Thailand: The Good

Okay, I've been holding off on talking about Thailand.  It was an interesting experience and I've really struggled with how I wanted to write about Thailand.  So, I've decided to do a three-part series on Thailand: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.  I am going to start out with the positives, because there are plenty and then progressively move toward the not-so-positives because I think they are important too.

I spent a few days shy of 5 weeks in Thailand and experienced the following locations: Bangkok, Ban Krut (Ban Krood), and Chiang Mai.  Here are "The Good" things about those places.

HI-Udee Bangkok This hostel was the first place I stayed at in Bangkok.  I stayed in the female dorm for 350 baht/night (around $12) which is probably double what you would pay on Khao San Road, but it was completely worth it!  It is within walking distance of the BTS Skytrain, as well as the public bus system.  It is close to the Big C, a large grocery store/mall/food court.  Udee Bangkok is a short tuk tuk ride away to Chatuchak Market.  They have free wi-fi, friendly staff, small lockers to lock up valuables, air conditioning (only at night) and it's super clean.

Green Tulip (Chiang Mai)  This hostel is hands down my favorite hostel in all of Thailand.  It is located in the "old city" of Chiang Mai, within walking distance of probably ten Buddhist temples and priced at 380 baht/night (around $13) for a single bed, no a/c (with floor fan) and shared bathroom.  Stella and Nine, the two owners, are probably the two most genuinely nice Thai people I met the entire time I was in Thailand.  Nine took such good care of me that I spent more time in Chiang Mai than originally planned.  She helped book me a ziplining trip, as well as a cooking class.  She will book you any trip you want, and you will pay a fair price.  The hostel is close to the night and weekend markets, has free wi-fi plus regular computers with internet, serves a decent American breakfast and has a positive vibe.  It's not a party hostel, it's the perfect place to chill out.

Lub'd Silom (Bangkok)  I stayed here my last night in Thailand with a friend from the States who happened to be going through Bangkok on their way to Chiang Mai.  It was the perfect choice.  We stayed in a spacious dorm room for 350 baht/night (around $12), it had a/c, individual lights and electrical sockets, large lockers and wi-fi in the rooms (and common area).  It was close to the BTS and there was a great night market just down the street.

I didn't spend a lot of time actually buying things, but it sure was fun to go shopping!  There are knock-offs galore throughout Thailand, with varying degrees of quality.  Electronics are not any cheaper than at home, so I would steer clear of them.  Clothing and other stuff, all fair game.   In Bangkok, I really liked Chatuchak Market because it didn't seem to be as high pressure as other places like MBK.  I found better deals at Chatuchak Market, too.

For grocery store food, the Big C in Bangkok is all kinds of amazing. I spent most of my time there either grocery shopping, eating in their food court, or just people-watching.  There was also a vendor out in front who served the most delicious coconut ice cream that I would order at least once a day.

In Chiang Mai, I was a big fan of the Night & Weekend Market.  Both offered the same kinds of things, though I felt the Weekend Market had more "homemade" kinds of items, whereas the Night Market had more knock-offs and souvenirs.

This is going to get a post of it's own soon, but until then, I cannot rave enough about the street food in Thailand.  I ate everything I thought looked interesting.  Roti, pad thai, meat on a stick, fresh fruit, green papaya salad, smoothies, and khao man gai.

I also highly recommend taking a cooking class in Chiang Mai.  There are cooking schools all over the city.  I went to Siam Rice Thai Cookery School.  It was so much fun!  When I came home from traveling, I had a bunch of my friends over to cook for them and they said it was the best Thai food they had ever tasted.  You will learn how to make everything, including the curry sauce from scratch and it will amaze your friends and family when you get home.

Sights & Activities
I am not a huge fan of Buddhist temples.....the reason will come in one of my next posts.  I found other interesting things to see and do while I was in Thailand.  

I really enjoyed finding Ban Baat aka Monk Bowl Village.  This is the soi where there are Thais who make the Buddhist monk begging bowls in the traditional way.  We didn't get too far down the soi before we met this woman who showed me her wares.

She demonstrated how the bowls are made and even let my friend, Natalie try her hand at it.  It's a really neat experience and I was able to purchase one for myself and one for a gift.

Another place I went to was the Medical Museum at Siriraj Hospital.  I work in healthcare in my "real" life, so I thought it might be fun to go check it out.  Unfortunately, they didn't allow pictures inside, so this is the only one I got.

This place was a bit of a challenge to get to.  The easiest way is to take one of the river taxis, then walk through the amazing food market and then over to the hospital.  Siriraj Hospital is HUGE!  There were signs for the museum all over, so we just followed them through the maze of buildings and bought our ticket for 40 baht (just over $1).  This museum was creepy, yet fascinating.  It features several smaller exhibits within its walls.  My favorite was the forensic museum, which had Thailand's first serial killer's body on display.  My second favorite was the parasite museum featuring the various types of parasites in Thailand, how they are contracted and what the treatment options are.  I got a little queasy after that one!  I enjoyed the exhibit on the 2004 tsunami, which explained the relief efforts as well as body recovery.  Some of the exhibits had English translations and they have started to rent out audio tour devices to assist you in getting the most out of the visit.  It's a little morbid, but if you don't mind, it's one of those things that should not be missed!

When I was in India volunteering, I met a Thai Catholic nun, Sr. Monica, who invited me to visit her in Bangkok.  I spent my final 5 days in Thailand with her, staying at the Catholic school her religious order runs.  Since I had been teaching English in India, I asked Sr. Monica if there was anything I could do to help "earn" my keep, since she was putting me up in a nice little studio apartment.  She put me in contact with another one of the sisters, and I spent my mornings with the 4 and 5 year olds in the Montessori classroom.  They were so cute!  I would work with a small group of children for about 45 minutes, using their educational aids to teach them English pronunciation and a few words.  If you get a chance to volunteer in Thailand, take it.  There are so many opportunities and it really made my experience more enjoyable.

Well, there you have it.  This is Thailand: The Good.  Stay tuned for Thailand: The Bad.
The Rough Guide to Thailand (Rough Guides)