I spent the last two weeks of March on a Thailand vacation for some much-needed R&R. I liked it. I will not say I loved it. This post will likely come off a bit negative towards the place, but don’t get me wrong – I did enjoy my time.
I just wouldn’t have any desire to go back – especially since there are so many other countries in the Middle East and Asia that I’d like to get to.
Would I recommend you go? Yes.
Thailand is an extremely Western-friendly place with quite a bit to do. Like I said though, I’m not dying to go back. I don’t have better words to describe it. Perhaps, by the end of this post, you’ll have a better sense of what I mean.
Introduction To This Thailand Vacation
For the travel junkies out there, here’s how I set this up originally…
In December, I booked two business class tickets for my girl and I to Bangkok. I wanted to try out Qatar Airlines relatively new QSuites.
The routing was via Milan. So we had to get there in order to take the flight. On a Friday night, we left Kiev and jumped on a 8:30pm plane to Milan’s other middle-of-nowhere airport, not the main Malpensa one. By the time we got through EU security, took the hour-long drive into the city center where our hotel was, and got into bed, it was nearly 2am.
We got up at at about 7am, knowing we had to be on the Malpensa train at 12:55 in order to grab our 4pm flight to Doha (yes, it is an hour long train ride to their main airport, too…).
You might think it’s a bit nutty to fly all the way to Italy and go through all of this just to try a certain time of plane seat, but maybe this photo will justify it:
(And yes, it did indeed turn into a full and reasonably comfortable double bed.)
The great thing is that Qatar Airways gives you (or gave, they’ve now updated the terms and it’s $23/night) a free 5-star hotel if you book a long stopover in Doha. They’re desperate to drive more tourism to the country. So when booking the flight from Milan to Bangkok, I selected the option with a 20-hour stopover in Doha, Qatar.
This is the hotel we stayed at.
So, we did it all over again.
Up early, breakfast at the hotel, and out into Doha. We walked from the Souq Waqif (which is the “old market”), and then walked all the way across Qatar’s Corniche (i.e. waterfront promenade) for seven or so kilometers to the downtown area, which looks like it could be on Mars, frankly.
Here’s a few photos to illustrate the difference between those…
After that, it was on the plane to Bangkok, leaving Qatar at 8:20pm and landing at Bangkok at a ridiculous 6:55am.
I’ll get some more posts up soon with thoughts about Milan, Qatar, and detailing all the flights we took, but let’s move on to what I’m actually supposed to be talking about in this post – the Thailand vacation.
- Kiev -> Milan (1/2 day) -> Doha (1 day) -> Bangkok (5 days) -> Phuket (8 days)
- Phuket -> Bangkok -> Doha -> Milan -> Kiev (all done in one day with layovers)
Without further ado…
1. It Is Indeed Crazy
There’s no other way to describe Bangkok. It’s simply nuts. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to big cities before. London and New York City come to mind. But those are chaotic, but it’s somewhat organized chaos. Bangkok, on the other hand, is a completely unorganized shitshow.
I think this photo sums it up quite well:
Except, it’s like this at every intersection, and I’d say that overall this is a “moderate” traffic jam of scooters.
It was nothing short of insanity. I rented a little Honda Click in Phuket, and overall felt pretty good about getting around the island – although some of the mountain roads were pretty sketchy. But, you’d have to be certifiably insane to actually ride a scooter in Bangkok as a foreigner.
Add in the general pollution, the traffic jam of the cars, the fact that everybody is trying to sell you something, you can’t walk anywhere, and the constant, overwhelming heat, and it just feels like one hotpot of chaos.
2. One Wonders Where The Infrastructure Is
There’s enough tourist money coming into Thailand that it would seem on paper that they should have some better infrastructure. What a nightmare. Sure, the SkyTrain in Bangkok is nice enough, but you can’t even get to the biggest tourist sites such as the Grand Palace on it.
And don’t get me started on Phuket.
For an island that reportedly receives over 5,000,000 tourists per year, you’d think they’d have some better way of getting people around the place instead of subjecting them to the general bullshit of getting a taxi in Thailand.
(For those wondering, Uber is not in Thailand – they were bought out by another app called “Grab”, which works well enough.)
To illustrate this point further:
2A. Cash Is King.
Because many restaurants don’t even have credit card terminals. They take your card away from the table, American-style, so that’s a bit of a red flag to begin with. And, to top it off, they don’t actually swipe the card or use a chip reader. They actually enter in the credit card numbers, expiration, and CVV code into a computer which then runs the transaction.
Again, how many millions of people are coming to Thailand every year?
While I’m a huge advocate of using credit cards to rack up what is basically free travel, I found myself using Baht a lot more than I did my cards.
[Side Note: My personal card I use for most of my dining spend (5x!) these days is the Citi Prestige (not an affiliate link), but I did use my Chase Ink Biz (that is an affiliate link) on the majority of this trip.]
