After my six-month-long stay in the Kingdom of Thailand, it’s time to share my experiences with you. My similarly-oriented article “What I Learnt from Living 3 Years in Australia” is the most read article on my Slovak blog and I secretly hope, that you’ll like this article, too.
10 Reasons Why a Stay in Thailand Will Change Your Life:
1. You’ll improve your English
Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia. About 26.7 million tourists from all around the world visited Thailand just last year. In Thailand you’ll meet lots of Americans, Britons, Australians, Irish and Scandinavians who also speak English almost perfectly. The vast majority of tourists speak English, as it’s the main language for communication worldwide.
Meeting new people is very easy, especially if you prefer hostels over hotels. In hostels it is literally impossible not to meet new people, because as soon as you go to your room, others will be starting conversations with you. It’s easy to meet friends for a couple of days this way, but often you’ll become friends with them for life.
What’s the fastest way of learning a foreign language? Exactly, using it in practice. And where will you have the greatest opportunity to speak English? In a country like Thailand, where there are a lot of tourists from English-speaking countries who speak English flawlessly.
When you’re in England, Australia or the USA, speaking with natives is much harder than in a foreign country, where you have something in common – travels to the same country – and you have a lot more options to start and continue a conversation.
Nowhere in Thailand have I met so many Americans, Canadians and British as I did in the north of Thailand in a city called Chiang Mai. (Note: Never tell a British person that you don’t like the British accent – it’s the same as if you were to tell a Brazilian that you don’t like soccer). Personally, I believe that Chiang Mai is one of the best places in the world for learning English.
2. You’ll feel the inner beauty of Thais, their love for life and their respect for people
Of course, don’t expect miracles in popular tourist destinations. Although Thailand is a richer country compared to some other countries in SouthEast Asia, there is still some relative poverty compared to Western countries. Where tourism is big, there is big money to be made, and where the big money is, there you’ll also find people who live just for the money and who will do everything they can to get some. In tourist destinations like Phuket, Koh Samui or Bangkok you’ll probably meet other Thais or people from surrounding countries who live in Thailand, who’ll try to rip you off and who won’t be very nice to you. But that’s the reality everywhere in the world.
Note: Read also an article about how to negotiate in Thailand.
Once you go somewhere, where tourism isn’t so big, you’ll get to know the real Thailand and you’ll be stunned by it. Nice, smiling people who won’t charge more than what something costs. Basically they don’t understand why they should. A given food costs 30 bahts, so you should pay 30 bahts and not even a single baht more. If you give them 40 and say that it’s good, they’ll try to give you 10 back (because apparently, they think you made a mistake). When you don’t want to take it back, they won’t understand why.
All you have to do is avoid frowning like an old disabled Slovak pensioner and look Thais directly into their eyes and you’ll see an honest smile on their faces. And when you also smile at them, the effect will only be greater. Sometimes, something this small can be enough communication between two people. You don’t have to speak Thai and they don’t have to speak English. A smile is a language of it’s own and everybody speaks it.
Challenge: Try to smile at passers-by in Slovakia. What is the chance that one of them will return the smile to you? From my personal experience, not a very great chance. Try to do the same in Thailand and you’ll understand why Thailand is such a popular destination for many.
3. You’ll get to know yourself better
Thailand is a country that will naturally force you to think about your life and yourself. I’ve seen with my own eyes how a stay in Thailand for a few weeks changed worldviews and life perceptions for many of my friends. You’ll take time to think about how you live your life and you’ll realize that it’s not the only option of living and that you have more options to choose from. This is really hard to realize at home, like for example in Slovakia where everybody lives like that and it is a standard.
