Things You Don’t Know About Thailand

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Things You don't Know about Thailnd

One of the benefits of traveling slow is that you get to dig a little deeper into a culture than you would just passing through. By spending time with locals and ex-pats here in Chiang Mai, I’ve learned a few things that came to me as a surprise.

Things You Don't Know About ThailandIt’s always Buddha Day. No visit to the Grand Palace in Bangkok is complete without a tout approaching you and explaining that the site is closed due to the fact that it’s Buddha Day. He will gladly direct you to a tuk tuk driver who will give you a tour of sites (and high-commission shops) that are open today. The Palace is, of course, open for business, with hundreds of tourists streaming in and out. If you’ve looked for hotels in Bangkok and found a place for a few days, you can return every day and learn that it’s Buddha Day again. They may as well call it Buddha Week.

There are quite a few real Buddha Days, but with the language barrier I can never seem to learn the significance of each one. The first hint you’ll receive is when you visit a 7-11 and notice that all of the beer and wine has been hidden behind flattened cardboard and the cooler door chained shut. The Buddha was a bit of a teetotaler. You can still have a drink in a restaurant or bar most times but on Visakha Bucha Day in May –which celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Lord Buddha– even the bars close down. And a good Buddha Day is often accompanied by massive fireworks displays, so be sure to get out at night and enjoy the show.

Things You Don't Know About ThailandEveryone loves a parade. I’ve been in Chiang Mai for four months now and I’ve seen at least 8 parades, not counting the big ones tied to important holidays or the annual Flower Festival, for example. On any given day you can stumble into a procession of hundreds of people dressed in traditional dress, men carrying Buddha statues or ornate floral displays on pallets of bamboo, high school marching bands, people carrying pennants and banners, and men beating large drums mounted to rolling carts. It’s wonderful.

I recently passed a group of several hundred middle-school kids marching class-by-class and playing plastic recorders. Cops on motorcycles cleared the way, while the second lane was left open for traffic. Monks riding in the backs of Toyota trucks and silently watching over a large gilded Buddha statue are very popular too. Ask someone what the occasion is and they will invariably answer “Buddha Day!”

He’s not happy to see you, that really is a gun in his pocket. Many Thai men regularly pack heat when they go out — it’s not at all uncommon to catch a glimpse of a pistol tucked into a waistband or a bulge in a pocket. Now, I’m not saying that Thailand is the Wild Wild West, with raging gun battles in the streets, because it’s not — I’ve felt more safe here than anywhere I’ve visited. But if you’re out late in a Thai bar there’s a very good chance that you’re seriously outgunned, so I’d recommend minding your manners.

A good friend of mine recently attended a large wedding in Bangkok –500 people or more– and couldn’t help but notice that a loud dispute had broken out. The groom’s father had taken offense at something, was shouting and generally making a scene. The bride’s father decided that the quickest way to diffuse the situation was to pull his gun out and fire it in the air several times, which made quite an impression with the rest of the guests. The after-party was described as “a bit awkward”.

Those aren’t braces. I had noticed that I was seeing more and more young women wearing braces and took this as a sign of general prosperity amongst the growing middle class. My friend Louise, who has lived in Chiang Mai for 12 years and speaks fluent Thai, set me straight. “Most of them aren’t real braces, they’re vanity braces. They don’t correct anything, they’re just meant to look like you are wearing real braces.”

“Well, then why do they wear them?” I asked. “They think it makes them look younger and it suggests that they’re more well-off than they really are,” she replied. Coming from a land of Botox, tanning salons and liposuction, I certainly can’t judge.

Things You Don't Know About ThailandDon’t mess with the monks. Monks are revered here and pretty much have the run of the place. Most parents hope to have at least one son become one, as it’s a great honor for the family. (Talk about pressure — I thought my Mom was being unreasonable asking for a grandkid.) But not all monks are there by choice.

It’s fairly common for young men who get into trouble with the law to be offered the choice between a year in jail or a year in the monkhood, rather like being forced into the Army in the West. I hadn’t realized this before but it certainly explains the few times I’ve seen young monks elbowing each other in the ribs as a scantily-clad woman walked by. So don’t mess with a monk — you never know what he’s in for.

What’s the biggest surprise you’ve found in Thailand?

