few drops of oil of oregano, chewed some raw ginger (for nausea), and added raw garlic to the tiny slice of thin crust pizza I could get down.
Crisis averted? I think so. I have about 60% of my appetite back and my stomach feels considerably less weird. You may not know this, but oil of oregano and garlic have been shown to be more powerful than antibiotics in some cases12, and especially garlic for food poisoining.3 During the Hawaii trip, I ate some bad fish at a restaurant and started feeling sick immediately. I asked the kitchen for raw garlic, and I ate a whole clove (not to be confused with the bulb!). While the overpowering garlic smell wasn’t a fan favorite for everyone else in the car, it prevented me from getting sick!
I’ve been traveling for nearly three weeks now, and at each point, I’ve stayed at a hostel. As I’ve said before, I love hostels, but I’m seeing a downside for long term travel. I think I’m getting a bit burnt out!
My favorite definition of introversion and extraversion, and perhaps the only true definition is that introverts gain energy when alone and extraverts gain energy while around other people (and introverts lose energy while around others while extraverts lose energy while alone). This makes perfect sense because there are plenty of introverts who are socially skilled and enjoy other people. They just need their alone time too.
I consider myself a social introvert, meaning I enjoy initializing conversations with strangers and socializing, but it still drains my energy. A hostel is the most socially conducive environment I’ve ever seen. It’s somehow less awkward and forced than a bar WITH alcohol. The people who come here readily expect to socialize, and if you have a shred of outgoingness in you, you’ll easily make friends.
Since I enjoy and respect people, I tend to acknowledge people when I see them. In a hostel, this means you can gain 10-20 acquaintances in a short amount of time. I’ve had to learn to do the “normal” thing and ignore strangers when you pass them. I don’t know how this became the norm for human behavior, but it is.
There isn’t a big point I’m making other than that I’m worn out socially. Tomorrow, I go to Ko Lanta, which is supposed to be a more relaxed area with a beach. Other than more coconuts, that’s exactly what I need.
Thai women seem to like me. After one of my massages, the massage girls took turns giving me a hug while smiling and giggling and they called me handsome repeatedly. Yeah, I know. Maybe this is how they get repeat customers. Or maybe it’s just because I’m American. Two thai women have complimented my beard. Two others have said, “she likes you” about their friend, and one of them suggested we marry. Alas, I haven’t even been willing to date outside my city, let alone another country!
Thai mosquitoes seem to LOVE me. I have more than 20 mosquito bites on my lower legs. They are EVERYWHERE, and they still like me more than everyone else (just like American mosquitoes). There was only one other girl here who had a problem with mosquitoes (she had spray though). As I write this, three mosquitoes are swarming around my legs… and I’m indoors. I feel a new itch, but I’m somewhat used to it by now.
No more pictures. I took my phone with me on a “James Bond” boat ride to several awesome islands (one with caves, one inhabited by monkeys, one with a beautiful beach, and the James Bond island from the 2nd Bond film). Unfortunately, my phone’s camera stopped working and the sound is also toast. No pictures for the rest of the trip, I guess. I dropped my phone earlier in the trip while eating mango and sticky rice, and I think some moisture got in through the cracked glass and partially destroyed my phone.
D(elvis). This Elvis tribute guy plays every night right next to the hostel, and he goes well beyond midnight. So for an entire week, I’ve been “serenaded to sleep” by Elvis songs. No offense to Delvis, but I won’t miss him.
Missing Home. Like usual while traveling, I’ve learned a lot about myself: some good things and some not so good things. I’m eager to get back home to practice some of the things I need to improve upon. One of those things is a speaking coach.
Verbal communication seems like it’s the single most important human skill, and it’s one of my weaknesses (you might have gathered that I favor written communication since I’ve written hundreds of blog posts and two books). I think a speaking coach could teach me how to speak as I’d like to speak so that I know what to practice (as a mini habit, of course!).