Trust me, if you go to Thailand for more than just a vacation, and you stay there for at least a month, it will change your life. Guaranteed. This, however, won’t happen if you’re just a bumpkin who travels to Thailand just for the sake of alcohol and cheap girls – but because you’re reading LuboJurik.com, I don’t believe this is the case 😉
4. You’ll realize that you don’t need that much to be happy
Many Thai families live very frugally. They often live right in their own shops – whether they sew, cut, cook food or sell groceries. They work and sell all day long and in the evening you’ll see how these very same people eat dinner and watch television together. Thais are so used to living on the street – and I don’t mean like homeless, but like vendors – that they don’t even bother to close the curtains on their windows or glass doors. Thais don’t care much about these things.
Yes, even Thai people are possessed by mobile phones and some of them even have a smartphone, but in general, they live much more frugally than we do. We in Slovakia are very good at complaining that our lives aren’t good enough, that we don’t have much and that we need more. But the truth is that we don’t need more, we just want more. And that’s an enormous difference that a stay in Thailand will help you realize.
5. You’ll remind yourself how important family is
Thailand is one of those countries where it is still normal for many generations to live under the same roof. Old grandmothers cook and sell food in front of their houses, parents take care of the household, and kids run all over the place. Everyone helps each other and looks happy.
Unfortunately, independence and family don’t go together very well and I think that everybody knows what the trend is in Western countries. I don’t judge anybody. I personally think that also many other travelers prefer freedom to family to some degree. That’s why it is crucial to remind ourselves how important family values are. Thailand is a great example of this.
6. You’ll remind yourself how important a community is
Not only can Thais rely on their family, but they can rely on their community – people who live in their neighborhood, too. Most Thais support their community simply by buying from one another. Someone cooks Thai food, someone sells fresh ingredients, somebody sells Thai coffee and ice tea, another grills meat or sausages and others sell steamed dumplings or a different type of sweet goods. If Thais didn’t buy from one another, most of them wouldn’t survive. Unfortunately, we in Slovakia have become extremely lazy and we do only what’s comfortable. That’s why so many supermarkets, shopping centers and car factories prosper so much in Slovakia.
Yes, even in Thailand you can see the number of shopping centers increasing, but Thais know very well how important it is to also support their local market and literally “buy from a neighbor.” In Slovakia, we don’t care who owns the shop, if it’s a person from Prievidza, Slovakia or a massive international corporation. What we care about is the price and the convenient shopping. We destroyed our own local market and market vendors and now we demand organic food from the supermarkets. When we had organic food under our noses we didn’t bother to buy it. Now we have organic food, but it’s of worse quality and more expensive. Maybe if more of us traveled to Thailand, we wouldn’t allow international corporations to take over our local market.
7. You’ll get to know that problems can be solved even without a fight or yelling
Thai people are generally very quiet and peaceful. When a problem occurs, they try to solve it as peacefully as possible. I’ve been a witness of minor traffic accidents in Thailand, where the drivers were apologizing to each other. Nobody blamed anybody. On the other hand, I’ve seen how a Thai man rear-ended a motorcycle ridden by a foreign white man (nobody suffered any damage). The foreign man’s reaction was typical – he started to yell and curse and the poor Thai man was lucky that he didn’t get beaten up. Just to make things clear, the traffic accident was apparently the Thai man’s fault. But the Western biker clearly overreacted. A typical Thai man likely wouldn’t have reacted this way, he would have probably solved the problem peacefully, with respect for the other person involved.
But on the other hand, when Thais get really pissed off, they can be really hotheaded. Look at their six-month-long protests against the government. Just because they solve most problems in a peaceful and respectful manner, doesn’t mean that they have no temperament or that they don’t care about anything. This has deep roots in their culture and in Buddhism itself.
8. You’ll meet many awesome people
Thailand is one of the most suitable countries for meeting and getting to know lots of interesting and inspiring people from all over the world. Travelers, digital nomads and entrepreneurs, bloggers, photographers, English teachers or volunteers – in Thailand you’ll meet all of them. Everybody has their own story. Also, most of them are approachable and open to having a conversation or sharing some life experience with you.
The city of Chiang Mai is, I would say, one of the globe’s hot spots for awesome people.
