Latest Airbnb booking data has revealed growing interest in lesser-known destinations and eco-conscious cities across the globe, as Airbnb travellers look for new, local and authentic travel experiences beyond big cities. Thailand made #3 in the list and it’s not Bangkok, Phuket or Chiang Mai.
And Paris, London and Sydney are nowhere to be seen.
In Thailand, emerging destinations across the country are increasingly appealing to both domestic and international travellers. Case-in-point is Buriram (home of the Thai Moto GP) in Thailand’s north-east, saw 383% growth in bookings* year-over-year, propelling it into third place on Airbnb’s top 20 global destinations to visit next year.
Here are Airbnb’s 20 trending destinations for 2020 based on year-over-year growth in bookings*…
1. Milwaukee, WI, US
729% YoY increase
The host of next year’s Democratic National Convention, Milwaukee makes it to the top of our trending list. This historic gem on the shores of Lake Michigan often slips under the radar but has a terrific bar and restaurant scene and fascinating cultural attractions that include a Calatrava-designed art museum. And with over 105 miles of scenic bike lanes, it’s easy to see why Milwaukee is experiencing an upsurge in interest among guests on Airbnb.
2. Bilbao, Spain
402% YoY increase
Bilbao’s transformation from rust belt city to flourishing culture hub is truly remarkable. The city’s Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum put Bilbao on the map when it opened back in 1997. Since then the Basque city has been on an ever upward ascent, winning the European City of the Year in 2018. Visitors to the area are rewarded with a lively dining scene, breathtaking architecture and an unforgettable cityscape. Next year, Bilbao will also become a top destination for sports fans: it’s one of the host cities of Europe’s most beloved soccer competition.
3. Buriram, Thailand
383% YoY increase
The rural province of Buriram is home to some of Thailand’s most treasured Khmer relics. Its best known monument is the incredible Phanom Rung complex which is comparable in grandeur to its much more famous Cambodian neighbor, Angkor Wat. In addition to ancient ruins, the province has also become a sporting hotspot: 2018 saw the inaugural MotoGP motor racing event at the Chang International Circuit which also plays host to the Buriram Marathon each year. MotoGP is scheduled to return in March next year.
4. Sunbury, Victoria, Australia
356% YoY increase
A short drive northwest of Melbourne, the suburb of Sunbury is a popular spot with savvy locals thanks to its wildlife, wineries and Victorian-era architecture. Its biggest claim to fame is as the birthplace of cricket’s most sought-after trophy — The Ashes. In 2020, Sunbury looks to attract cricket fans from near and far as Melbourne will be hosting the ICC T20 World Cup.
298% YoY increase
Romania, with its pristine hills and ancient rural villages, is the perfect destination for anyone looking for something off-the-beaten-track. The country has some of the best preserved virgin forests in Europe and, according to the 2018 Environmental Performance Index, ranks 15th globally when it comes to ecosystem vitality.
6. Xi’an, China
255% YoY increase
Often cited as one of the birthplaces of Chinese civilization, Xi’an is best known as the home of the terracotta warriors — a vast collection of prehistoric clay soldiers discovered by local farmers in 1974. Today, the capital of China’s western Shaanxi province is a major culinary melting pot while its numerous historical monuments have earned it the nickname “China’s outdoor museum”. The ancient city plans a new offering in 2020: a tourism program that will introduce 30 nighttime tour routes throughout Xi’an with highlights including nighttime markets and performances.
7. Eugene, OR, US
213% YoY increase
This medium-sized city in the Pacific Northwest punches above its weight: many multinational businesses were launched in Eugene and the city has made a name for itself as a culinary hub in Oregon. Thanks to the surrounding natural beauty, Eugene has long attracted eco-conscious newcomers many of whom have helped make the city a hub for the organic food industry. Eugene’s eco credentials are also apparent in its commitment to going carbon neutral next year**. This green city is also a track and field destination, and will welcome athletes and spectators when it hosts national qualifying trials in summer 2020.