Lately, I’ve been on an island called Ko Lanta. It’s been such a nice change of pace from Bangkok and Phuket’s insanity. I just extended my stay here to relax, beach myself, write, eat Thai, and perhaps get a few more massages. I was considering going down into Malaysia or somewhere else, but I decided I was content to take it easy and relax here.
The hostel I’m staying at here is much less social than previous ones. You generally just get to know the people in your room. This is perfect for me, as I’m ready for some alone time.
Today, for a mere 250 baht (about $8 USD), I rented a motorbike for 24 hours. Within one minute of getting on it, I bumped it into two parked motorbikes. Sigh. I don’t ride bikes much, and I’ve actually never been on a motorbike before this.
To move forward, you twist the right handlebar toward you. I found this to be odd. After I dinked the other bikes, I decided that I needed a bit of practice before I mingled with the adventurous Thai drivers and scary tourist drivers (like me). After all, I had just met an American girl in my room who had crashed her motorbike twice and she had a nice bruise to show for it.
Behind the hostel is a bumpy dirt area where I made all of the mistakes I didn’t want to make on the road. After about an hour, I felt comfortable with the controls and reminded myself that this was real life, and not some video game where I can say, “Oh shoot, I thought that button was the brake!”
Living In Thailand?
Before I arrived in Thailand, the thought of “what if I lived here for a spell?” crossed my mind. It’s very cheap for an American to live here, the beaches are freaking fantastic, thai food is the greatest, and have I mentioned my love for massages? But after seeing Bangkok and Phuket, I thought, “NO WAY.” After a few days in Ko Lanta, I could see staying here for a few months.
Next to the hostel is a longer term rental place (with air conditioning!). I asked about the pricing for a month in September (my Seattle lease ends in August), and she said 18,000 Baht, which is $502 USD (and 21,600 baht for the balcony room).
There’s also a coworking space and apartments here, which offers fast internet, meals, and I’d get to meet other entrepreneurs! I would really love to meet more entrepreneurs. The place is called Kohub, and it’s slightly more expensive at 24-32 thousand baht (about $700-900 a month), but it offers a lot more. In fact, that price includes two meals per day. I spend a lot of money on food in Seattle (I think about $600 a month), so this lodging and food combo compared to Seattle would be like free rent to live in paradise. Later this week, I intend to head down there and spend a day in the coworking space to see how I like it.
I like how much more I walk around when I’m traveling. Walking is the simplest form of exercise, and it’s really good for you.
Two days ago, I decided I needed more strength training, so I’ve been doing push-ups. That day, I did 121 push-ups on the beach on the hard sand. Yesterday, I did 40 push-ups. Today, I did 100 push-ups. I’m going to try to keep this going. Bodyweight exercises are super convenient since you can do them anywhere.
I’m not completely sure that Thai people understand the concept of non-spicy curry. Today, I asked for panang curry “no spicy.” I turned into a fire-breathing dragon after the first bite. It was 6 out of 10 spicy (American scale).
Earlier, I got yellow curry that the lady said was “a little spicy.” Hahaha. Right. I should have known better.
My cousin said Thailand enabled her to eat spicy food. But I’m not sure I’ll adapt. It’s kind of like how my very white friend responds to sun—he burns red and instead of tanning, goes right back to white. I eat spicy food, sweat, and go right back to being a baby. Baby spice?
It’s been very interesting not having a camera. It’s made me aware of how often I take pictures. I don’t think I do it excessively as some do (to the point that they’re not in the moment), but it’s still be a really nice thing to only have the option of experiencing the moment in that moment, rather than trying to capture it and save it for later.
Think about this: if you’re always making the most of every single moment in your life, you don’t need pictures. Pictures help us remember the past, but if your present is always engaging, you won’t really need to reminisce about the past. It’s just a thought.
