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Thailand - Surat Thani Province - Khao Sok National Park - Elter photo

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Practicals

Thailand - traffic lights - r.g. photo

Transport

“We are basically talking about trains, buses, ferries, and planes. Luckily, all are cheap, but except for the plane, it’s not worth booking any of them online. (there is an option for anyone who wants the added security, but it’s a little more expensive than the traditional form: 12go.asia) I almost always bought my tickets from the sort of “travel agency” that stands next door to each other in places frequented by tourists. Prices can vary widely, and usually, the smaller stalls have lower prices which can even be negotiated, while the large, air-conditioned offices inspire confidence, but only until you see the price tags. Don’t be reluctant to say no if the price doesn’t seem right – almost the same services are offered almost everywhere. Of course, tickets can also be bought at the stations, but they are not much cheaper, are often far from the center, and you have to get there somehow, while with the travel agency ticket you’re home free. I’ve met a lot of travelers who think it’s ridiculously easy to hitchhike around here, but I personally haven’t tried (yet). More adventurous types have had a lot of success. In any case, if you want to visit one of the islands, the ferry (which is also easiest to book at the offices mentioned earlier) is unavoidable. I don't have much experience with the train, but I can say two things for sure: on the one hand, the ticket is extremely cheap, but on the other hand, the rail network is not very extensive, and many places cannot be reached by train.” (2018)

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Motorbike rental

“Extra charges levied after motorbike rental, for damages.
In Thailand, not only motorbikes but also jet ski rentals, for example, are famous for this trick.

The point of this is that after the motorbike is returned, they will inspect it and find some scratches, cracks, etc. that were probably there before the rental. However, if you haven’t heard of such a scam yet, you may assume it’s not a scam, so it’s easy to miss things at a vehicle inspection, and the staff in turn will pay attention to this. At the time of renting, of course, they are also present, seeing if we look at the engine faults for ourselves or not. So it's best to take a look and even photograph the bigger scratches and cracks. That way, if we drive without any accidents, they can only refer to old faults when you hand it back over, meaning the scam can be easily prevented, as you have photographic evidence that the fault occurred before the rental.” (2017)



Food

There are about 15 Thai dishes that are compatible with western sensibilities, and these are the only ones listed on the English-language menus. These are all dishes I’m very fond of, but after a while they get boring... though it must be admitted they’re all very healthy.

When I was only making short trips to Thailand I only ate these dishes, and each time I’d lose about 7-8 kilos during my stay. Then there’s proper Thai cuisine, which is something very different, and uses combinations of flavors which are hard for Westerners to get used to…

If you go to a restaurant with a Thai acquaintance, then a new world of Thai cooking opens up before you. The Thai-language menu is three or four pages long, while the menu for foreigners runs to just half a page. There’s a lot there that doesn’t work for me at all, but if you let your Thai friend order, you’re surely in for an adventure. (s.g., 2020)

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I love seafood, but though it isn’t expensive here, I rarely eat it: it’s just so tasteless compared to what I’m used to –by the Adriatic, for instance, where my favorite is garlic and parsley squid. I decided to try to make the same thing here, using the cheap local shrimp, but when I put them in oil to sauté them, they immediately discharged about half a liter of water and collapsed into shapeless mush. I tried about a dozen different recipes, but nothing ever worked. I was completely at a loss, until a British chef explained to me that good-quality seafood always comes from cold-water seas, whereas the sea around Thailand is quite warm.

The squid and prawn in today’s dinner were pretty tasteless too, but the sensational garlic and tomato sauce really elevated them…

Thais generally just grill seafood, then smother it with strong sauces that completely obscure the taste, or else they use it the same way as, for instance, chicken breast in other recipes, and again the herbs and spices dominate the palate. At least it looks good, though :D

Only lobster and rock lobster are really tasty here, but they’re also wildly expensive. (s.g., 2020)

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“There is a white powder that is famous as a famous flavor enhancer in Asian cuisine: sodium glutamate, or MSG. I always say specifically that I don’t want any in my food, and today many restaurants even write it in capital letters: NO MSG.
‘No MSG’ is definitely an important and useful expression when ordering in a restaurant in Thailand – or when faced with a Thai chef elsewhere in the world: "mesai pongchurot" or, for safety's sake, show it in Thai: ‘C ใส่ ผงชูรส’” (B.C., 2021)