167% YoY increase
This diminutive European country packs a lot into its small landmass — the city of Luxembourg was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 thanks to its enchanting historic core, dramatically perched on a clifftop. Beyond the city itself, the country’s forested hills are home to medieval castles, rocky gorges, charming villages and superb vineyards.
9. Guadalajara, Mexico
158% YoY increase
Often overlooked, Mexico’s second city is steadily gaining the recognition it deserves. Guadalajara operates at a less frantic pace than Mexico City yet it has a wealth of attractions to reward visitors — from its colonial architecture in the hipster Chapultepec neighbourhood to an impressive selection of festivals and museums. Guadalajara’s green credentials are also worth noting: the local government has embarked on an initiative that encourages cyclists and pedestrians to reclaim public spaces normally dominated by cars.
140% YoY increase
Almost 2,000 miles east of Australia, this picturesque archipelago nation is home to rugged islands, deserted beaches and stunning Pacific wildlife. Vanuatu comprises over 80 islands and has the highest density of languages per capita in the world — over 100 native languages are spoken throughout the archipelago. The range of activities on offer are also diverse — from hiking up a volcano to world-class scuba diving.
11. Cali, Colombia
137% YoY increase
The world’s salsa capital not only offers energizing local music and dance, its rich Afro-Colombian heritage has also infused the city with a distinctive caleño culture. Cali has a real zest and an unmistakably electrifying atmosphere. This melting pot of indigenous, European and African cultures has a tropical party vibe and energizing nightlife — and at around 1,000 meters above sea level it enjoys a warm and breezy temperature during the day and a refreshingly cool one at night.
12. Cape Canaveral, FL, US
136% YoY increase
This Floridian cape is best known around the world as the site of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station but it also offers an incredible 72 miles of beachfront and three significant protected areas — Canaveral National Seashore, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Sebastian Inlet State Park. In July 2020, Cape Canaveral will be poised once again for the international stage — this time as the launch site of NASA’s Mars 2020 Exploration Program.
13. Aberdeen, Scotland
119% YoY increase
Aberdeen, located in northeast Scotland, is known as the Granite City thanks to the gleaming white stone that much of the city has been built with. Scotland’s third largest city has much to offer besides a striking cityscape: from fine dining, galleries and museums in the city itself, to rugged coastal scenery and romantic ruins in the surrounding countryside. And like many other destinations on our list, Aberdeen has major sustainability plans in place with the aim of drastically reducing carbon emissions.
14. Courtenay, BC, Canada
114% YoY increase
Courtenay, set in the charming Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, is the perfect starting point for outdoor adventurers. Surrounded by rolling mountains, alpine meadows and bohemian villages, this charming small city is another favorite with the eco-conscious traveler: the local authority has embarked on a number of initiatives to reduce its environmental impact including the adoption of targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
15. Ubatuba, Brazil
108% YoY increase
With over 100 beaches, the city of Ubatuba is the undisputed surfing capital of São Paulo state and hosts numerous surf championships throughout the year. Ubatuba and its surroundings have become popular with Paulistanos, who are attracted by a stunning coastline and pristine nature; the area also has scores of hiking trails that weave their way through lush Atlantic rainforest.
16. Les Contamines-Montjoie, France
108% YoY increase
The village of Les Contamines is a jewel at the heart of the Mont Blanc region. Nestled between the well known resorts of Chamonix and Megève, it’s the ideal base for mountain climbing in summer or for skiing in winter. The village is picture-postcard-pretty and features many old farm buildings that have been faithfully restored in the local Savoy architectural style.
17. Tokyo, Japan
103% YoY increase
While Tokyo might not be off-the-beaten track, it has deservedly secured a place in our top trending list thanks in part to the upcoming Summer Olympics. In July and August next year, Japan will play host to the world’s best athletes for the fourth time. The world’s largest metropolitan area has put in place a comprehensive strategy to ensure the Games are an environmentally-friendly event: reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions and using renewable energy, public transport and low-energy vehicles.