{ 99 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris June 3, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Did not know about all the guns, remind me not to make a tuk tuk driver mad.
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wes June 4, 2011 at 3:08 pm

You just *know* they’re packing ;)

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Odysseus Drifts June 3, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Good to know, especially the Buddha Day scam. Yet in spite of the negatives, it sounds like a great place to visit. Everyone who writes about Chiang Mai seems to rave about the place.
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wes June 3, 2011 at 4:26 pm

I love Chiang Mai. It’s one of the most liveable places I’ve ever… ummm… lived.

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Ryan @ PauseTheMoment.com June 13, 2011 at 10:15 am

I second that. I spent a month there last year and I’m feigning to get back there. Liz and I hope to relocate there next year for at least 3-6 months.

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Nomadic Samuel (Samuel Jeffery) June 3, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Don´t Mess with Ladyboys!

Back in 2008 I was chumming around with a British mate in Bangkok & we hit a disco well past midnight after drinking at Gulliver´s on Khao San. Once in the club, he noticed a young lad totally smitten with a lady that was ´just a little too pretty´ and a bit heavy in the Adam´s apple region. I told him not to say anything, but he insisted on spilling the beans. The next thing we know, a group of lady boys surrounded us and threatened to beat the crap out of us. They went outside to get some ´real men´ to come join along in the action. We bolted through the back exit and hopped on a tuk-tuk telling the driver to put some pedal to the metal, all the while watching from the rear as a hoard of angry Thai´s chased us from behind.
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wes June 3, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Wow! Noted: do not mess with ladyboys….

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Dean June 3, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Awesome, nothing like “insider” information. I’m off to Thailand in 2 months, and will have to keep an eye out for the scams. I can’t wait for the trip :)
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wes June 3, 2011 at 4:36 pm

You’ll have a great time. Beautiful place and people.

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Catherine June 3, 2011 at 5:35 pm

I didn’t know about the year in the slammer or a year as a Monk exchange.

There are monk for a day, month, or whatever deals so why not.

Some Thai men even make a career of monkhood not because they have a calling but because they don’t fancy their options.

Monks were some of the biggest surprises for me. And there be many…
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jill- Jack and Jill Travel The World June 3, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Wow, I guess the biggest surprise for me is the guns. Is it all over Thailand or just in certain big cities?
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wes June 4, 2011 at 12:04 pm

I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s pretty common everywhere. Possibly even more so in smaller towns.

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Steve @ ImNotHome April 14, 2012 at 2:01 am

Guns are prevalent all over SE Asia. I am working in Laos, and most villages carry a stock of old AK-47s or semi-auto weapons from the war. And I have heard it’s quite easy to buy handguns from across the border in Thailand.

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Matthew Karsten June 3, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Fantastic insider info Wes! I’ll make sure not to piss off any monks…
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wes June 4, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Just be thankful there aren’t kung fu monks ;)

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Jason July 19, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Muay Thai Monks are just as bad…..

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Jaime June 3, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Interesting info. I do not know much about Thailand or any of SEA for that matter. I can not wait to get there on my RTW. Its going to be a long while before I make it there, but I will for sure!
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wes June 4, 2011 at 12:05 pm

You’ll have a great time :)

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Runaway Brit June 4, 2011 at 1:57 am

If you are in Thailand during an election period then be prepared for the Government ban on the sale of alcohol. That’s right, even the Khao San road is prohibited from selling alcohol – usually for a few days.

Of course, there are ways around it and some bars remain open for business, albeit behind shuttered doors and you get your drink in a paper coffee cup.
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wes June 4, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Ah, I didn’t think about that. Funny how it pays to plan ahead but no one here seems to do that ;)

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Casa de Hamilton Pool June 4, 2011 at 2:09 am

Don’t forget, they love them some King too….

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wes June 4, 2011 at 12:08 pm

That they do!

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T-roy June 4, 2011 at 6:26 am

Yeah I’ll never forget the 1st time I seen a real holy monk smoking a Marlboro Red. Lucky for me I had a 400mm L series lens on the camera and was able to snap a picture of him without him knowing. Never have posted that photo… guess maybe I should! :)
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wes June 4, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Nice! You should post it. It’s what happened.