3. Diminishing Returns
I wrote about this in my post about being a millionaire in Southeast Asia, and why it’s pointless.
I stand by this.
There’s a lot of diminishing returns when it comes to living in the second or third world. Once you reach that elusive $3,000 a month mark, your life will not be significantly better no matter how much more you make. I ran into this problem several years ago when living in Prague, and it’s the same case here in Kiev, too.
My apartment is 1,400 square feet, has an office for me, is in the best area in the city, and even has an aquarium, complete with a dude who comes and cleans it every few weeks.
Unless I wanted to move out of the city center and into a mansion, I’m really not sure how much more money I could spend on a place to “upgrade” my life. I could probably find a massive 5-bedroom penthouse for $5,000 a month, but really – what’s the point of that at this point in my life?
And when in Bangkok, I just thought it was just like this, except no matter how much money you were making, you’re not escaping the misery of the heat and traffic.
In Kiev, with traffic, the metro might be marginally faster at rush hour.
In Bangkok, that’s not the case.
The fastest way to your destination is to take one of those aforementioned death scooters. No matter how many millions you had, until you had a private helicopter and the clearance to land wherever in the city you needed to…you’d be out of luck. A peasant, still.
I never had an interest in scouting Asia as a place to move to when I first decided to leave the corporate job in 2016. It was nice that this trip reaffirmed that gamble.
4. Thai Food…
In two words:
I usually like Asian food, though it’s not my favorite. Maybe I just didn’t find the right spots. But, I made a real effort to go to restaurants that were tucked down a dark corner of an alley, or in a bizarre outdoor market, and I just left with the same feelings every time:
“That was good, but man, it really wasn’t any different than the last time I ordered the same thing…”
I suppose, if we’re being realistic, this is how most food is everywhere. For example, most Ukrainian borscht tastes pretty similar to me by now.
My favorite meal in Thailand was probably at Bombay Blues in Bangkok, which served Indian food (which I don’t usually care much for). It’s pictured above. Terrace seating, on the ground with some comfy pillows around you, and live music. My absolute favorite meal was probably at the Iraqi restaurant we ate at in Doha, of all things.
5. There’s No “Old Town Squares” In Thailand
Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in Europe long enough now, but most “old town squares” have started to look the same to me. Mostly churches. But, this goes back to the infrastructure problems. I mentioned the Grand Palace briefly. Let’s forget the ordeal of getting there…
You would think, in a city that big, that hosts that many tourists, that it would be…I don’t know – nice – in the areas around Bangkok’s biggest tourist attraction…
Far from it. Everything around it is pretty much a dump.
For a tourist spot that gets some 8 million visitors a year, you would think they would have the surrounding areas set up well in order to capitalize on all that foot traffic. You know, overpriced restaurants with good air conditioning, tons of souvenir shops, and all the usual stuff that litters every single European central square.
The food choices were a small pad thai shop (which was probably the worst meal I had on the trip), and a Subway. The Subway had seating for 8 people, and the pad thai shop for maybe 15. No typical tourist souvenir shops, only places that you could buy pants to enter the palace (no short skirts for the girls and no shorts for the guys in the Grand Palace).
Maybe it’s the entrepreneur in me that was thinking of all the money left on the table, but this seems like really common sense, doesn’t it?
You have thousands of exhausted, dehydrated, and hungry tourists that go to this site every day. They walk around for hours and hours, then exit, and you have…nothing?
6. Despite All This, It’s More Modern Than Europe In Some Ways
Maybe it’s because I’m in Ukraine, but I’d argue that the malls and the general Westernization of Bangkok is certainly far, far beyond what Ukraine has done.
Bangkok’s malls, Western-style restaurants, and the buildings overall are far more modern than anything that Central/Eastern Europe has to offer.
Part of this is likely because Bangkok is just…huge.
With thirteen million people, the skyscraper skyline just goes on and on. I tell you though, I did appreciate how they linked all the malls up in the center part of town. Walk through one mall for some air-con-respite, walk outside for 30 seconds and straight into the next one. I’m not joking when I say you can do this for blocks on end.
Here’s what I mean:
7. A Lot Of Chinese & Russian Tourists Take A Thailand Vacation, Too…
I was totally, blissfully ignorant of this until this trip.
Thailand is a hell of a lot more accessible to Russia (and China) than it is to America.
Phuket was absolutely packed with Russian tourists. And I’m sorry to say it was the stereotypical Russian type – not hordes and hordes of hot Russian girls. I even got into a bit of a verbal spat (in Russian!) with a babushka in 7-11 one night, but that’s a story for another day…
The flood of Chinese tourists all over the globe has been well-documented by many other travel blogs out there. Since they’ve lifted the travel restrictions, many a Chinese tour packs busses full, drags them around the tourist sites in large groups, led by a ring-leader waving a stick in the air. They get in the way, they drive the prices up, and they’re utterly clueless – completely incapable of actually planning anything for themselves.