18. Kerala, India
95% YoY increase
For many travelers, Kerala is South India’s most enchanting state. With its palm-lined coast, rolling coffee plantations and stunning Arabian Sea views, Kerala is an oasis of calm in a country that moves at a busy pace. And with an impressive array of beaches, lakes, mountains and waterfalls, Kerala is home to some of the best eco-friendly destinations on the subcontinent. The state runs a Responsible Tourism program encouraging residents and visitors alike to enjoy the culture of the place while also conserving it.
19. Malindi, Kenya
88% YoY increase
This bustling coastal village is home to a multicultural melting pot of African, Arab and European residents, and stunning natural beauty. Dotted with brawny palms, this historical Kenyan port town introduces travelers to the country’s diverse aquatic wildlife in Malindi Marine National Park, making it an idyllic spot for divers. Known for its Swahili architecture, fresh-caught seafood, and natural wonders like the Marafa Depression – also known as Hell’s Kitchen — this pristine beach town is much more than a laid-back sunny retreat. The country at large is also making sizeable strides in preserving our planet: at the recent UN Climate Action Summit, Kenya pledged to plant two billion trees by 2021 and committed to accelerating energy efficiency by three percent each year.
20. Maastricht, Netherlands
55% YoY increase
In 20th position is Maastricht, a Dutch city with a wealth of historic buildings — more than any Dutch city outside Amsterdam. With its Roman history and a warren of narrow streets, Maastricht is also home to numerous museums and in March 2020 will play host to one of the worlds largest art fairs — TEFAF Maastricht.
*Based on internal Airbnb data for bookings made for 2020 as of September 2019 vs. bookings made for 2019 as of September 2018.
**According to Eugene’s Climate Recovery ordinance which is committed to making all City of Eugene owned facilities and operations carbon neutral by 2020, meaning no net release of greenhouse gas emissions.
Judge Kanakorn Pianchana, another victim of the southern insurgency
Five men were awaiting the judge to hand down his verdict. Charged with murder and facing either life imprisonment or a death penalty, or being acquitted. On October 4 Judge Kanakorn Pianchana, at the Yala Provincial Court, announced the five men were acquitted, in a 25 page document. What was to follow was both profound and tragic.
The judge claimed, as he wound up his reading of the acquittal, that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict the five Muslim defendants with the murder charges, claiming that his ‘superiors’ had pressured him to convict them and impose capital punishment.
Then he reached into the pocket of his black judge’s gown, drew a pistol and shot himself in front of a startled court room.
“My words might be as light as a bird’s feather but my heart is as heavy as a mountain.”
“Return the verdicts to the judges. Return the justice to the people.”
His final words before shooting himself have been ringing around Thai social media and judicial circles ever since as Thais ponder what in earth is going on in the courtrooms of the insurgency-plagued southern provinces, indeed any court in Thailand.
Kanakorn Pianchana luckily survived the shooting, was rushed to the provincial hospital and was released last week after visits from officials and the obligatory staged photo opportunities during the presentation of flowers to the patient.
The incident, apart from the immediate impact on the judge’s health and his family, draws broad attention to the two decades of civil strife in the south, ironically described by Thai officials as the ‘restive South’. Buddhists and Muslims are in a real-life battle for real estate in the disputed southern-most provinces of Narithawat, Pattani and Yala. Once a Malay Muslim sultanate, the three provinces were annexed by the Thai kingdom in the early 20th century. But the earlier passive resistance has given way to a bloody insurgency since 2004.
Some 6,000-7,000 people have been killed by militants since the early 2000s, with heavy-handed military law being imposed on the hapless residents for at least 15 years. The scale of the dramatic violence is comparable with deaths in the Gaza Strip conflict, but far less known or understood by foreign media.
The targets are teachers, judges, academics, soldiers and religious leaders – from both faiths. Framing the conflict merely as a land dispute belies the tetchy religious friction between the Malay Muslims and the southern Buddhist Thais.
