Thailand: Greatly Overrated

Tample of Dawn, Bangkok

If you’re over 50, have a pot belly, not much left of your hair, ill-fitting dentures, puny fixed monthly income and you never were all that successful with the opposite sex anyway – I see how you then may find the idea of retiring in Thailand appealing. From the expats observed in two largest cities, no foreigner will find it too difficult to find a companion who will make him feel better about himself and about life in general. However, if you don’t (yet?) fall in any of the above categories, you may discover that things here aren’t quite as they were painted for you in the glossy travel brochures or on many websites.

Sukhothai

First, there is the famous Thai food. In the capital as in the northern city of Chiang Mai good eats can be found easily, not just Thai but international cuisine as well. But, try to venture into the rural areas and you will be disappointed as everything is either too spicy, too greasy, or – more often than not – both. In a large border town of Mae Sot, it is impossible to obtain good food at the largest hotel. If you cycle downtown, you’ll find 4 or 5 places to choose from, none of them all that great. Trying to order room service is a major challenge as my Thai is about as good as their English (mind, you, I don’t speak any Thai at all).

Thai food: main ingredient

Now, what about those friendly natives and their hospitality? Well, the hotel staff certainly appears tourist-friendly which is understandable as tourism is a major revenue source here. Communication is difficult but market vendors use calculators to show their asking prices, then you haggle as best you can until you pay the price you consider fair or walk away. You seldom see any old people anywhere, which makes one wonder whether the lifespan is that much lower here than in the U.S. or if old folk don’t venture outside much. Children are everywhere, some of them sent to beg on the street, others often seen working, but during the day most appear to be going to school.

Girl panhandling, Mae Sot

The sound of Thai language is something I won’t miss one bit. People here are screaming their heads off even if they are standing next to each other, especially women whose high pitched voices are thoroughly annoying. This is something that improves as people get educated and learn to control and better modulate the sounds they make, because TV anchors and interviewed college professors or business executives seem to speak just fine.
Yesterday’s incident by the pool reminded me that this still is very much a Third World, or – as politically correct people would prefer us to say – a developing country. There was this beautiful butterfly batting its wings very close to my long chair and I stayed still trying not to scare it away. A local juvenile jumped from his seat and killed it to loud applause of his friends. What kind of a degenerate kills a butterfly?! Most likely the kind that learned no respect for living things around him and who’ll graduate to kicking dogs for fun and from there it’s just a small step to beating up his sister, his wife, or his mother. Seriously, on my only outing to town, I have seen a grown man repeatedly kick a dog and laugh at its yelping. I resisted a temptation to walk over, kick his sorry ass and see just how gratifying that would be. Instead, I stopped going to town altogether.

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

Holed up in my hotel room, I am counting days to my flight out of Thailand. I like its tropical climate and its green scenery but other than that, this place has been greatly overrated as far as I’m concerned.

Scenic mountains between Tak and Mae Sot

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17 Responses to Thailand: Greatly Overrated

  1. sartenada says:

    I have been in Thailand with my wife. We did not have any problems. It is just like any other tropical country.

    I have two photos from Thailand in my About me-page and videos in YouTube.

    • You are right. It is just like any other country. It’s just been hailed as so much more, at least in the U.S. Also, I imagine it’s a different experience if you visit the place briefly and different if you stay for weeks on end and after a while it starts dragging.

  2. Paul says:

    It’s a shame. But I’d still like to visit, once.

  3. iloveit says:

    Thailand is like any other country around the globe. The food there might be spicy or greasy, but the food is traditional and so taking out the spice would mean it wouldn’t be their food that they eat. And just because there are tourists in the country doesn’t mean they should change their way of life to revolve around you. Thailand might be classed as a third world country as many people don’t have enough money for food. It may seem uneducated but the country isn’t exactly a rich country and many people do have to turn to begging as an option. Yes, many people might not be able to speak English. But just because English is a widely spoken language doesn’t mean every one in the world should have to learn it. If you want to communicate with the people and the locals, as you are in THEIR country why don’t you learn to speak THEIR language instead expecting them to know yours? You might think that the people speak very loudly, but it’s their way of life and the way they live that way. As well just because you see someone doing something that is wrong, doesn’t mean you can give the country a bad name. I am sure there are many people just like that in the UK or in America. As for the old people, the life expectancy has nothing to do with how many old people you see walking down the street. I’m pretty sure the life expectancy of America will be going down with all the junk food there. I suggest that you shouldn’t visit if you feel that way about it, because all you are doing is giving it a bad name. You cannot downgrade the country just because you don’t like their way of living, and I’m pretty sure every single one of the people in that country is very happy and proud to be Thai.