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helena June 4, 2011 at 8:19 am

I must admit that we fell for the ‘place is closed scam’, not in Chiang Mai, but in Bangkok.

To our defense, it was a ‘the palace is closed for lunch from 12 to 2pm’ (something that did sound fairly plausible, although we should have realised that it was a scam), and it was an advice given to us by a woman on the street some 15 minutes away from the actual palace when we were on our way down to take a local bus boat… So it did seem plausibel enough, and perhaps the heat had something to do with our brains not working too well ;)

Well, we ended up being taken around to some different sites of interest, the last one that was actually really cool, a tempel high up with a beautiful view of the city and loads of locals praying. And we managed to get a free drink each and never paid anything for the tuktuk (should have paid 20 baht for the 3 stops as it was a special Happy Budha promotion day…).

Of course, we also waisted about an hour with a very agressive saleman in a tailor shop, but refused to buy anything throughout and were finally asked to leave the place… The sad part, we ended up missing seeing the Royal palace as it actually was open during lunch but closed at 3.30 pm. But that saved us some 350 baht per person, and instead we visited the sleeping Budha tempel across the street and saw a ceremony by the monks. Refusing all offers by crazy tuktuk drivers to drive us elsewhere or around.

As for the monks, I was fairly chocked in Laos, when I saw them travel first class, with Mp3 players in their ears. I soon got used to all their possessions as I saw some 20 monks in Luang Prabang with really nice cameras and video cameras… But was still surprised when walking to the hostel one afternoon, two young monks started talking to me in an obvious flirty way… Now I guess I have the explanation why.
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wes June 4, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Wow. I’ve never done the “1 hour, 10 baht” thing but it sounds about like I expected. Not what you wanted, but quite an experience nonetheless.

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Carolyn June 4, 2011 at 10:51 am

Great post – I wish I’d read this before I went to Thailand! I did not know that young men could choose the monkhood instead of jail time – that definitely gives a new perspective on how certain monks act. It always made me laught when I was living in Korea and I would see a monk pull a cell phone out of his robes. I hadn’t heard of the false braces but it doesn’t really surprise me after living in Korea where plastic surgery is huge. There, the craziest thing was to go into a cosmetics shop and realize it was nearly impossible to find any products that weren’t intended to lighten skin.
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wes June 4, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Heh, a friend of mine has very pale skin and Thai women are always asking her what whitener she uses.

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Acceleratedstall June 4, 2011 at 10:52 am

Of course, as usual you offer something delicious for the eye and nourishing for the brain. Thanks for the details, some of these I wasn’t aware of.
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wes June 4, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Awww… thanks so much!

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Amanda June 4, 2011 at 12:15 pm

You’re right — I didn’t know most of these things about Thailand! The guns, the vanity braces, the fact that some monks aren’t monks completely by choice… all new to me!
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Lorraine June 4, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I had read about “Buddha Day” and was, therefore, prepared when I visited. I didn’t get hit up though… Interesting tidbit about the monks. I witnessed two monks arguing loudly in front of a temple and I saw many monks with cell phones. Made me wonder who they were talking to! I spent 12 days in Chiang Mai last year and loved it. Its a place I could easily live for awhile. I miss those $6 foot massages!

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wes June 4, 2011 at 3:10 pm

The foot massages are the best! They’re even cheaper now – $4 for an hour. Amazing.

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Micah June 5, 2011 at 12:47 am

Do the monks ever pack heat? That might create a tear in the space-time continuum…or at least prove slightly awkward.
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wes June 5, 2011 at 11:13 am

haha. good point.

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Liv June 6, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Great insights into Thailand Wes! I am developing a similar article on Australia (mine has no gun-toting monks though dammit!)
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Stephen June 7, 2011 at 9:12 am

I must admit, I fell for the Buddha Day scam about 10 years ago…I hope I’m a wiser traveler now.

What surprises me most is that it is illegal for talking negatively about the King.
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wes June 9, 2011 at 8:03 am

Good point on the King, Stephen. You never ever want to say anything bad about the King. That will get you thrown in jail fast, tourist or not.

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Pong September 29, 2011 at 8:40 am

Yes, talking bad about the Royal Family (not only the King) is lèse majesté in Thailand.