The amount of tourists that were utterly clueless from these countries blew my mind. It was hard to find a restaurant in Phuket that didn’t have a Russian menu. And maybe it’s my fault for going there to begin with, but it was what worked out well and easily with our schedules, and I have a hard time believing a place like Koh Samui, even if it’s a bit more upscale, would be a whole lot better.
Ultimately, what I took from this is…
Stupid is gonna stupid everywhere regardless of where they’re from.
Most people don’t travel like I do, or like many readers of this blog probably do. They don’t figure out their own flights, hotels, AirBNBs, or what-have-you. They don’t try to find dumpy local watering holes to sample the local cuisine. They don’t ride the public transit to get an idea of what people in the country do.
Most people just show up with their tour group, get led like cattle to the slaughter around the town, and eat at the pre-picked places.
8. Thai Girls…
Sorry, I just don’t see it. This has, and always will be, primarily a men’s blog, and the reason a lot of guys move to foreign countries is so that they can chase girls. I’m totally on board with this. I just don’t see it in Thailand.
Let’s face it, pickings are likely getting slimmer and slimmer in the States and the Western world at large. It’s good that guys have options, and maybe it’s just my personal taste, but I can’t see why you’d pull the trigger on Thailand based on the girls.
I suggest you read this article about Thai women from a guy who lives/lived full-time in Thailand – his experience is obviously far more comprehensive than my mere observations on this Thailand vacation.
9. I Believe You Really, REALLY Do Not Want To Be “Old Guy Chasing Southeast Asian Girls“…
A common thing I always have heard in the Game community is that once guys get older, and are no longer able to get the quality of women they once good, their backup strategy is to head over to Southeast Asia to places like Thailand, Indonesia, or Vietnam – and continue on the game there. I don’t know if there’s a set age on this, but let’s say it’s 50 or older.
Let me just say…
The old guy wandering around the sex streets of Thailand is really not a good look.
My girl and I did go to these places just to check them out. Also popped our head into a few of the GoGo bars, and even saw a show that involved seeing goldfish in places I never thought I’d see them.
And while I hate to be a downer, I’ll just say this:
These are sad places.
It’d be one thing if the girls knew how to dance at all, but all they really do is stand on the table, look bored, and occasionally dance a little bit. The reality is that most of them just sit, exactly like this:
Look, this isn’t the place to get into a discussion about the ethics of all this, but even if you’re the old guy running legit game in Southeast Asia at an old age…
I still don’t think it’s a great thing. Everybody is going to look at you funny. I saw it enough times.
I’ll just say that I’m not planning on that being me.
10. Final Thoughts
Again, I’ll repeat – I picked Europe when I decided to move abroad and never looked back. I’d been to Colombia once and Mexico a few times, but I knew that Latin America wasn’t my calling.
I did decide on Europe, and ended up signing leases out here, without ever venturing to Asia (unless you count crossing over to the Asian side of Istanbul, which I really don’t).
I couldn’t really tell you why I made this decision.
Maybe it’s because I am half Asian (Chinese), and though my family is fully Americanized, there are some lingering things that I don’t really like about it. Maybe it’s because I don’t love the food that much, or because I’m just not that into Asian girls. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit of a snob, and appreciate the nice things in life, and parts of (Southeast) Asia are definitely dumpy.
I don’t know, but one of my thoughts that keeps returning to me is this:
“Do I really want or need to go see more of Southeast Asia?”
Kind of like how every European city starts to feel the same, especially in the same or neighboring countries…I’ve been wondering:
“How much different could a place like Saigon be than Bangkok? Sure, I like Vietnamese food more than Thai food, supposedly Vietnamese women are beautiful, and it has some interesting history/communistic aspects about it, but…is it worth it?
Is the island of Bali really that much different than what I saw on Phuket?
How about The Philippines?
Is it worth going across the world to see these places that had always been on my radar?”
Previously, my answer would have probably been YES, I’ll still try to get to those places.
But as I’ve gotten older, my priorities have changed. I like Ukraine. A lot. This is home now. I’ve also got a big, up ‘n coming business to run with Selo Oils – not to mention the site you’re reading and everything that goes into it. I am not a digital nomad who is content to hop around while making $2,000-$3,000 a month. I’ve got bigger goals than that, and constant travel does get in the way of that goal.
I don’t have all the answers for now, but let’s just say I’d be more inclined to spend the next trip in Asia in a place like Japan or China, where I can reasonably expect to have a different experience than Southeast Asia.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure China will be a chaotic mess too, but I do have roots there and would like to see it…
Now, some will likely call me judgmental, or even *gasp*, racist with this final point, but it’s simply the truth.
We all have a finite time on this planet, and everything you do is an opportunity cost for something else. I don’t care about visiting all 197 countries in the world, but I want to see different things from the ones I do choose to visit. Wanting to make the most of everything is simply good business and logical thought, not “mean”.
Anyways, that’s what I’ve got for today.
Keep causing trouble,