    • First, thank you for taking time to submit your remarks concerning my blog entry on Thailand, which I visited in the Spring of 2011 during my 2-months business trip there. Now, let me address the points you are making in your comments one by one:
      1) “Thailand is like any other country around the globe.” – I beg to differ. I visited roughly a third of all the countries and found Thailand to be primary a haven for old deviants and perverts — like no other country I’ve been to.
      2) Like I mentioned, food in Bangkok is tasty and outside Bangkok is pretty awful on all accounts. That tells me that in the capital more effort is put into making it more palatable probably because of heavy economic dependence on tourism.
      3) I speak 6 languages and I’m learning the seventh, Thai not being on that short list. I certainly do not consider learning a language of the place where I will spend just short few weeks and to which I will never return. I do not expect the whole world to speak English either, but at the same time I do expect hotel personnel to be able to communicate with guests, even if it’s only in a very rudimentary way. I find that Vietnam, Cambodia, China, and Thailand do not have enough competent hospitality service cadre or maybe they just don’t care. Malaysia and Singapore seem to have overcome that hurdle quite nicely.
      4) Yes, women do screech. Loudly. Everywhere. I am not saying it is wrong, merely super annoying.
      5) My blog is nothing more than my very subjective observations. They may contrast with the rosy media portrayals of the place but they certainly do not “downgrade” anything or anyone. It is what it is: overrated.
      6) As for “proud to be Thai” it makes as much sense as “proud to be a Texan” — what have you done to accomplish such a feat? Being of this place or that is a coincidence and cannot possibly instill pride, only nationalistic and jingoistic chest-beating kind of “pride” and that’s not such a good thing, methinks.
      Again, that you for your comments.

      • Bob says:

        I agree that thailand is not like every other country, but thats because all countries are different. Im pretty sure that there are perverts everywhere else in the world aswell. I think that what this person was trying to was that even though the media always capture thailand in a negative way but they are still proud of their country?

      • GG says:

        “You cannot downgrade the country just because you don’t like their way of living”. Actually you can. If you don’t like they way people treat animals in a country you can mention it in a blog. Whether you should generalise off a few experiences is another thing.

        Phuket seems to have a population of retired English middle aged men who are disgusting.

  4. Anne says:

    It is overrated because it has changed a lot recently. Thailand used to be populated mainly by gentle Buddhist peasants. Children were educated to these values until mass tourism, quick profits and industrial development took over.
    Why bother spending your day breaking your back on rice field when you can sell an ersatz of Pad Thai noodles to tourists who don’t know any better for double money?.
    Who cares if you employ Burmese massage girls with no training to massage German legs whom never been massage ?
    What’s the point of sticking to the original recipe of traditional Thai food and using 16 different herbs and spices for a green curry when you serving it to Middle East sex-tourists and can easily get away with 4 ingredients and make more profit ?
    Thailand is overrun by capitalism, short-term vision and profit and the one who don’t comply to these new rules are going to be left on the side of the road to profit

  5. Roy Rolston says:

    I’m here now, reading these reviews and I was so excited to come as it seemed every American I knew couldn’t wait to give their lonely planet book. I have yet to pay less than 800 baht….or $25 us for a meal. I’m going broke despite promises I could live like a king on a backpackers budget. Lies. I hate leaving the resorts for fear I’m being swindled with every purchase, taxi, or boat ride. I spent 10 grand on my honeymoon in Italy….mad expensive….yet I loved every moment. I have some great pictures from here…bangkok, phuket and krabi, but I might have a lasting bad taste in my mouth for life too. Most overrated place ever considering I spent 20 hours on a plane. Backpackers, hippies and perverts can have Thailand back.