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WebPromo June 8, 2011 at 12:57 am

It must be really scary to walk around the town where lot of people have a guns

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wes June 9, 2011 at 8:02 am

Not really. I’ve never felt threatened at all.

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Pete June 8, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Hi Wes -
I’m curious how you manage long term stay in Chiang Mai. Do you have to do a visa run somewhere every 30 days? Or is there a better way to do it?

I just got back from a two week trip to the Kingdom, and am planning another extended trip to travel the country and take some photos.

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wes June 9, 2011 at 8:01 am

You can stay up to 6 month if you get a double-entry visa. you should be able to get one in the UK. if not, you can fly here, enjoy the 30 days and then go to Vientianne, Laos where you can get the double entry. When you enter thailand again on your first entry, you’ll have 2 month. That can be extended in Chiang Mai if you want for a month (1800 baht). At the end of your first entry period, you have to do a border run to Burma, where you gain another 2-3 months upon re-entering Thailand.

It’s a dance, but not too bad. The Laos run took 2 days and 1 night. The Burma run takes about 10 hours total.

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Andrea June 9, 2011 at 6:49 am

Vanity braces? Now I’ve heard it all…so bizarre!
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Sally June 10, 2011 at 10:57 am

Vanity braces? I had no idea these existed. Now, of course, I want to go back to Thailand & start inspecting everyone’s teeth… and maybe pick up a pair myself. (I was cursed with straight teeth so never got to wear braces like the cool kids.)
In China, it’s popular among college-aged students to wear big plastic nerd glasses without the lenses. Apparently it’s a hip-hop thing. (Because everyone knows fake nerd glasses are totally bad ass). I’m going to start calling these vanity glasses.

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Sasha June 10, 2011 at 11:21 am

WOW! I’ve been to Thailand a few times and clearly still know nothing! I didn’t realise Thailand was so strange!!! I never realised peeps are packing heat, and vanity braces that it just strange, braces aren’t even attractive!!!
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Roy | Cruisesurfingz June 10, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Wow, I didn’t know about the guns or the vanity braces.
But really, vanity braces??
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wes June 11, 2011 at 9:25 am

Heh. It’s a crazy world.

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Marsha June 11, 2011 at 4:53 am

The benefits of traveling “low and slow” are far-reaching indeed. I love the fact that you get to stay and absorb a place and its people and culture instead of moving around all the time. I certainly wouldn’t have picked up on something like the braces otherwise. Love this post. You’re awesome, Wes!
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wes June 11, 2011 at 9:25 am

Thanks so much, Marsha. It’s really been fun playing ex-pat and getting to know a place. Looking forward to getting moving again, however :)

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Erica June 12, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Buddha Day – got it. I’ll still probably fall for it when we finally make it to Thailand but at least it will be in my subconscious? As for vanity braces – I had the real things and they drove me nuts. I guess to each their own??
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Cristine Tabing June 12, 2011 at 8:32 pm

LOL on the vanity braces. I’ve seen them quite a lot!

Not the biggest surprise for me but I was actually quite astonished about the girls in college or in their early 20s (or maybe older) using false eyelashes! Thought I’d only see them worn by lady boys and sometimes by ladies who work in bars but no! Young girls seem to like it. I’ve seen quite a lot of them wearing it everytime I go to places frequented by the University crowd. :)
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Bluegreen Kirk June 13, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Wow the packing heat is nice to know about! I could see how it would really calm a crowd down but at a wedding thats crazy. And wearing braces to look younger really is something new to me but like you stated botox and all here so who can really talk. After the year in monkhood are they allowed to leave?
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Juno June 14, 2011 at 6:06 am

I don’t think I really fully understand what ‘Vanity braces’ means though.. certainly interesting!
And I didn’t know about monks. Hard to imagine that by their nice-and peace looking outfit.

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wes June 14, 2011 at 8:57 am

They look like braces, but they don’t make any adjustments to your teeth. They’re just glued on so they look like they’re real braces.

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Nancy @ Dream Travel Vacation June 15, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Interesting tidbit about the locals wearing braces just for the social standing.

You said you feel safe with locals carrying guns. How so? I would think one would feel jittery to be around too many guns.

