7 Things About Thailand Nobody Ever Tells You About

When you take a look at the majority of travel blogs, you get the idea that Thailand is a paradise.

In many ways, this is true. However, I still believe there’s a few major things to sort out before it can be really an authentic paradise. It is, like every other country in the world, plagued by its own set of quirks and negative things.

ko-phi-phi-islands-in-thailand

Koh Phi-Phi Island in Thailand. Photo Courtesy of famous-places.com

I prefer showing people both sides of the coin. I totally understand why most travel bloggers only speak about the good things. They are young and feeling exuberant about their journey, as they should rightly be. However in such a state of mind it is very easy to ignore things which could put a dampener on the ‘amazingness level’ of your travels.

Before I continue the article, let me just say that we thoroughly enjoyed our 4 months in Thailand, and we will probably return. So all the things I mention in this post should be taken as constructive criticism.

Safety Standards

Tuk-Tuk in Bagkok, Photo Courtesy of Mackerelus.blogspot.mx

Tuk-Tuk in Bagkok, Photo Courtesy of Mackerelus.blogspot.mx

The safety standards in Thailand are pretty hilarious, but also sad. I understand that many people don’t afford to buy a car, but the crazy passenger configurations I’ve seen on ramshackle bikes are truly bewildering. For a good dose of motorcycle insanity photos check out this blog post. The photos are made in Vietnam, but that was exactly what we’ve seen on the streets of Thailand.

Overdevelopment

Phi Phi Island beaches suffering from uncouth tourists. By Sebastian Chedal

Phi Phi Island beaches suffering from uncouth tourists. By Sebastian Chedal

The southern islands are truly magnificent locations, however they are slowly losing their natural beauty as more and more land is taken up by resorts and other tourist-catering establishments. The islands are of course a gold mine for investors and developers, but it felt to me that some parts of Thailand are seriously in danger of being overdeveloped.

Exploitation

Thai Prostitutes in Patong Photo Courtesy of Ilya Varlamov

Thai Prostitutes in Patong Photo Courtesy of Ilya Varlamov

When many people think of Thailand, the first thing they think of is Thai prostitutes. This is unfortunate, as this beautiful land has much more to offer than this niche. While for many men Thailand is a real paradise as they can indulge in bodily pleasure and loosen all sense of morality, few people know the real story of many prostitutes.

Many of these girls have been exploited as children and forced into this business, leaving them with no choice but to continue doing this work for the rest of their lives. Many of these sex workers are also addicted to various vices which they depend on to cope with their abnormal lives.

Scams

The southern tourist areas are notorious for scams that befell the unsuspecting visitor. The Jet ski scam is by now quite famous but people still fall for it every day. Check out this video of the scammers caught red-handed, it’s pretty disturbing.

The police seem to be a part of it so they’ll likely be no help if you get caught in such a scam. The best advice is to obviously avoid renting jet skis in Thailand. Although not every jet ski rental is a scammer, most of the rental guys I’ve seen weren’t really the types who look very serious, so I’d avoid them altogether. Similar scams abound for other things of course, including scooter rental.

Hygiene

Unfortunately the standards of hygiene at far too many eateries are nowhere near modern western standards. While things are improving in newer complexes such as shopping centers and western restaurants, the practices used by many local vendors leave a lot to be desired.

I usually have no problems at all with my stomach and can eat any kind of food. But in four months in Thailand I got struck down twice due to some food I ate. Practically all the foreigners I’ve met had also experienced stomach problems at least one time during their stay. While I was in Chiang Mai a local woman died of food poisoning too, so it’s not just the ‘weak foreigners’ that are affected.

While on the subject of general cleanliness, it is also worth mentioning that some people don’t seem to be aware that some chemicals are harmful to humans (see case of 7 deaths in Chiang Mai, possibly by insecticide), or that leaving random mounds of rubbish here and there is likely to attract rodents with all the diseases they may carry. There was another similar case where two Canadian sisters died on Phi Phi island.

So my advice is not to go paranoid, but to be wary of where you stay and what you eat.

Animal Cruelty

A baby elephant braces for a hit during a training session in a Karen village in Burma. The training session is coined the ‘crush’ as its goal is to break the elephant’s spirit. Wild elephants are typically tied up and beaten for 3 days straight and left to starve. Burmese Karen mahouts near the Thai border operate a clandestine and illegal trade network smuggling elephants into Thailand to be sold to mahouts for the Thai tourism industry. Officials estimate that 1 Burmese elephant is smuggled into Thailand every week.

What are the typical tourist photos from Thailand? Of course a picture at one of the lovely beaches, and of course another one riding an elephant. Oh, and lets not forget the one where they’re lying down with the big tiger. Anyone else thinks that resting your head on a tiger’s belly is not a natural thing? There has to be something suspicious….

A bit of research confirmed my suspicions, many of these animals are treated inhumanely and we shouldn’t be supporting such parks. There are however some parks which actually help these animals, check out Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai as an example of a park that does things right.

Pollution

Bangkok is a super busy place, it would probably win the contest for world’s craziest, most crowded place. Many people love Bangkok precisely for this reason, although I prefer quieter places. Something which is indisputable however is the high level of pollution in this city. There are many factors for this but the emission standards of the vehicles on the jam packed roads are definitely a main one.

Students Protest Agains Pollution in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, my favourite city in Thailand, also suffers from smog particularly during the burning season which usually happens in March every year. If you suffer from any kind of respiratory problems, don’t visit Chiang Mai during this period or you’ll seriously regret it.

There we go, that’s my list of things I didn’t particularly enjoy in Thailand. Having read that, should you visit Thailand? By all means, do so, it will be an amazing experience and I feel privileged to have lived there for a few months. The Thai people in general are very friendly and approachable, and although you might experience some culture shock upon arriving, you’ll soon get settle into the Thai vibe, and maybe you won’t feel like returning back home.

What are your thoughts on the issues I described in this post? Would love to read comments of residents and tourists alike.

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