Thailand is known the world over for its tropical beaches, ancient ruins, delicious food and friendly locals. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone with a taste for adventure or a case of wanderlust who hasn’t got Thailand on their must-visit hit-list.
‘The Land of Smiles’ has so much to offer that a holiday here is never enough. I was lucky enough to spend 14 months living on the paradise Island of Koh Phangan and here’s the top five reasons I loved it so much…
1. The Food
Food in Thailand is important. If you want to make friends with a Thai person, you had better eat with them. If something worth celebrating happens, food will be the main focus of the celebration. If disaster strikes, you can take solace in the fact that you will soon be well fed. This culture has led to Thai food being rated as some of the best in the world and for good reason. With an emphasis on fresh ingredients, spices and taste infusions, Thai food more than earns its reputation.
Walk down any Thai street and you will stumble upon a street vendor, selling a variety of different dishes at rock bottom prices—you can get a meal for under $2. Try the Massaman if you want a creamy coconut based curry, with a mix of peanuts, potato and fresh vegetables it’s a great introduction to Thai cooking. For those with more adventurous tastebuds, try the Khao Kluk Kapi, you can add what you like to this dish, including chillies, pork in a sweet sauce, sour fruit and rice with shrimp paste, any Thai will be impressed with your local food knowledge and you won’t want to order anything else. The other great thing about Thai food is that more often than not it’s healthy, so you won’t need to worry about your waistline.
2. The People
I could not have felt more at home than in Thailand. Thai people are some of the warmest and most helpful I have ever met and I feel happy and proud to count many as close friends. When I was low on money, my local restaurant not only told me to wait until I got paid to pay for my food for the week, but also offered me a loan. When family came to visit, a work colleague offered me the use of her car. When my girlfriend fell off her motorbike, no fewer than four taxis stopped to offer a free lift to the hospital, whilst a group of road maintenance workers fixed her bike. Her overriding memory of this unpleasant experience was the helpful and friendly manner of those who helped her, Thailand really is ‘The Land of Smiles’.
3. Living Costs
Making my home on the popular holiday island of Koh Phangan meant that my living costs were among some of the highest in Thailand. But even on a modest income I was able to live a very comfortable life. I rented a beautiful apartment in a peaceful, rural location, with a swimming pool for just $380 a month. We were also able to dine out every night with meals for two costing around $12. Prices drop further still in the less tourist driven areas of the country, with friends routinely paying under $2 for a meal and under $200 a month for spacious accommodation.
4. Natural Beauty
Every day in Thailand felt like a trip to the zoo. On my drive to work I would often see giant monitor lizards sunning themselves by the side of the road, whilst monkeys swung from the trees or rode past me sitting as passengers on motorbikes, on their way to collect coconuts with their trainers!
My personal favourites were the Sea Eagles who would majestically swoop down from the mountains to the coast searching for fish. In Chiang Mai it’s even possible to see wild elephants or go to an elephant sanctuary and learn all about them, as well as bathe and feed them. It’s an experience not to be missed.
5. The Weather
As someone who loves to be out in the sun, Thailand was perfect. The ratio of blue skies to cloud was almost always in my favour and I was never without a lovely amber glow. April is the hottest month with temperatures averaging around 29 C, this is also the perfect time to hit the beach as the water temperature is a welcoming 30 C.