I notice that more people (at least, those I know or have come across) are traveling in Thailand at this time. I have put Thailand on my bucket list of places to see. :-)
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wes June 19, 2011 at 7:56 am

Thais are very easy-going. I’ve been here 4 months and have only met one person who’s been robbed. And in his case, it was his fault: he picked a fight in a bar and came out on the losing end.

You’ll love Thailand, especially if you haven’t been to SE Asia yet. It’s a great introduction.

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Wrabbit007 June 16, 2011 at 10:47 am

Didn’t know any of that stuff – very interesting article indeed! I love the fact about “forced monk-hood”! And the fact most people have guns. I’ll bet there’s a few monks out there packing heat too!! With vanity braces!

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wes June 19, 2011 at 7:54 am

Ha! Now that is one monk I really don’t want to mess with.

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Nick Laborde June 19, 2011 at 8:15 am

The Braces thing is interesting… I can’t imagine wearing them just for looks. I wasn’t too happy with mine.
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Pong February 9, 2012 at 9:34 pm

I think this (wearing braces for look/status) used to be true but is not quite anymore. Anyway, wearing braces is still quite popular among Thai teenagers who want to have very beautifully organized teeth and slightly smaller/more oval-less round face.

Also, compared to other countries (I compare to Singapore as I work there now), dental costs in Thailand are much lower. I guess that’s one of the reasons why lots of people wear them.

It’s true though that most Thais prefer fair/whiter skin. I think people just crave for something that is difficult for them to get/have. (White people love sunbathing to have tanned skin.) So don’t be surpised to find lots of whitening products in Thailand.

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wes January 2, 2013 at 1:35 pm
Glenn June 22, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Interesting article about the culture.

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Bodlagz July 27, 2011 at 9:09 am

Seen a few Guys carrying guns myself but I just thought they were off duty Police men who like to carry the gun for face.

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Ted July 29, 2011 at 2:09 am

I live in one of the neighboring countries bordering Thailand, and I’ve made quite a few trips in the recent years to “The Land Of Smiles”. In total I’ve came across at least twice on the Buddha day scam thing (first was by chance and the second was because of a bet and mind you, i won). It was not all bad….all i’ve got was a free ride to nowhere and the experience of tracing back our footsteps and while at it saw a few amazing sights on the way back (got a few amazing shots btw and people there are pretty friendly). Totally worth being ‘scammed’.

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Josh Knutson September 5, 2011 at 11:52 pm

I spent 3 months in Chiang Mai a couple of years ago, never saw a gun.

Your braces comment is interesting as well, didn’t see much of that, but did see a lot of ladies putting on cream/make-up to make they skin lighter.

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Vasco October 11, 2011 at 10:44 pm

I haven’t been to Chiang Mai but the last time I went to Thailand I absolutely loved Hua Hin. It’s small, well kept, pretty quiet and laid back, a perfect place if you don’t want a very touristy place.
And i heard about the vanity braces, so funny!

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Carla December 23, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Interesting and educational article on Thailand; thanks for sharing.

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holidaycrashpads January 31, 2012 at 8:02 am

Very good post cant believe the guns found the article very informative

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Jack February 8, 2012 at 2:51 pm

My first trip to anywhere in Asia will happen in a few weeks…Friends want me to spend the first week with them in Pattaya in a budget type hotel…I am a senior citizen….What is your take on Pattaya ?….Thank you so much in advance..

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wes February 9, 2012 at 3:06 pm

I was only in Pattaya for 2 nights, so I’m not a good judge. It’s *very* touristy, with tons of knick knack shops and lots of touts. The beach itself is lovely and large and you can rent a chair with an umbrella and relax. The touts will keep you annoyed, unfortunately.

Also, be aware that Pattaya is still the epicenter of the sex trade in Thailand. I stayed in the northern end, which is supposed to be tamer, but was still pretty surprised at the number of go go bars and prostitutes. The area I was in was definitely a party scene.

