As I returned to Thailand for the first time in six years, a friend of mine asked me what the big deal is with Thailand? Why is it so popular? Why is Bangkok one of the most visited cities in the world?
I had a hard time answering her. I could feel why Thailand felt so awesome, and my experiences at the Buddhist Temple certainly helped cement Thailand as a special place in my mind.
Below are the ten reasons I’d love to live in this special country.
1. It’s Cheap– But let’s not kid ourselves. Bangkok is a modern metropolis and carries with it the higher prices customary in big cities. But it’s still cheap! Hygienic street food means meals for $1-$2, abundant coffee stands, affordable public transport and taxis, cheap clothing, and lots of entertainment available for a fraction of the price from home.Outside the cities, prices drop dramatically.
Housing can be expensive in the cities depending where you live. That’s the case anywhere. But it’s still very reasonably priced compared to Europe or North America.
Bangkok has both an underground metro system and an above ground sky train system. Departing a station, men with orange vests are ready to take you wherever you want to go on the back of their motorcycle. Or a colorful tuk tuk or taxi can do the same.
Traveling from city to city is not a problem, and all of these are much cheaper than would be expected in North America or Europe. For example, my 10-hour train journey from Chiang Mai to Bang Mun Nak cost $10. A ride on the sky train costs between $0.66 and $1.33. A tuk tuk charges by the distance, but in Bangkok you can figure about $1 per 5-7 minutes of fluid driving (and your negotiation skills).
3. Good Air Connections – The Bangkok airport is one of the busiest in the world. It’s a perfect place to be based, especially if your interest is in Asia. Most low-cost airlines service Thailand and Air Asia has a hub in Bangkok. From Thailand, everything is accessible.
4. Culturally Rich– Having never been conquered, yet open to the outside world, Thailand has its own unique approach toward life. The architecture is beautiful, the Buddhist influence can be seen everywhere, and the food is phenomenal. Few places can offer so much beauty and so many new experiences.
5. Amazing People – Thai people are nice. People went out of their way to help me too many times for this not to be true. Their slogan is “The Land Of Smiles.” I think Cambodians smile more, but Thai people must be a close second.
The people are also well-mannered. What constitutes good manners obviously depends on where you are from and what you consider good manners. But for North Americans and Europeans, there won’t be much culture shock the way there is when you visit South Asia.
Even the Thai greeting, called wai, is endearing. People put their hands together, bow their head slightly, and say “sawasdee.” Sawasdee means well-being. This greeting is borrowed from ancient Indian culture, but has become as Thai has Pad Thai.
6. Everything Is Available – Missing Nutella? How about a German pretzel or Diet Dr. Pepper. No problem. Thailand has most comforts you might miss from home that are difficult or impossible to find in the rest of Southeast Asia. They cost a premium, but as #1 explained, pretty much everything else is cheaper.
7. Great Infrastructure– Ok, the traffic in Bangkok is truly terrible. But compared to the rest of Southeast Asia, the infrastructure in Thailand is fantastic. You can move between cities on buses without feeling like the road is Swiss cheese.
The digital infrastructure is also more than sufficient for a location-independent worker. With the exception of Vietnam, it’s all but impossible to find real, broadband internet in Southern Asia. But Thailand’s got it and you can get your work done from home, or from the abundant cafes that serve high-speed wifi along with cappuccinos.
8. Jungles And Beaches– Thailand has a bit of everything. The north has beautiful jungles, elephant habitats, mountains, and indigenous people living a completely different way of life.
The south has some of the world’s most pristine beaches.
And Bangkok is a megapolis with charm.
9. Safety– Thailand, like the rest of Southeast Asia, is a safe destination for travelers and for locals as well. Perhaps guided by Buddhism’s karma principle, perhaps because it’s quite developed, the cities are generally free of the riffraff you find in other places.It’s not impossible to run into problems. Get crazy drunk in Patpong and anything can happen.
10. It’s Just Comfortable! – This is the hardest point to explain. I got to Thailand about 13-months into my journey and it was the first place I truly felt comfortable from the first moment. Maybe it’s because I visited Thailand once before in 2006? Maybe it’s because I was coming from The Philippines where I was pickpocketedand generally felt unsafe?I’m not sure.
But all I can say is that I felt completely comfortable the whole time I was in Thailand despite not knowing the language (I spoke Spanish in Latin America), not preparing at all (ok, I don’t prepare much for the touristy things in general everywhere I go), and not knowing what to expect at the Buddhist temple.
Will Smith’s opening line in the song Miami goes “Here I am in the place where I come let go.” I think that’s Thailand for me, a place where I can come and let go – and live.