In a land full of new experiences, here are some we recommend.
Travel is about new experiences. If you’re headed to Thailand, you probably already know and believe that. Here are a few experiences that we encourage you to include.
Get a full, traditional Thai massage. You can get a perfectly pleasant and relaxing massage for very little money on the beaches and elsewhere. But for just a bit more, you can luxuriate in a full 2-hour treatment of massage, steam bath, aromatic oils. (“Traditional” means “non-sexual”. The other kind is readily available, too.)
Try new foods. You needn’t go so far as munching on fried insect larva. But do try to expand your repertoire. Make it a goal to try something each day that you haven’t eaten before.
Visit a go-go boy bar, at least if you’re gay. If you’re gay, perhaps that was the whole reason you’re heading for Thailand in the first place, in which our suggestion is superfluous. But even if nightlife isn’t normally your thing, and you hadn’t planned such a stop, go anyway. You only live once.
Go to a drag performance. A good one. Calypso, a long-running show at Bangkok’s Asia Hotel, is among the best. Forget the lip-syncing drag shows you may have seen in the U.S.; the best of Bangkok’s shows are extravaganzas. Cross-dressing is far more accepted in Thailand than in the U.S. A top kick-boxing star was a transvestite in the mid-nineties. Most of the audience is likely to be straight.
Eat a durian, if they’re in season. Considered by many to be the foulest-smelling yet best-tasting food in the world, this fruit has achieved something of a cult status in parts of southeastern Asia. You won’t have many chances in your life to see what it’s all about. If the opportunity arises, hold your nose, and dig in.
Get out of Bangkok. You wouldn’t think someone had seen the U.S. after visiting Manhattan, would you? (Okay, if you’re a New Yorker, you might think so.) Bangkok is a vibrant, exciting part of Thailand, but represents only part of a larger and very diverse society. The ancient capital of Ayuttaya, or the notorious “Bridge over the River Kwai”, can be seen in day trips from Bangkok, if that’s all the time you have.
Give those squat toilets a try. We’ve heard of Americans getting constipated because they didn’t want to use an unfamiliar item. Don’t wait for an emergency. Get accustomed to squat toilets whenever the opportunity arises, so you won’t be flustered when you need one in a hurry. Our squat toilets page will prepare you.
Bargain. If you’re not used to it, the prospect seems intimidating, or rude, at first. Pretty soon, it will be fun.
Use local guides, at least occasionally, if you’re traveling independently. They’re inexpensive, they’ll help you get around faster and make better use of your time, and they’ll add to your understanding of each site you visit. A guide can also help you select some new foods to try, without going overboard. You can arrange guides through your hotel, or a tourism office.
Go to Thailand with your suitcase half-empty. Clothing is inexpensive at the markets, and it’s easy to find the light-weight cotton that works best in this climate. You’ll also want luggage space for gifts to bring home.
Have lunch at the Oriental Hotel. It’s considered the best hotel in the world. And you can have lunch there for no more than you’d pay at a run-of-the-mill restaurant in Manhattan.