In many parts of Thailand’s south, even the tourist island of Phuket, there is a mixture of Buddhists and Muslims living peacefully together in a tolerant version of ‘Thai’ Islam with Thai Buddhists whose religious principals generally embrace freedom of worship.
Not so in the deep south where Muslim insurgents, many who travel over the open borders into Thailand, have waged a violent civil war against mostly completely innocent southern residents. The border, whilst patrolled with checkpoints, is an easy swim across a small stream in some locations, or a trek across the hills in others.
A few hundred kilometres to the north are the tourist-magnet beaches of Krabi and Phuket, some of the most popular tourist destinations in south east Asia. Yet a few hours drive south the situation changes dramatically with armed militia at checkpoints, barbed wire, sandbags and lots of questions. Successive governments have tried to downplay the problems whilst quietly trying to engage in unproductive peace-talks.
Both sides have drawn lines in the sand that prevent any beneficial progress towards lasting peace. On the part of the Muslim insurgents, the actual key figures and ‘money’ behind the two decades of attacks, is particularly hard to identify, making contact and plans for productive talks complex or impossible.
Both the seats of the Malaysian and Thai governments are a long distance from the troubled region – in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. The Malay government, whilst politely sending along various ‘government’ negotiators over the years, have been less than forthcoming in engaging with the Thai government for a solution.
So, the ‘ Deep South’, the ‘Restive South’, or just southern Thailand, remains a potentially dangerous zone with little support and a ‘law unto itself’ attitude where corruption can thrive.
Mr. Kanakorn, a judge a the Yala Provincial Court for 17 years, openly accused the Thai army of using forced confessions and torture to condemn Muslims and push through their sentences. He cited many times his verdicts were subverted by superiors who lacked a full understanding of the evidence in cases.
Regional chief justices are allowed to review verdicts before they are read out in court – a quaint Thai judicial tradition following the country’s patriarchal line of authority.
In the case at hand, Mr. Kanakorn claimed he carefully considered the cases of all five defendants, accused of killing five others in June 2018. He concluded there were insufficient grounds to convict them.
“But the regional chief justice of a part of southern Thailand sent a secret letter ordering me to punish the five defendants.”
He neglected to name names.
Mr. Kanakorn explained at a hearing in August, addressing the defendants and their families, that he wanted to acquit the men but was “being pressured from above to convict”. He delayed the reading of a verdict for another two months.
Relatives of the defendants, gathered to hear the verdict on their family members, have explained to the media they had no idea what was about to unfold after the reading of the verdict on October 4. At first, according to people in the court, he asked the court reporter and other provincial legal officials out of the court room. He then ordered a guard to lock the main door.
The judge then set up two mobile phones set to stream the verdict and then spent the next hour delivering his deliberations. People were knocking at the doors of the courtroom and the judge’s phones continued to ring, still streaming, as the judge handed down a verdict he clearly disagreed with, and was prepared to end his life as a consequence.
In amongst the deliberations, the judge spoke about the low wages for judges, about 75,000 baht per month, and the opportunities the low wages presented for judges to have their opinions and final verdicts swayed.
At the conclusion of the unfolding drama, as people outside the courtroom continued to bash on the locked doors, the judge simply said… “This is the end.”
One of the people in the court said that, at this stage, the judge “looked totally exhausted.”
Mr. Kanakorn stood up, turned and bowed to framed portraits of the Thai monarchy adorning the walls of the courtroom, casually reached into his black judicial robes, pulled out the gun and shot himself.
At this stage, given the acquittal of the five men, the five still languish in a Yala prison. The families have been told that the prosecution will appeal Mr. Kanakorn’s verdict of acquittal in the murder cases. Bail has been set at 500,000 baht for each man, an amount of money well beyond the reach of a poor southern family.
The story has drawn widespread sympathy for Judge Kanakorn Pianchana and put additional focus on Thai judicial corruption and, locally, justice ‘southern style’.