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“You don't have to be afraid of anything, most of the food on the street is made from fresh ingredients and you know what you’re getting (I've never had a problem with anything in my life, but I've heard countless cases of people eating at quality restaurants or expensive buffets who got food poisoning because sometimes food had been stored for days, which should not be allowed in such heat and conditions). You definitely have to try the different smoothies, as well as the fresh, sliced fruit (I always bought a watermelon, passion fruit, mango, and banana, and there was one day when that was all I lived on).” (2018)
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“There are restaurants, canteens, and markets everywhere, but even if you stand still, a cart or motorcycle converted into a fully equipped kitchen will turn up sooner or later. Eating is one of the central themes of Thai culture, and they will generally open a conversation by asking what you had for breakfast or lunch. The answer is often the same: rice, which is so much a part of their lives that the terms 'eat' and 'eat rice' is the same in the Thai language. The locals enjoy consuming it, even in the early hours of the day. The stomach used to instant coffee, jam on toast, or a sandwich is, of course, a bit shocked by sour and spicy fish accompanied with rice or spicy noodle soup, which is heavily steamed at thirty degrees in the morning, then the locals spoon it up before heading to work or school.

Thai cuisine is made up of sub-cuisines from the four dominant regions. These include chili-sauce-based cooking in the north, reflecting the Laotian and Cambodian influences in the northeast, the central style, and the Malaysian-influenced, wickedly spicy cooking of the south. The cooking culture is based on four basic flavors: spicy, sour, salty, and sweet, with most dishes striving to balance these ingredients. Meals are mostly made from fresh ingredients and fresh spices, usually in a matter of seconds. The following ingredients are found in most bakeries, and most of them can be found in the carts of street vendors: lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, tamarind, garlic, lime, ginger, coconut milk, fish sauce, soy sauce, and of course the various chili peppers.

Chilis can be fresh, pickled, or dried, depending on what food it is flavored with. It may be green or red, but both are extremely hot. The most dangerous is the green variety, the Thai name of which literally means ‘mouse-poop’, and which is not much bigger than a thumbnail. The first bite will surprise you, but for the next few bites, you still won’t feel as though your mouth is on fire. Then it suddenly explodes and covers everything. It's like pushing a hot stove around your mouth. This is when the seemingly suicidal food intake begins. At first, you hope it will pass, constantly wiping your sweat-beaded forehead, and then you get a better sense of the taste. And the wild feeling of ‘can’t live with you, can’t live without you’ begins. In addition to being loved, there are a number of practical reasons for the widespread use of chili. It highlights the other characteristics of the food, according to Chinese medicine, strengthens the immune system, keeps diseases away, and has a good effect on the heart and circulation. Of course, most people eat out of habit. And they love it!

In addition to the above, thanks to the strong seasoning, fish or meat prepared early in the morning – this being a tropical country – can stay good right through until the evening. In addition, if the meat in the afternoon market is a little overripe, the enzymes in the chili kill the bacteria that cause diarrhea and other unpleasant side effects. Thus, the old Thai saying: there is no such thing as smelly meat, only too little chili, isn’t so crazy after all. Thai dishes include one-course meals, thick soups, fried noodles or rice, and many toppings. In this case, it is common practice to have more dishes on the table than the number of guests: green chicken curry, basil pork, spicy fish, egg salad, seafood, and I could keep going to the bottom of the page. Everyone takes rice from the huge pot in the middle of the table and puts it on their plate, then covers it in several toppings at once. This is where the never-boring culinary shoveling begins. With a spoon of the spicy, two of the sour, and a piece of octopus, you keep going from taste to taste until the rice runs out.

Most Thai food arrives in front of us sliced. So there is no need for a knife. If you still need to cut something, there's the spoon. The set-up for right-handed people is as follows: The spoon is on the right, the fork on the left, and then the latter is used to put food on the spoon. And then it can be eaten. Practical and very easy to get used to. What to look out for: it is indecent to put a fork in your mouth – only the spoon is allowed in. Chopsticks are found when consuming hearty noodle soups or foods of Chinese origin. There are dishes that are prepared with minimal seasoning and the dish is then seasoned to the liking of the guest. Most tables have a quartet of crushed chili, sugar, fish sauce, and cut peppers cut into rings that everyone can take from as they please. The people of Bangkok are notoriously sweet-toothed, so in addition to the big spoonful of paprika, they even sprinkle two teaspoons of sugar onto their food.”

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Street Food

“The days when Thailand was a crazy cheap destination are over unless you're eating in a ‘dive’ ... which can be good, but Thai food is a gamble ... I can get my favorite duck noodle soup for 70 baht, with a quarter of a duck, or else you can get it with a couple of bones for 60 ... both from the same ‘cockroachy’ place, as Marcel put it ... but without local knowledge, you're sure to have some bad experiences.