The other thing about pictures is that people seem to accumulate far more pictures than they’ll ever “use.” Why take 20 pictures of the same sunset? Why take thousands of pictures that will never be seen again? Pictures are an amazing way to visually share an experience, but I think they’re overused in today’s society. Oh, what am I doing on this soapbox? I’ll get down now.
This is my 8th or 9th day in Ko Lanta. Today, a new friend and I rented motorbikes (250 baht for the day) and drove around the entire island! It was a fun ride with some breathtaking views… the kind that make me wish I had a camera. (On that note, the sunset the other day made me grit my teeth because I had no camera, but I got over it.)
On our trip, I took an “adventurous” turn, which is my way of saying that I went into the grass. After a couple of nice bumps, my phone was jostled into a new position. When riding the bike in my gym shorts, I usually put the phone in my pocket and situate it between my legs, but the adventurous turn caused it to jump to the outside of my leg. After a couple of bumps, I felt a weight leave my pocket. CRAP. My phone had slipped out while going 30 km/hr.
My new friend Marie was behind me and stopped to retrieve it. I instantly became “one of those people” who uses a phone with a jacked up, cracked screen. Thankfully, it still works. And considering the whole “I’ll drop my phone onto the road while on a bike” factor, I think it held up extremely well.
I love cats. A local cat was wandering around near my room, so I captured her and forced her to snuggle.
Working While Traveling
One of the greatest things about being a writer is that you can do it anywhere! I have been working while traveling: on my upcoming book (weight loss with mini habits), on these travel posts, and on the weekly Tuesday newsletters. Since coming to Ko Lanta, I’ve been quite productive, maybe even more productive than I am at home.
When I meet people, they tell me how lucky I am to be able to work wherever and whenever I want, and they’re right to say so, but I’ve always questioned the doability of that. Traveling can be stressful and time consuming, and it lacks the routines of home living. I think I’ve gotten a lot better at being productive on the go, however, so maybe I’ll travel more often.
Longing For Home, Companionship
At this point, I’m looking forward to going home. One thing I’m noticing: traveling alone makes me feel sad and lonely after a while. Especially in Thailand, couples are everywhere! As much as I enjoy traveling alone, I’d much rather do it with a significant someone. Patience, Stephen. Patience.
Last night, I walked to the beach. The stars were out, the waves were gentle, and it was low tide, so the beach was huge. I plugged in my headphones and jammed to Coldplay and Third Eye Blind (my emotional bands). I ran and danced along the shoreline, not particularly caring what others thought of the ordeal. Some people nearby lit one of those lanterns that floats up into the sky. I stopped where I was, mesmerized by its flight over the sea. Inexplicably, it seemed to hold all of the secrets of life. It was hope, ascension, and mystery.
An emotional thought I had that night: “No matter how far you travel, you can’t escape your loneliness.”
If you’re reading this and feeling sorry for me, please don’t. I’m extremely blessed and happy overall. I’m just being honest about how lonely I felt last night. And loneliness isn’t something that only happens to single people—it happens to all of us at times, including those in relationships. You can be surrounded by people who love you and still feel lonely. It just happens sometimes, and it’s okay. More than anything, it shows that we’re social creatures and we need each other. Nobody is better off alone.
There may have been one thing that kickstarted my loneliness. One of the hostel workers invited me to a wedding on the beach a few days ago. The only guests at the wedding were three hostel employees and three hostel occupants. To give you an idea, I had the front seat, closest to the newlyweds. The wedding was at sunset, on a beach. I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what shade of orange the tablecloths will be at my wedding, but I definitely favor beach weddings.
That was such a cool night though. It was very interesting to be a part of something so meaningful for a couple of strangers. It was a beautiful event in a beautiful locale. And the cost… it was 800 baht for the wedding. That’s about $25 USD. (Weddings are usually more expensive than this.) Part of the reason for the low price was that the “boss” of the place wanted to do it for the couple.
I randomly go to Thailand and find myself in a wedding. How funny is that? We even drank wine and took pictures with them. Ah, the unpredictability of travel!