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After approximately one week back from roaming Thailand, I find myself combing through my travel notes, all of which are scribbled and crammed on a variety of writing surfaces in a variety of scripts. I’ve chosen the following observations to share:
1. Despite the unifying characteristics that make each area Thai, I found each destination to have distinct regional differences. I loved picking up on the subtleties, be it in the food, the accent of the people or the dress of the children, each spot we hit offered something distinct to investigate. I suggest really taking advantage of this opportunity when crossing the country. See something interesting? Want to eat something you haven’t seen yet? Do it. It may be your only opportunity.
2. On average, there was a kind stranger to help along each new path. Be respectful, be polite and there’s a good shot they will come. (Respectful and polite include not showing forms of aggression and frustration in public).
3. I highly recommend anyone heading towards areas in Thailand rarely visited by Foreigners to either have a good grasp of speaking or reading Thai language. Tak specifically proved to be a challenge for me despite having little to no problems anywhere else in the country. Did I have these issues speaking with Thai nationals or those from various Hill Tribes and/or Myanmar/Burma? No clue.
4. Many areas including fairly large cities may have historical sites and national parks within proximity, but that doesn’t mean they have the transportation to get you there. The closer you are to a city highly trafficked by Foreigners (i.e. Bangkok and Chiang Mai), the easier this seems to become. For example, Buriram has nothing but Kanchanaburi has tour companies, etc. You may be able to hire a tuk tuk driver but I don’t recommend it for sites more than a half hour away or for long periods of time unless you’re not on a budget. Why? On average they’ll exploit you shamelessly with pricing.
5. Not all cities have taxis. They may have tuk tuk and motorcycle taxis for short distances, but don’t rely on a standard car taxi to take you an hour outside of the city with your luggage. What this means is, if you can find someone to take you where you need to go, should it be a longer distance, good luck finding a reasonable price. Often these guys work all day, every day together, so no one is going to grossly undercut the other. There may be a bus or minivan that will take you to your desired location, but depending on your arrival time to the outward bus station, transportation may have stopped running for the day. This happened to me when I hit Suphanburi at around 6:00 pm and wanted to get to Kanchanaburi which was only a couple of hours away. As I have an aversion to hustlers almost to the point of contempt coupled with the fact that there was probably a slim chance of even finding one in a tuk tuk to take my friend and I to Kanchanaburi, we opted for staying overnight in Suphanburi, a destination I hadn’t heard of, and had a great time.
6. In larger cities like Bangkok where taxis are a major mode of transportation, it is possible to hire a taxi for long trips typically reserved for bus or train. For example, a friend of mine hired a taxi and driver for close to a week to come to Buriram, which is 5.5 hours from Bangkok. He paid for gas/petrol, allotted the driver a daily wage and covered his accommodation/hotel fees. The driver was on call. I suggest you research some forums for price suggestions (most taxi drivers will negotiate).
Have more to add? Please do!
Check my interview with Alex Martin of Off The Path Travel to learn more about traveling Thailand off the beaten path.
For Thailand hotel reviews, travel information and tips, check out Backpacking Thailand, my free Thailand resource.