It is true that ‘farang’, or Western food is more expensive – and of course, all tourists want to eat Thai food – but it can sometimes work out relatively cheaper than Thai food when you look at all the garnishes and the setting... at least in Pattaya, where retired English plumbers live and it's an international scandal if an English breakfast costs more than 99 baht... which, let's face it, may not be to everyone’s taste, but it far surpasses frugal Thai food in terms of ingredients.
So today, for instance, in a trendy expensive restaurant, I had Norwegian smoked salmon salad as an appetizer, then salmon fillet fried in butter for 265 baht, plus a mug of tea... I don't think that’s expensive. (Where would you get the same at home for that?)

At the same time, I don't understand how so many people can fork out hundreds of dollars for plane tickets then eat nasty street food for 100 baht, because it’s authentic .... To be honest, (this may not be totally fair, but you have to know the right places and no one will accidentally find them without local knowledge ... especially not on the tourist promenades) ... It's about the same as if a foreigner came to Hungary and their only experience of Hungarian cooking was fried lángos.

If it's really authentic food, it's not the street pad Thai ... (although this can be very good)

And finally ... I know I’m not going to be popular ... and I know, the waterfalls, the temples, the beaches ... and even many of my own friends rate a dish of food on the basis of it being 5 baht cheaper, almost competitively. ... any food was better if it was 5 baht cheaper, all the while bragging about millions in bank accounts, which is often true ... Anyway, I understand that it’s an old reflex among those who came out here in the old days, when everything was still high quality ... but those days are long gone ....

It's not about whether someone can afford it or not ... Anyone who can afford to come here can afford it .... but I think it’s a false picture when a street ‘dive’ is put on a pedestal as the best and most authentic food. Because it’s not.” (b., 2021





 

Shopping

“$100 and $50 banknotes are exchanged at better exchange rates in many places than smaller bills, so it's worth taking advantage of these small differences and mostly change money with larger denominations.” (Kriszti)

“It is forbidden to exchange money at the airport and hotel reception because the worst exchange rates are always here. However, there is an exception at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, a secret corner that isn’t even on the airport’s official map. You have to go down to the lowest level, where the high-speed airport train starts (called Airport Link on the signs, and the floor is B, i.e. Basement). Here, opposite the entrance to the high-speed train, in the left-hand corner, hidden behind the railway checkout, there are some independent money changers at the Express Link station, which is no longer operating. The first was Super Rich, but today there are at least half a dozen. They’re all better than other airport exchanges, and even offer better rates than urban banks. So you can easily change a larger amount here. These currency exchangers appeared here maybe 1-2 years ago, and most travelers don’t know about this corner, as it’s pretty hidden away. But it's worth looking for.” (Charlie, 2017)
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"Revolut is now offering exchanges between Thai baht and Hungarian forints at exactly the same rate as a proper currency exchange. In other words, I also save the exchange price and the cash withdrawal fee for each exchange.” Kriszta 2022

Thailand - casual shopping - s.g. photo

Public safety

Important advice:  if you’re in trouble and police officers take action, always be very friendly with the cops and pay for what they say because it will be much more expensive later.

Health


“It’s all good until you drop into the corner pharmacy for a bag of viagra and a box of rubbers. Even for a body-and-soul refreshing happy hour with a happy ending massage, it is enough to settle quickly with cash. For ‘come as a stranger, leave as a friend’ services, a pre-planned health insurance policy will not help much.

The situation is different if you happen to get bitten by a stray dog, step on a razor-sharp stone, fall off your bike, and so on. In other words, if you need medical help.
Well, the first 3-400 baht bill won't hit us at the next doctor, even if it's just the cost of a friendly introduction. Later, however, if the doctor starts examining you, giving first aid, selling medicine… Well, it will soon become clear to everyone that these medical visits can quickly cost thousands of baht.

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“In Thailand, try to be very careful not to get sick. The prices of private hospitals are so high that they are almost unaffordable for a Hungarian. There are also public hospitals, but they are only cheap or free for Thais, not for foreigners.
Unfortunately, I have managed to end up in their hospitals three times so far. Forgive me if I pass over how much these three outings cost me. The hospitals are very modern, at least. They are well equipped. The staff is very polite. There is no queue, they will take you for tests immediately, and if the trouble is more serious, you will find yourself in a single or double ward within minutes. Three or four nurses were constantly checking on me to see if everything was okay, tucking me in and asking if I wanted anything. There is a TV, refrigerator, and kitchenette in the larger wards. So that's very good. And the food is also plentiful and tasty. Plus you can also bring food. There are also extra beds in the ward, so relatives can visit and sleep there at any time, thus helping with the recovery.” (2019)



I don’t wish on anyone, of course, but unfortunately, it can even happen that someone needs hospital care for days or weeks due to a more serious accident or illness. Only if you have health insurance, of course. Still, even if you don’t, doctors in Thailand will usually help, especially in urgent cases. (This, unfortunately, is not always true – tourists are often asked to pay in advance, even in hospitals.) But the where, how, and who are very important.

