Thursday, July 5, 2012

Traveling Friends- Thailand

A few months ago, my best friend's brother, Daven took a month to do a trip around the world. He kept a blog along the way and I truly enjoyed reading his updates. As soon as I found out that Thailand was one of his stops, I knew that I would be contacting him in the future to be our Traveling Friend. Luckily, I caught him just before a big move and he was kind enough to answer our questions and send us several photos. 

The following is our virtual interview and his photos. 

MSTG: What kind of animals did you see?

DAVEN: Monkeys, fish, lizards everywhere, crustaceans galore. Thailand is in the tropics and enjoys its fair share of interesting animal life. Many tropical rain forest plants, and coral reef organism can also be seen. 

A word of warning... never trust a monkey, they can be mischievous little buggers and I saw them steal food from a person's hand and a water bottle from a person's backpack. They are used to human food in tourist areas and are not shy about getting a free meal. 

MSTG: What do the houses look like?

DAVEN: Housing in Thailand is cheap for the most part. I stayed in Hostels that ranged from $5-12 a night and a lower level $25 a night hotel can include a pool and walking distance to the beach. 

Houses for local people are small and modest. Many are one or two room, about 20'x20' and include a small covered area outside. Many are made of concrete and have a tin roof. Most houses have running water, electricity and a toilet, but barely any have hot water, a/c, or a kitchen. Even most hostels did not have hot water or a/c, but it is too hot for hot water anyway, and simple fan does almost as good as a/c without the tremendous waste of energy. A lot of cooking is done outside with coals or wood fire. Many people in Thailand live on less than $2 per day and the average monthly income is around $150 USD give or take. Imagine a family of four getting by on this. Even a doctor in Thailand is likely to make less than $1000 a month. Not everybody in Thailand is poor though and still there are some very wealthy people with mansions near the beach, or penthouse apartments that overlook Bangkok. 

MSTG: What did you use for transportation during your visit?

DAVEN: Most of the time it is too hot to walk for more than a mile. Motorbike taxis are the cheapest way to get around and although you hop on the back of a tiny dirt bike and trust someone you do not know with your life, you can get a few miles away for a dollar or two.

Tuk Tuks are popular for tourists and are tiny trucks that can pack as many as four people into them, safer, but still tippy and the drivers are aggressive in the intense traffic.

Taxi Trucks are a great way to go someplace far. They are what we think of in the US as a "light duty" truck such as a Ford Ranger. They are open air in the back with a roof overhead and have two bench seats in the back. It will cost you a little more to get a ride but for a jouney of up to 30 miles, don't expect to pay more than $5-10.

Daven's Taxi Ride in Thailand.

Buses and planes are available in just about every price range and state of condition. I saw several buses broken down on the side of the road, but was fortunate to get everywhere I needed to go without major incident.

Long-tail boats are a great way to get from island to island and the prices vary greatly. If you book a boat that leaves on the hour you can pay four times as much than if you bargain early and wait for one to completely fill up.

Long Tail Boats
How Gasoline is sold in Thailand. 
MSTG: What was your favorite meal that you ate in Thailand?

DAVEN: Thai Food is amazing. My favorite is the Panang Chicken of southern Thailand. Very savory and nothing I have tried in the states comes comes to the intensity of flavors and the quality of chicken. Garlic shrimp is very good as well and a meal with a beer can be had for around $3-7 depending on how far you get from the tourist areas.

Panang Chicken
Garlic Shrimp
Shrimp, Chicken and Squid Stir-fry
Red Curried Chicken
Banana Crepe
Dragon Fruit
Rambutan, also called Velcro Fruit
Fresh Coconut
Bottled water comes in the plastic variety, but can be had much cheaper if you buy in a very thick and heavy returnable glass bottle. The glass bottles go back to the bottling plant and are reused in some cases hundreds of times.

The markets have food cooking at every hour and in Bangkok you cannot walk ten feet without smelling some new food. This of course mixes with the stink of a hot and overcrowded city and causes much confusion to your smellers.

MSTG: Did you see any good live music?

DAVEN: There was a great house band playing at the Pak Up hostel in Krabi Thailand. They were called "Mom and Dad Called" and they played mostly popular American music and Regae with a distinct Thai flavor added. I heard a few women signing in Thai as I walked past a house. I was surprised to hear that much of the music in Thailand has a slightly Western feel to it. I mean that popular music in Thailand sounds a little bit like popular music in America except in the Thai language with some variation and traditional instruments.

"Mom and Dad Called." 

MSTG: What were the children in Thailand doing?

DAVEN: Kids in Thailand can be seen everywhere. They are with their families at beaches, markets and being dragged down the crowded streets. Families go out a lot and usually travel by motorbike. I saw an entire family of four on one motorcycle (seriously), and another time I saw a family of probably seven or eight with grandma, grandpa and all three kids dispersed among three motorbikes.

I saw kids playing soccer in a field and on the beach, and saw little kids playing in the sand, rain and chasing monkees around on the beach.

I also saw kids break dancing on three different occasions and thought it was isolated incidents the first two times, but came to realize it is pretty big over there. There was actually a break dance competition in the Southern town of Krabi, and the kids were all ages and competing for cheers from the crowd and street cred It was impressive to see eight year olds doing head spins and ten year olds doing backflips and splits.

MSTG: Do you have any additional thoughts or information that you would like to share with us?

DAVEN: The best part about Thailand is the people. Everybody is genuinely nice, and would go to the ends of the Earth to ensure your comfort and happiness. Every person I met had a great smile and was quick to speak to me in English, even if they knew very little. I implore every person who goes to Thailand to be very respectful and to learn a little about the culture before going. It can be easy to commit social blunders and Thai people are too polite to tell you that you are ignorant to their customs.

The scenery and the islands of Southern Thailand are supremely beautiful and worth a visit if you end up anywhere near East Asia. If you can avoid the tourists and go during the shoulder season, it is much nicer and the resources are less stressed as well.

Thailand is an amazing place and I hope to get back there someday. The people, scenery and food are in a global class all to their own, and if you can handle motorbikes and a difficult to master language, it may be one of the best places to spend an extended portion of time.

Thank you so much Daven!

All of the photos are the property of Daven Stetson and were used with his permission for this post. You can read more about Daven's travels on the blog that he kept while he was traveling here, and you should! (Thailand wasn't the only place he visited.) 

If you want to see other Traveling Friends posts, be sure to check out Katie's trip to Scotland, Emily's trip to Cuba, Larry's trip to Peru, and Taryn's trip to Egypt.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome, Awesome, Awesome! Thanks so much to Daven and you for sharing!!


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