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Pong February 9, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Pattaya is a very touristy place. Its beaches are decent but not great in my view. If you really like beaches and plan to go to Pattaya, I recommend you take island-hopping day trip, in which small boat operator takes you out for small islands for a day. The water at small islands is (or was when I went) crystal clear. Usually the package comes with lunch as well but don’t expect very good foods (I think it depends on the operator). In Pattaya there are lots of activities e.g., water sports, bungee jumping, ATV, etc., to do. Also, I really enjoyed the lady boy shows (I only watched Alcazar; not yet watched Tiffany though Tiffany started first). This kind of shows is not like sex show or something dirty. They are a group of pretty lady boys lip-synching and dancing to the songs. It’s best if you get the seats up front. The 2 theaters can be compared with Miss Universe and Miss World (as they also have beauty pageants going on every year). If you love beaches, then you should make a trip to the south of Thailand where there are plenty of islands and beaches to choose from.

If you decide to come to Pattaya, you will most likely fly to Bangkok first. I recommend you stay and browse around Bangkok for at least a few days first before going to Pattaya. If you have more time, you should not miss an excursion to Ayutthaya. On the way from Bangkok to Pattaya, there is a place called ‘Sanctuary of Truth’, which should not be missed. If you like shopping, you should visit the Jatujak (JJ) market in Bangkok, which only opens on weekends.

Top places not to miss in Bangkok:

1) Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha
2) Wat Pho (with the reclining Buddha)
3) Anandasamakom Throne Hall
4) Vimanmek Mansion
5) Jim Thompson’s House
6) Some other wats (temples in Thai) >> Check from tripadvisor
7) You may want to take up some Thai cooking classes
8) Thai Massage >> Try Healthland, or Massage School at Wat Pho. There’s a small massage shop next to Asia Hotel (Ratchathewi BTS Station) which is cheap and good (my favorite)
9) Thai Kickboxing (unfortunately, I have not seen it yet so cannot really tell you how it’s like to watch the live boxing from the ring side)
10) Watching shows like Siam Niramit or Calypso (Tiffany or Alcazar in Pattaya)
11) Shop at JJ Market and Suan Lum Night Bazaar (MBK is quite popular among tourists but I think it’s such a cliché and I don’t really like it)
12) Madame Tussauds at Siam Discovery (if you have free time)
13) Siam Ocean World (Aquarium) at Siam Paragon (this is better than I thought it would; I got the Thai ticket price so it’s quite worth it – foreigners have to pay more)
14) Visit the shrine of 4-face Hindu God (Brahma at Rajaprasong Intersection) >> near to Central World
15) Shop and eat at Siam Paragon and Central World. These two are the upper-end shopping places in Bangkok and near to each other. There are a lot of nice restaurants at these 2 places. Although the foods are generally more expensive than outside, they are pretty good and should cost less than in your home countries. Also, you can shop around Siam Square, which is more of teenagers hanging place. There are a lot of hawkers selling a lot of stuff (mainly girls’ clothes) at Siam Station at night.

Hope you have a safe and wonderful trip to Asia.

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Irina February 21, 2012 at 11:22 am

I just came back from the southern Thailand – Phuket and the islands nearby – I am impressed to read about the guns, thankfully I’ve never seen one, makes me scared… The braces observation is funny, how far would women go… :)

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Shell & Steve February 27, 2012 at 5:06 am

After knowing a bit about the Buddha Day scam we still managed to fall for it…nearly!! We started walking from our hotel in Kaoh San Road, so not very far to the Palace, when approached by a man saying ‘Buddha Day the palace isnt open!’ We laughed and carried on, however further down the street more and more people kept saying it’s a religious holiday, government are paying for tuktuks etc and that the palace would reopen at 3pm as ‘thai’s are praying at the moment’. So we were then approached by a man who gave us directions to all the sightseeing temples and pointed in the ‘right’ direction – obviously knowing now it was away from the palace. But as he asked for nothing from us we started to think maybe the palace was closed and he was being helpful – stupid i know. So then another man comes up and ‘helps’ us and puts us in a tuktuk for 20b (a special government price) that will get us to the palace in time for 3pm (it actually closes at 3.30/4pm) and will stop by other temples to kill the time and a factory to help improve tourism apparently. Such bull! We hesitantly got in and straight away knew we had fallen for it. First stop was Lucky Buddha, another english couple were in there too so i asked if they felt like it was a scam and they thought it seemed odd but were going along with it anyway and said they only had to look at the factory for the tuktuk driver to get their petrol voucher! Naive. So i told them it was a scam and left, no idea where they ended up. But we went outside to our tuk tuk driver and said we want to go to the palace, not the factory! He got irate and starting shouting that it wouldn’t kill us to have a look and that he needs the voucher! I refused and said take us to the palace. He asked again if we wanted to go to the factory and I said NO. He then demanded we pay him 500b, i refused so he was very angry, told us to walk and drove off! Luckily we never paid ANY money! We were a little shaken as this place was off the main street and weren’t sure if he was going to come back so we ran to the nearest busy street and jumped in a metered taxi who took us to the palace for 50b.
Long story short…even though we knew these scams existed we still got sucked in as so many people seem to be in on them! Will never use a tuk tuk again or accept any help off a stranger on the streets of Bangkok!!