Top 5 reasons why Aussies choose medical tourism in Thailand
“With more than 15,000 Aussies travelling to Thailand each year for medical tourism, the country is a burgeoning market for cosmetic procedures. There are numerous Thai doctors who already have more than a 90% Australian client base. The landscape is certainly changing when it comes to price, surgical quality, convenience and post-recuperation.”
Darren Lyons from medical information site MyMediTravel has seen an influx of Australian medical patients flocking to Thai destinations; from Bangkok to Phuket. And the facts don’t lie.
Australians are now spending in excess of US$300 million on a variety of diverse treatments from rhinoplasty and facelifts to breast augmentation and even cardiology. Due to an ageing population and long waiting lists, many Aussies are turning to Thailand to help them achieve their healthcare goals. So, what are the five main reasons Australians are heading all the way up to South East Asia for their medical and cosmetic requirements?
1. Exclusive Hospitals
Groundbreaking technology across Thai hospitals and clinics are a real attraction for medical tourists. Heavy investment into Bumungrad International Hospital and Bangkok Hospital Bangkok in the capital makes them two of the largest private medical facilities in the country which has seen an influx of Aussie patients.
The latter utilizes Specialist Beam Surgery to treat cancer patients whilst open heart surgery is becoming popular thanks to Off-Pump Coronary Artery Bypass or OPCAB. Meanwhile, an entire sports injury rehab wing exists where a host of Australian sports stars from soccer, Aussie Rules and boxing have been successfully treated. There is even an on-site shopping center and a McDonalds!
Across the 60-plus JCI-accredited hospitals, hotel style amenities also attract Aussie patients looking for state-of-the-art medical services. Since 2013, Bumungrad Hospital has treated more than a staggering one million patients including more than 10,000 from Australia.
Catering to international patients’ needs, hospital wards have transformed into plush buildings filled with luxury amenities. These feature dedicated check-in, complimentary lounges, travel agents for arranging visa extensions and boutique style rooms. Accommodation comes complete with separate living room, en-suite, kitchen and WIFI providing the opportunity for family and visitors to stay.
2. Healthcare Standards
Adhering to US international standards of care, Australians have realised the potential for quality healthcare in Thailand. The patient to nurse ratio is also another key factor with Australian patients receiving one nurse per eight patients compared to Thailand where it is one nurse per four patients.
Travel has never been easier and more cost-effective for Australians benefitting from direct routes to the region. Thai Airways provide non-stop flights daily to Bangkok from major cities including Sydney and Melbourne. There’s also direct flights into Phuket from the east coast cities (with JetStar). Once in Thailand, international patients can select a range of affordable internal airlines offering flights to stunning beach resorts and tropical locations such as Koh Samui and Phuket.
Enticing prices on treatment sees Australian patients save around 30%-40% across a wealth of procedures with identical medical care and drugs. With increasing competition to keep prices low, this fiercely-competitive market is a haven for patients. For example, a facelift in Australia costs around A$10,000 whilst facelifts in Thailand are priced around A$4,200.
5. Global Destination
Thailand has recently established itself as a global medical tourism destination turning over more than US$5 billion in the last five years alone. Australian patients are seeing the advantage of combining top-notch, price-busting cosmetic treatment with an unforgettable vacation that has seen half a million plus patients visit the region already.
Top 10 things NOT to do in Thailand (2019)
There are hundreds of things to do in Thailand and you’ll be spoiled for choice during your visit. But there are a few things that may be worth avoiding, despite being available, during your time in the Kingdom. If you also want a list of basic cultural faux pas, check this list out HERE.
So, in The Thaiger’s opinion, don’t…
1. Swim at the southern Andaman beaches in the low season
Every year about 50 or so people drown along Phuket’s west coast. Mostly in the wet season with the south-western monsoon kicking up the waves washing onto the island’s Andaman coast beaches. Sadly, it’s mostly Chinese and Russian tourists who end up getting into trouble. Krabi, Khao Lak, Phang Nga, Trang and southern islands also have their share of drownings and near-misses each year.
