After traveling 543 years into the future, due to the Thai calendar, I got a very warm welcome in Bangkok with 48 degrees Celcius. It was overwhelming and very chaotic. I experienced a real culture shock.
This was my first time in Asia. Some of my peers already warned me on forehand. Asia is chaotic and dirty. A quiet and organised guy like me doesn’t seem to fit in very well with that. That was actually absolutely true, but I don’t regret having experienced this myself.
I don’t think I’ll ever go back though.
Especially Bangkok is a horrible city in my opinion: way too big, chaotic, overwhelming, dirty, very bad traffic safety (don’t try to cross the street walking), hazardous air quality rising beyond 200 on some days and you can’t really get somewhere without losing 3 hours due to the traffic. So sightseeing is not really relaxing.
During my six weeks in Thailand I stayed in Bangkok for one week on total, and five weeks in Chiang Mai, the second biggest city of Thailand that’s located in the north of the country.
The latter was a lot more quiet and I stayed in the Nimman area, also known as where the “digital nomad” scene once started.
As soon as I arrived I had to get my visa exemption at the customs. The guy asked me what I was planning to do for so many days and I answered holiday.
With most passports (at least with a Dutch one) you’ll get a visa exemption of 30 days on arrival. You can extend this one time with 30 days, for €50 at the immigration office. Be prepared for hectic situations and long queues. I did the extension and stayed 45 days in total.
Three things you want to do after arriving are:
- Install Grab, the Asian equivalent of Uber that I used a lot. It’s very convenient and cheap.
- Get a local SIM with unlimited data. I had one for AIS and paid €25 for one month of unlimited data. So I was able to use my phone as an hotspot a lot, as the WiFi can be crappy from time to time.
- Get cash, as Thailand is still a cash society. ATMs charge 22o bath (€6) for each withdrawal, so make sure to take big amounts.
I also behaved like a tourist:
- 🐘 I fed an elephant in a sanctuary
- 🙏🏻 I hit up the northern hippy town of Pai for a few days
- ⛩ I went to the Doi Suthep temple on top of the mountain
- 🍲 I ate street food
- 💦 I climbed up the Huay Kaew waterfall
- 🥊 I saw live Thai boxing
- 🙌🏻 I had a Thai massage (without happy ending)
- 🚗 I took a ride in a Songtaew (but skipped the Tuk Tuk)
I like cooking but it doesn’t make sense to cook it in Thailand. All the food is so cheap and groceries are expensive. For 30 baht you’ll get a street food meal. Be careful to pick the right stands. Generally the busy ones are safe to eat without getting sick afterwards, as you know the food isn’t waiting for you for hours in 40 degrees and blazing sun.
Hygiene isn’t often their top priority, so make sure you can see how the food is being prepared. I didn’t get sick in those 6 weeks though.
And alternative for street food are the traditional Thai restaurants, although you can’t see how the food is being prepared. You pay like 40 baht to 80 baht (€1 to €2) for a meal over there. Check the reviews on Google Maps before you go if someone has gotten sick.
A third alternative are the great amount of western restaurants popping up everywhere, where you’ll pay like 100 baht to 200 baht (€3 – €6) but hygiene is generally better.
As I hardly cooked and tend to eat three meals a day, I ate out more than 100 times in this period. I can tell you this gets boring at a given moment. Can’t see anymore noodles or rice.