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wes February 28, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Ouch! So sorry to hear it. I stepped into a tuk tuk in Bangkok and asked them to take me to the hospital (I was getting some shots). He started in with the ‘vouchers’ pitch and I said “DUDE. I need to go to the hospital. Shopping isn’t an option.” :/

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Steve @ Back-Packer May 31, 2012 at 8:46 am

Very useful and interesting list for travelers coming to thailand the first time – and yeah, it’s in a way a completely different world! I’m looking forward to my stay and a lot amazing experiences over there!
Thx for sharing (and the good structered content).

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Joseph July 17, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Interesting post. I didn’t know of these things even though I’ve been to Thailand a few times. I did hear before the “Buddha Day” scam but I still enjoy all my trips to Thailand. I guess we just need to be more careful on our own. I remember I stayed at corporate apartments, Fraser Suites Sukhumvit in Bangkok for my business trip last year. The staff there took really good care of me, I guess that’s also how i managed to avoid all the scamming tuk tuk drivers.

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Neil August 21, 2012 at 5:58 am

thanks for the tips, will come in handy i’m sure, will be in bangkok on friday and really looking forward to it, what i have noticed is everyone loves chiang mai and i think i wanna get myself up there asap. How long do you recommend in to stay bangkok before travelling on? my thai trip will last a month.

Thanks in advance

neil

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wes August 23, 2012 at 7:10 am

Bangkok is definitely worth some time — maybe 3-4 nights. I’d book a nice room for the first night, as you’ll be tired from the flight and it is a noisy and hectic place. Be sure to check out the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho?), the Palace, Chinatown and Khao San Road (cheesy but a must see. Across from Khao San is another street that’s much less touristy and a quite nice place to eat/drink/shop. Near the Reclining Buddha is the amulet market, spread out across 2-3 streets — great (cheap) gifts for friend ;) The river is nearby and a ride on the public transport boat is a cheap and interesting trip. Also step into the massive mall by the Siam skytrain stop. I think it’s called MBK — even if you don’t want to shop you should see it — 7 floors of hectic madness.

Then get your ass up to Chiang Mai and relax a bit ;)

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Neil August 23, 2012 at 9:37 am

lovely stuff, will definitely give all that stuff a whirl, and travelling with the wife so not sure i should let her near mbk so early in our trip!! but she has heard about the place already unfortunately! Anyways a special thanks for the reply 12 hours till the flight and im getting hungry for some spicy thai grub!

see ya

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arifikhine September 18, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Very nice and informative site. I really had a great time reading some of you post.
keep it up.

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Jo (The Blond) January 2, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Funny you mentioned the guns…after what I heard on the news today, it is no surprise to me now.

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greg April 14, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Been all around South-East and feel like I have come home and safe when I arrive in Thailand again. The people are so friendly. Yeah, there are a lot of guns in Thailand, but it is the safest place I have been and I feel so relaxed here, more so than anywhere in Europe by a long shot. The Thai’s are a unique people and live and let live as long as you do not interfere with them. Hua Hin about a 3 hour taxi ride from Bangkok is a lovely seaside town, very laid back with many westerners living there and is worth a few days stay at least. There are many beaches that are not as crowded as the usual suspects of Phuket, Cois Samui and Pattaya that are more traditional thai and not so commnercial and worth a visit also. There is so much tothis country that when you visit you will want to come back again and again
also

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wes April 15, 2013 at 10:20 am

I totally agree on all points and am hoping to return this year. Thanks for the tip on Hua Hin — wasn’t familiar with that.

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