There’s a complicated litany of reasons for this carnage – many Chinese and Russian tourists, for example, can’t swim, the lifeguard patrols on many of the beaches are ‘patchy’, not enough information is provided to tourists about the dangerous rips along the west coast during the monsoon and whatever signage and flags that actually exists do little to deter tourists who seem determined to go swimming.
Most of the beaches have the red flags on display when the surf’s up but many of the flags are not new and the colour red, which in some western countries denotes ‘danger’ isn’t as effective in being a deterrent colour for the Chinese. In fact it’s the lucky colour for Chinese.
There is a clear and present danger of swimming on Phuket’s west coast during the May – November low season (which is also the most popular time for Chinese tourist arrivals).
For the Gulf of Thailand coastal areas in Hua His, Samui and other southern Gulf beaches, the windy weather is usually later in the year from October to December.
2. Hire a motorbike
You get off the plane, catch your passenger van to your hotel, check the minibar and then head out to find the nearest motorbike hire shop – there are hundreds around the main tourist spots anywhere in Thailand.
In most cases a passport will suffice (NEVER let your passport out of your sight, even when they’re taking a photocopy of your passport front page) as ID to allow you to hire a motorbike and take it out onto Thailand’s roads.
The roads in Thailand are some of the most dangerous in the world. If you’re under 30 years old, male and riding a motorbike your chances of having an accident are astonishingly high.
Have you ever ridden a motorbike before? Probably not. Do you have a motorbike driver’s license? Chances are slim. Were you taken for a short test to see if you can ride or handle a motorbike? Doubtful. Does your travel insurance cover you if you have an accident without having a valid motorcycle driver’s licence? I bet it doesn’t.
Still, it happens hundreds of time a day around the island and tourists, like lambs to the slaughter, head off into the craziness that is Thai traffic – sometimes shirtless, sometimes after drinking and sometimes without even the basic protection of a helmet.
Then we hear that the tourists have had some sort of horrific accident, end up in an international hospital, their insurance won’t pay for their medical care and we have another report on our website.
Bottomline, if you don’t have a motorbike driving license, have never driven a motorcycle or have been drinking just DON’T hire a motorbike in Phuket. Just don’t!
3. Go to tiger or animal shows
Reptiles, birds, crocodiles, tigers, dolphins and plenty of others. There are hundreds of shows where animals are performing for tourists. These aren’t zoos and usually cater for one particular type of animal. Is it OK to visit these shows. Well, in Thailand it’s absolutely legal to do so and the attractions are all licensed to operate under Thai law.
The question as to whether you SHOULD visit is up to you.
Tigers, of all wild beasties, are not born to sit, half drugged-up in chains, to have tourists patting them for selfies. Tigers are critically endangered everywhere in the world. Specifically, the Indochinese Tiger, the species we see in Thailand and surrounding south east asian countries, is a hunter and can inflict fatal injuries with a single swipe if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
An Australian was mauled at the Tiger Kingdom in Kathu, Phuket in 2015. He survived his injuries which opened up the front of his chest. The only upside about these tiger zoos is that they conduct (for all the wrong reasons) breeding programs to keep the species alive but the gene pool is very shallow so, in the long run, is not a sustainable method of breeding tigers.
Here’s an interesting blog from a westerner who volunteered at one of the Tiger shows.
4. Go to zoos
Many of Thailand’s zoos are not up to international standard and, like the elephant rides and tiger shows, have gone out of fashion with many western tourists. But ‘animals for entertainment’ is still a popular concept for many Asian and eastern European tourists – it’s a cultural thing.
The Thai zoos come up for constant criticism especially on platforms like Trip Advisor where pictures of poor conditions, lonely and skinny animals keep getting attention.