In Thailand, patients can choose between a private hospital, a public hospital, and a so-called clinic. (There are some more minor options, but it is not important now.) The standard of hospitals and clinics in Thailand is good or very good, and they have nothing to be ashamed of in that regard. So long as they are paid. However, this does not mean that Thailand does not cater to its predominantly penniless population (and penniless tourists). There is a doctor in almost even the smallest villages, and every district has a hospital where the poorest and most deprived patients are treated as they are. In essence, they pay a symbolic 30 baht and thus settle the costs of a hospital stay, even if it lasts weeks or months. While this may sound beautiful, the reality is much darker.

Why don't I have insurance either? Because if I don’t, then medical duty here or there, doctors in Thailand probably won't even so much as look into your mouth without a little financial incentive.

But what does a doctor's visit cost in, say, Bangkok? It’s very difficult to give a specific answer because the invoice is always made up of many items.
There are no fixed prices, so I had to make a lot of inquiries until I found some examples.
The daily cost of a hospital stay (without medicines) is €100-150. Medicines are otherwise much more expensive here than those sold in a pharmacy and they’re given in a bag, and measured out.
A lung x-ray (due to suspicion of pneumonia) and medicines, €70.
Hand fracture x-ray, €70.
Kidney inflammation test €50.
Vaccination against tetanus and rabies due to dog bites, plus medicines, wound dressing, etc. €100.
Hernia surgery, €3000.” (2018)


Thailand - prohibition - v.j. photo

Thailand - foot massage on the beach - s.g. photo

Thailand - toilet paper - r.g. photo

Background

Destination in brief

Thailand is in Southeast Asia. Neighbors: Myanmar (north and east), Laos (north and west), Cambodia (east), Malaysia (south)
 
Thailand’s name in the Thai language is “Prathet Thai”, which means “Land of the Free.” It is the only country in Southeast Asia that was never colonized by Europeans.
 
 
Size: 513,120 km² (198,117 mi²)
 
As far as size goes, Thailand is home to the world’s longest poisonous snake, the king cobra. The cobra can reach more than 5.50 meters (18 feet) long, and one bite from it can kill an elephant.
 
Capital city: Bangkok – 10.5 million (2020)
 
Population (in 2020): 69.7 million  – 75% ethnic Thai, 14% Thai of Chinese origin
 
It’s imperative for Thai people to be respected by others. When they are embarrassed or humiliated, they are “losing face,” and their reactions can be unpredictable.
 
Language: Thai – Thai is similar to Lao, the language spoken in Laos – The Thais do not use the Latin alphabet, but a complicated Thai alphabet. It is written horizontally, from left to right.
 
Religion: 94.3% Buddhist, 4.8% Muslim 
 
Political system: Thailand is a constitutional monarchy – Whoever the king is, he has a divine right to rule over the country. – The royal family is adored and deeply respected by Thai citizens. It is strictly forbidden to criticize any member of the royal family.
The king does not exercise executive power and mostly stays away from political conflicts.
 
Currency: Thai baht (THB)
 
Average net monthly salary: about 500 USD (2020)
 
Best time to visit: November-February for northern Thailand, November-March for southern Thailand
 
Safety:
 
Thailand is a safe country for tourists. Thefts may happen, but muggings are uncommon. Foreign tourists should know that in disputes with a local, the police will almost always side with the local (jani hunglish).
 
Top tourist attractions:
 
The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok, Wat Arun, Ayutthaya Historical Park, the old town of Chiang Mai, Railay Bay (Krabi), floating markets near Bangkok, Chatuchak Weekend Market, the beaches of Koh Samed, Koh Chang and Koh Lanta, Chaweng Beach on Koh Samui, Kanchanaburi
 
Red Bull, the famous energy drink, was born in Thailand. It is based on Krating Daeng, a sweet, non-carbonated energy drink that has been sold throughout the country and across Asia since 1976. You will recognize a bottle of Krating Daeng in Thailand by its logo – same as Red Bull’s. It is not only cheaper, but also stronger than its US or European versions.

Nowadays

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Thailand - Chiang Khan - (northeastern Thailand) - off the beaten track - v.g. photo

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