We first visited Thailand in 2008 (5 years ago), on the way to live in Australia. We had packed up our life in the UK – gave up the lease on our flat, gave up our jobs, saved money and shipped items to our pal in Melbourne with dreams that we could see what was out there in the big-wide world. As it stood, we were both pretty green at this travel malarkey and hoped that a few weeks backpacking in Thailand on the way would help savvy us up a bit and also give us a very well-deserved break after all of our organising. Yet it seemed that our most recent trip (our third time there) was one of the best.
This time we had more money than our backpacking trip, which of course help when you’re making decisions about where to stay and when to travel, yet it seemed to be that researching Thailand before visiting made it seem much more of a satisfying trip. Rather than fretting about prices or directions, we got to enjoy the scenery and talk to people about things that weren’t related to us need to get or sleep somewhere.
First time round and armed with all manner of advice from backpacking friends, we headed of to Bangkok, arriving at the start of February to a wet humidity that neither of us was very prepared for. You could feel the moistness of the air as you breathed it in and we wondered how our wintered bodies would cope. Leaving the airport, we made the first mistake of many that I wouldn’t make on future trips and that was to walk straight into a sea of non-metered taxi drivers waiting to whisk you off to Khaosan Road at a price. We ended up paying nearly 10o0 baht (about £20!) plus tolls to get into the city. We were pretty sure we were being ripped off, but we so keen to get into town as it was so late that it didn’t matter in the end. Thai FAQ give some greats tips which I wish we’d known beforehand.
The Airport Rail Link from Suvarnabhumi to the city was still being built on that first visit and we could see the construction along the highway as we drove along, but we wouldn’t be able to use it until our third trip to Thailand in January 2013. Now, it’s located on the basement floor of the airport and costs about 45 baht taking 30 minutes to get to the city where you then get a connection to the city on the BTS skytrain. It was quick, cheap and fun (the ads painted on the inside are insane).
Advice from friends back then has suggested that you do not need to book any accommodation before you travel; instead, you can walk straight into a hotel or guest house armed with a travel guide and ask to see the rooms and discuss the rates. This seemed quite alien to me and our arrival to Kho Phangnan, we ended up staying in one of the first places we found (as the taxi was free from the port – a common hook) and taking one of the only rooms that was left, which cost us about £5 for the night and comprised of a mattress on the floor and a hose connected to a tap for the shower.
We spent the rest of our trip trying not to make the same mistake again and ended up staying in some gorgeous places, but only because we asked and looked around and didn’t always consult the guidebook.
This time round we researched on-line to find hotels and guest houses meaning that we had more time to investigate the areas we were staying in, plus find deals and that took away the haste of planning in favour of a style of slow travel.
It really helped having a smart phone and lots of access to wi-fi this time around. The first time we went smartphones were only just taking off and weren’t for the likes of a poor traveller. You can’t move for the amount of free wi-fi and devices to hook to it now and it makes research on the go so much easier. We found the Trip Advisor app really useful, and also entertaining to read the comments that people had left behind on various places to stay. My favourite was a comment on the beautiful Kireethara Boutique Resort, where a reviewer had helpfully complained that “if you step on one of the floorboards, it squeaks.” Well, quite. Maybe there were some advantages to experiencing Thailand without research first!
Thanks for reading this and we’d love to hear what you wish you knew when you first went travelling. Tell us about it below!