Voted by many Trip Advisor readers as one of the worst tourist attractions in Phuket – it routinely scores either one or two stars with comments that sound like the visitors have just come from an abattoir rather than a modern zoo.
Visiting a Thai zoo is like visiting one in the West in the 1950s when animals are crammed into unsuitable enclosures or cages with little care taken to keep the facilities clean. Many of the zoos smell, the animals don’t appear to be in the best of health and it’s simply a relic of a bygone era whereas modern zoos have changed dramatically to provide true educational opportunities and vastly superior, and more natural, enclosures for the animals.
5. Ride an elephant
Riding elephants in Thailand whilst you’re on tour here is just one of those things tourists have on their bucket list. In Phuket there are many, many elephant camps where you can see these wondrous mammals and, if you want, ride on their back through the forests. Generally frowned upon by western values, it’s still hugely popular in Asia and all the camps do a roaring trade.
The problem with elephants in Thailand is vexed with a well cared-for pachyderm living up to 60 years – the average age is 48 years. They used to work in the rainforests as beasts of burden but that work has now dried up with the banning of logging in most parts of Thailand so the elephants and their mahouts have gravitated towards the cities and tourist industry to make a living – elephants require quite a lot of food.
To say we should simply ‘set them free’ is an absurd suggestion and unpractical so a longer term solution needs to be found.
There are now new elephant ‘sanctuaries’ and retirement parks opening up around the country. They provide a more natural environment for humans and elephants to interact. Although these are really just an alternative pay-to-visit ’zoo’ (albeit a huge step up from the majority of elephant camps), we applaud their efforts and hope there’s more available soon.
There’s now also an even stricter code of conduct gaining popularity in wildlife circles whereby any contact between beast and human would be banned, even feeding and washing the elephants. We will see if this becomes a new norm.
6. Go running during the day
You like keeping fit, you run regularly in your home country and you’re on holiday where you can get a few extra kilometres under your belt as you explore. Except that it’s hot, really hot, most of the year, especially in the south. And humid.
In northern regions it does get a lot cooler in the ‘winter’ (around December and January), otherwise most of Thailand is just HOT most of the year.
All the marathons and running events held around Thailand start at 4 or 5am in the morning for good reason. It’s the only time of the day where you can run in relative safety. If it isn’t abundantly obvious that running in the heat of day is just plain dangerous you are going to learn the hard way.
Keep fit, by all means, but try your hotel’s gym or get up really early if you want to pound the pavement.
Same goes for any other types of sport where you’re going to exert yourself. You can get sick quite fast if you’re not used to the heat, and tourists do regularly.
7. Get in a taxi or tuk tuk before negotiating your fare
This is probably mostly important in tourist hot spots like Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Samui or Phuket. There are variations with taxi and public transport options – some locations do it better than others. Pattaya, for example, has the excellent ‘baht bus’ where you hop on and off and pay the driver 10 baht.
Bangkok too is generally taxi-friendly except that the traffic can be hideous around tourist traps around the city.
Meanwhile, getting a taxi or tuk tuk to go anywhere around Phuket is expensive, compared to anywhere else in Thailand and even some western cities. There’s a long history as to why taxis and tuk tuks are expensive and that’s a report for another day. The words ‘cabal’, ‘mafia’ and ‘extortion’ could be used in such an article, but we’ll leave all that for another day.
Your best bet if and when you’re going to use a taxi is to negotiate the fare before you get in. By all means bargain the stated price down as much as you can but make sure there is a firm understanding with the driver about the price before he turns the key.
By law, all taxis in Thailand are meant to use a meter. In Phuket it never happens. Never. ‘Meter not work’, blah, blah. In other parts of Thailand the meters appear to work a lot better, must be the humidity.
There has been decades of efforts by Government authorities, the Army and any number of well-meaning officials that has had precisely ZERO effect of the notorious taxis and tuk tuks in Phuket.
All you can do is accept that the prices are high and negotiate a fee, BEFORE YOU GET IN, wherever you are.