  6. J says:

    What to say? Had a long time gf from Thailand (met her here, not in Thailand). Ups and downs like any other relationship. After the split, visited a few times. Interesting in some ways but the culture is very set in concrete. The absence of colonisation is a plus in many respects, but it also contributes to a pig headed pride in the people. Unless elite educated, Thais are labourers or whores when they work overseas. Filipinos are often nurses, definitely the case in Australia. Everyone looks down on Filipinos, but they speak the global language. Like it or lump it, English is the global business language. If you genuinely have an affinity for Thai culture, then go for it. Visit there, lie there, whatever. I’m over it. I’ll never return. Good luck!

  7. John Ishmael says:

    I`ve lived and worked in Bangkok for 25 years now. With regard to the language, yes Thai women do tend to have a rather shrill, nasal accent but this is only really noticeable during excited conversation. The language itself is actually quite easy to learn with it`s very simple grammar. The biggest hurdle for a Westerner is becoming attuned to the five different tones. Learning to read and write Thai is no more difficult than any other language and Thai is a logical language. Because I understand the Thai language, I have heard Thais say some very derogatory things about Westerners standing only a few feet from them. Not good. Nationalism, rather than patriotism, is encouraged in Thailand and to be honest I think it`s over the top as quite a few Thais do have racist tendencies, especially towards the Burmese migrant workers. There are still a lot of genuinely nice Thai people as well though. Thailand is a feudal society and though it has never been colonised by a military power, it has been from within by Han Chinese immigrants who make up the super wealthy elite running the country, and in effect are the overlords of the ethnic Thais. These rich puu yais as they are known literally get away with murder due to their enormous wealth and serious corruption within the police, judiciary and politicians. As for Thai food, some of it is nice, mainly the seafood, and some not so friendly to western palates, usually due to the liberal use of fresh coriander as an ingredient. If you come to live here you really need to leave your western values behind in the airport departure lounge because the culture in Thailand (and other Asian countries) is completely alien to many in the west. The sex tourism industry is very localised and out of view to most people. Thais tend to be rather conservative and many disapprove of the seedier side of life in Thailand. Overall though, it`s not a bad place to live as long as you learn to adapt to Thai ways.

    • Thank you for your insightful comments.
      When I visited Cambodia, I learned about the long standing hostilities between the Thai and the Khmer people. As for the Burmese, the refugees from Myanmar are mistreated and often enslaved by the Indonesian, the Malaysian, and the Thai alike. The worst faring are of course the Rohingya, but that’s a topic for another blog entry altogether.
      Over my lifetime I lived in five countries, so different in language and culture from one another: Belgium, Poland, Mexico, Haiti, United States. I therefore wholeheartedly agree that it’s easier for someone who adapts well.

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  9. Khnom says:

    Thailand suffers from exaggerated anticipations and idealized myth-building on the part of the tourists. The exoticism, live and let live atmosphere, and the dream of a super easy life combine in tourists minds. They form a dream of Thailand as a place where they can come, do whatever they want in excess and the friendly little brown people will pick them up, sooth their brows, and gently tuck them in like ole mom used to do. The dream is a modern place with a South Seas core where food falls off trees and one can sleep on the beach.

    That is the idealized image concocted as the tourist puts down big bux and 20 hours to get here by plane. Upon arrival, he expects to be treated like a sultan, babied by all, and slipped into 5-star digs and food for ten dollars a day. He expects all to bow to him as he shouts his demands in English, points with his feet, and sneers at Buddhism.

    Then, the would-be sultan hits reality and finds shattered dreams are the worst. He wants revenge and writes ignorant, selfish, unfair negativity to try to get even with a nation and a culture he found, to his Western surprise, does not care what he thinks at all. These typists are sad, sour people whose world view ends a half inch from the end of their noses.

    • I agree with your opinion of Western tourists expectations. I also would like to clarify that I went to Thailand not as a tourist but for work. My work consisted, among other goals, of improving lives of many people who lived in horrible conditions in rural areas. I stayed there for 6 weeks and did not get to enjoy 5-star amenities, nor did I expect them. I certainly was not “treated like a sultan” but more like a potential source of cash and with disdain that was palpable. My comments are, by nature, subjective. I write about what I see and experience. Furthermore, if you don’t care what we observe or think, why even bother commenting? Isn’t it a bit insincere and hypocritical? If you want a more positive image of your country, you need to contribute to it. Don’t sell your daughters into prostitution. Treat visitors with respect. Then, the whole world will be a better place for all.

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