Squid on a Stick & Monkey Islands: 9 Tips For Your First Visit to Thailand

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Heading to Thailand for the first time and need some ideas? After spending time in Chiang Mai, Bangkok and the beach town of Pranburi, I’ve got some tips to share with you. But the most important advice: EAT! Eat as much of the street food as you can physically manage, walk around for 15 minutes and then go eat MORE. Don’t worry, you can’t get fat–it’s so damn steamy and humid in Bangkok that you sweat off the calories as soon as you’ve ingested them. So on that note…

-Eat all the street food you can, try everything, just point and smile. It is almost always 1 or 2 US dollars for your meal, no joke, and it’s totally clean and safe. Neither me or my partner got sick once during our time in Thailand (touch wood). For a wealth of information, reviews and recommendations, I rely on Mark Wien’s fantastic and in depth Thai food blog.

-As weird and intriguing as it may seem, do not try the durian fruit–it smells bad and tastes even worse! My opinion, but still. Of course now that I’ve said this, you’ll want to try it even more, so when you do, just avoid experimenting with this freaky fruit in an enclosed area–in fact, it is illegal to have durian on public transport and in many public spaces in Thailand! Yup, that’s how much this fruit stinks.

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-In Bangkok, try to visit the “food court” at the market by the National Stadium, as well as the food court with a kickass view (and plenty of cool local, indie designer boutiques) at the Terminal 21 mall, a very cool airport-themed mall where the food choices will make your jaw drop. We easily spent half a day here just eating and staring out the window. Highly recommended experience.

-Opt to pay a bit extra to have AC in your hotel, hostel or Airbnb if possible, as it is just so constantly muggy and hot, and I am saying this after going there straight from India, where I mostly did not have AC.

-If you seek a calm, inexpensive, non-touristy beach resort near Bangkok, check out Blue Beach resort in Pranburi. It’s just a 3-hour mini van ride from Bangkok. Go to the resort’s website for help with directions, etc. Near the resort, there’s a real live monkey island you can visit! Just ask to borrow the free kayak for guest use.

-Whether in the city or at the beach, use good sun screen all the time and wear a hat and shades. The sun is very hot and strong, especially if you’re in the water. I usually tried to head outside only after 5 p.m. if I wanted to do some exploring because the heat and humidity was too much for me before that time of day.

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-If you’re going into temples, you’ll need to be modestly dressed, so for the ladies, take a scarf and some of those long, loose pants (you can buy them anywhere on the streets) so you don’t have to pay to “rent” clothes at the temple entrance. One must-see temple: Wat Arun, which you can reach by river ferry; it’s also a really refreshing and scenic ride.

-Always bargain with the tuk tuk drivers. But also try to have your hotel address or destination written in Thai because many drivers do not understand English. You can even have the driver call the number (they usually have a cell phone) of your hotel or Airbnb to get directions.

-For flying around the region, Air Asia is an excellent low cost airline. But always check out Kayak.com or Google Flights to compare with other airlines. If you’re not in a rush, take the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. You can do the overnight train with AC sleeper cabin for about $50 per person, and you’ll get lovely views of the lush green landscape.

Have you ever been to Thailand? Do you have any juicy tips for first-time visitors to Thailand?

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