8. Sign contracts without advice from a qualified Thai lawyer
DON’T SIGN ANYTHING in Thailand without getting it checked over by a trusted and qualified Thai lawyer and advice from a western lawyer. You are conducting business in a foreign country, in a foreign language and there are thousands before you who have fallen foul of hastily or poorly prepared legal documents.
The list of stories over the years reporting on foreigners getting burned over contractual problems has filled Thailand’s newspapers and websites.
Guy meets girl. Girl and guy move in together. Guy decides he wants to buy a villa. Guy buys property under Thai GFs name (because foreigners can’t ‘own’ land in Thailand). Relationship goes sour. Thai GF vanishes and sells the house without telling ex-BF. And it gets worse from there.
Even if you’re signing a basic rental lease, get it checked by people who know the ropes of the Thai legal system. Check, check, check. And then check again.
9. Get in an argument with Thai police
You will always come off second best if you decide you’re going to challenge the boys-in-brown. Thai police have a job to do and, in most cases, do a sterling job given that a lot of the time (especially in places like Patong) foreign tourists do some REALLY stupid things.
Police in Thailand are, generally, poorly paid and there is a generation of police who still work their way up the system ‘buying’ higher positions in the police ranks so they can get a larger proportion of the ‘tea money’ (bribes) that are still rife in the system.
Whilst there are many, many efforts, made with the best intentions, the ‘system’ has been in place for many generations and corruption will still be around long after you’ve left the country. With all that said, if you get stopped for a minor indiscretion – not wearing your helmet or not carrying a valid license with you, etc – just pay up and go on your way.
Yes, you are feeding the pyramid of corruption but your other option is not paved with happiness. Ramp up the situation by insisting that you ’speak to the superior’ or go to the police station to voice your objection. You will come off second best, every time.
In a more serious situation, like a traffic accident or where someone’s been injured, you are best keeping your cool and insisting that a member of the tourist police or a consular official come to the scene before you do anything. At least make sure you call them before agreeing to ANYTHING.
DON’T get angry or get into an argument with the local police. Their English-language skills will probably be limited and they represent a system that can get you into a mountain of trouble, costs or jail if you don’t play your cards right.
10. Get your gear off
It’s hot and humid and you’ve come to Thailand for a swim. You’ve seen photos of bar girls in skimpy hot pants and a size-too-small singlets. You’re used to western values where topless bathing is acceptable.
Forget all this – you’re in Thailand and, despite the outwards acceptance of showing some flesh, it is still a deeply conservative country when it comes to what you wear and where you wear it.
There are plenty of double standards when it comes to this issue and you only really learn the subtleties after living here for a few years. The Thais will generally tolerate you wandering around shirtless in tourist zones but you don’t have to wander too far from the tourist hot-spots before the idea of ‘acceptable’ clothing changes quite quickly.
This becomes acutely apparent when it comes to visiting temples or anywhere there are images of members of the Thai Royal family or Buddha.
If you’re in any doubt about what the dress code is in any particular situation, ask a local.
Don’t, for example, wander down to the local Immigration office in your shorts, sandals and singlet and expect to get service – you won’t.
Going topless on a Thai beach will draw undue attention from the local constabulary, most likely resulting in a fine.
1. Have a quick read about the places you’re visiting and Thai customs on the internet. There are hundreds of sites that will spell out much the same mantra about behaviour, dos and don’ts. Here’s our LIST.
2. Do some homework about the places you want to visit, chat to other tourists and your hotel concierge about suggestions (although they’re usually on commission too)
3. If you are going to get into any business transaction consult a local lawyer plus a lawyer who speaks your language with experience in the transaction. Especially buying property.
4. Think before you act in most situations. You are in a foreign country and they truly do things differently in Thailand. The longer you live here, the more confusing it can seem. Turn your brain on before you hand over your money.
5. If you wouldn’t do it at home, don’t do it in Thailand, even if you can.
If you are looking to book a hotel in Thailand check out THIS link first.
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