For real. I’ve met more awesome and inspiring people during my 4 month stay in Chiang Mai, than I’ve met in 3 years of living in Sydney, Australia and my whole life in Slovakia. Mainly during my last few weeks there, the number of cool and inspiring people I met exploded. Every time I attended an event, I met many new and interesting people. I thought that I had already known and met a lot of them, but I always kept meeting new ones.
I’m writing this blog post during my flight from Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur and I’m thinking about how I really don’t want to leave. During my last week there I had said goodbye to my new friends about 4 times and every time it got sadder and sadder. The world is a thick book and Chiang Mai is only one page of it. I want to read as many pages as possible because I want to get a deeper understanding of this book. When I get the feeling – and I know that it will come sooner or later – that the time has come, I’ll go back and “re-read the page called Chiang Mai.”
9. You’ll taste delicious Thai cuisine and super fresh fruit
Unbelievably delicious fresh mangoes, pineapples, coconuts, many kinds of bananas and plenty of tropical fruits that I can’t even name, can all be found throughout Thailand. In Thailand I ate more mangoes and bananas in 6 months than I had probably eaten in my whole life.
Thai food is generally one of the most favored cuisines from Asia. It’s healthy, delicious, fresh and cheap. What more could we ask for? Even if you decide to stay in Thailand longer – and this goes particularly for Northern Thailand – you won’t have to cook, because eating out at the restaurants is cheaper than buying ingredients alone and cooking at home. The vast majority of apartments in Chiang Mai don’t even have a kitchen, because nobody cooks and people can get by with just a refrigerator.
You’ll love Thai dishes, regardless if you like spicy foods or not. Some of my favorite dishes are Pad Thai (rice noodles with sprouts, tofu, eggs and peanuts), Pad See Ew (read Pad-See-You) (broad noodles in sweet soy sauce with eggs and morning glory) Som Tam (a spicy salad that contains papaya, lime and peanuts) Kao Soi (curry soup with egg noodles and crispy rice noodles) and many other kinds of curry (green curry, red curry, massaman curry), many desserts like pancakes, Mango Sticky Rice (with coconut milk) and other kinds of sweet dishes made from rice, or Taro (kind of fruit that tastes like a pudding). I really don’t know how a person couldn’t fall in love with such Thai dishes.
10. You’ll do and experience things you’ve never done
In Thailand I did many of the things that I had been wanting to do for a long time but which I had never previously had the chance to do. Cliff jumping, waterfall bathing, scuba diving, paintball, rock climbing, riding a scooter, or taking part in an unbelievable water fight? If you haven’t found the courage or ideal time to do these activities, you should know that this will probably change for you in Thailand. The reason? These activities are cheap and it is easy to find people who are willing to do them with you.
Travelling is the best investment. There is a famous quote that says “Travelling is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” I found this to be true. But notice that I don’t talk about vacationing.
There is a great difference between a vacation by the sea and travelling. If you stay most of your time abroad in a resort and you hang out in the “safe zones” of these tourist destinations, then you can call yourself a tourist. As a tourist you generally learn nothing about the country you stay in, whether it is Croatia, Greece, or Thailand. But if you want to get to know the local culture, speak with local people (and I don’t mean the hotel employees), aren’t afraid to go to the areas that aren’t very “touristy”, and don’t mind traveling cheaper so you can travel longer, then you can say you’re a traveler. Congratulations, you belong to 5% of Western people ( I have no hard data, it’s just my assumption – maybe I’ll get some soon, though :))
Final question is: Do you want to go abroad to relax, or to get to know the world and yourself?
Do you want more pictures and videos from Thailand?
Visit my website Asiatiq.com.
Do you want to experience Thailand on your own?
Check the current prices of flight tickets (tip: search for a flight to Bangkok as flights to there from Europe are the cheapest).
Tickets already purchased? Awesome! Now find accommodation.
Do you have a question about Thailand?
Send me an email or a Facebook message and I’ll gladly help you, give you advice or just chat with you.