Once you’ve traveled to several different countries, especially those within the same region, they start to blend together. For example, when I traveled throughout Southeast Asia, it seemed every country had the same temples and statues. This is why every country I go, I’ve tried to find 5 unique places or things that make that country stand out from the rest. This list is solely based on my experience and may not cover certain well-known traditions or tourist sites.
Lese Majeste- If you live in the United States then you are used to hearing scathing criticisms about the President and have maybe even participated in those criticisms yourself. However, Thailand has some of the strictest anti-blasphemy laws in the world. The Lese Majeste law makes it illegal to criticize or insult any member of the Thai royal family. This law not only applies to citizens but also foreigners and could result in a long prison sentence if you get caught violating it. The best strategy while in Thailand is to keep your head down and avoid getting involved in any political discussions.
Elephants-Interacting with elephants is one of the more popular activities for those that decide to visit Thailand. While I was in Bangkok, I took a day tour to an elephant resort and rode on the back of one. However, I have since been educated that a better approach would be to find an elephant sanctuary and participate in washing and feeding elephants that have been rescued from abusive owners. If I had to go back, that would have been the activity I would have elected to do instead. There are some well-known elephant sanctuary’s in the north of the country near the city of Chang Mai.
Tourist Scams- Anyone that has frequently travelled abroad has probably been scammed at some point. However, in Thailand, the scams are more complex and often costlier. I actually got caught up in a scam less than 2 hours after I got of the airplane in Bangkok (you can read about it here). One of the most popular scams occurs in the south of the country in Phuket and is known as the “jet-ski” scam. This occurs when a tourist rents a jet-ski from a beach vendor and are forced to leave their passport as collateral (NEVER DO THIS). Upon attempting to return the jet-ski, the vendor claims that it is damaged and demands hundreds of US dollars in compensation before giving back your passport. If this happens to you, it may be cheaper just to apply for a replacement passport at your embassy or consulate. While you should always have your head on a swivel, this is especially true in Thailand.
Muy Thai Kickboxing- Muy Thai is not only a popular fighting style in the UFC but also considered to be a national sport in Thailand. Many fighters have fully dedicated themselves both physically and spiritually to their craft and it shows in the way they fight. I got an opportunity to see two Muy Thai events while traveling through Thailand. In Bangkok, fights are held at the Rajadamnern Stadium several nights a week. There are also a few stadiums in Chang Mai that host weekly fights. If you decide to go to a fight, buy tickets directly from the stadium as opposed to going through a third-party vendor as it will be substantially cheaper.
Traffic- As someone who has lived in the Washington DC, Honolulu, southern California, and Miami, I have experienced my fair share of bad traffic throughout my lifetime. However, nothing compares to my experience in Bangkok. Although Bangkok is a modern city with an extensive public transportation system, it is constantly ranked in the top three cities with the worst traffic in the world. I experienced this first hand when I was attempting to take a taxi to watch a Muy Thai fight at Rajadamnern Stadium. Even though the stadium was about 15km from my hotel, I sat in the taxi cab for about 3 hours as we slogged our way through the city. The only saving grace was that public transportation was so cheap that it only cost me 200 Thai Baht ($6 USD) for the trip.
Muy Thai Kickboxing is considered to be a national sport in Thailand. It is a unique style of fighting that has served as inspiration to many fighters who currently fight in the UFC. In this video, I attended a Muy Thai event in Bangkok that was sponsored by none other than the Royal Thai Army. This particular event featured many local fighters who were looking to make a name for themselves in the industry. I apologize if the video is shaky as I was attempting to remain inconspicuous as I didn't want to draw attention to myself and my camera.
In Thailand, many people do not own a car and must rely on public transportation in order to get from one place to another. While Bangkok does have a efficient metro system, one of the traditional ways to get around the city via a Tuk-Tuk. These vehicles can be best described as a hybrid of a golf-cart and a scooter. For the western traveler, tuk-tuk's are a cheap alternative to the traditional taxi. However, as seen in this video, they are not always the safest.