Thailand observations

Why I love Thailand… and why I don’t

Yes, the pictures show the ideal image, of how most people know Thailand:

The country is easy to travel to, it is super safe, and the logistics are seamless. Everybody is super friendly and smiling, and Thai people are very service-oriented and hospitable.

The food is incredible. Both traditional Thai food and their version of Western vegan food in the trendy coffee shops and restaurants that are popping up everywhere, especially on Koh Phangan.

It is super affordable. You don’t cook, you don’t clean, you don’t do your laundry. There is always a friendly local offering to do all of that for you, with a smile, at a very affordable price.

Many of my friends do their health checkups and dental visits in Bangkok, at a fraction of the price it would cost them in their home country. And without waitlists, with superb service, with a smile…

But there are also downsides.

The other side of Thailand

Yes, people are friendly and smiling, but it is hard to get close, to become friends. There is always that feeling of serving and being served, which I don’t always like.

For rich locals and foreigners, anything is possible and available. At a price. It is cheap for us, but expensive (out of reach even), for most locals.

The climate is hot and humid. People work so hard. In Bangkok, there are many construction jobs, but then you have to live cramped, in an expensive city, which means poor housing. If you are poor, how can you live like this, in a city?

The country is set up for convenience, but in doing so, it uses so much plastic. Every single food item is wrapped in plastic, every serving is individually wrapped. There are plastic bags everywhere, it’s crazy.

Everything contains sugar. You buy fruit – like sliced mango – in the supermarket, it has sugar in it. It’s impossible to find yoghurt, or even milk,  without sugar. Even the healthy dish that I ordered on my first night in Bangkok, with vegetables, tofu and local herbs contained so much sugar that it crunched between my teeth. During the cooking workshop, I found out that sugar is added to everything, from soups to pad Thai, to balance the sour flavours. But why so much? Thai people use sugar to flavor everything, and also for energy because they work so hard and need the calories. In places where more health-oriented foreigners visit, like Koh Phangan, fortunately, you can specify ‘without sugar’.

This contradiction is why I could never live here long term. The more I travel, the more I realize that I feel most at home in Europe. Yes, we also have problems, but at least we are all (more or less) equal, and I find that feeling is very important to me, to live a balanced life.

How do you experience (travel in) Thailand? And where do you feel most at home?