Sawasdee-ka! Welcome to my first (of many) posts relating to the magical land of Thailand! As Aussies many of us travel to Thailand and since it is my second home and favourite place in the world, I am often asked for advice on what to pack, do, see, and eat when in Thailand.
Although a quick Google search will provide you with an abundance of tips and checklists to help you prepare, I thought I’d put together my own little list of ’10 Things to Pack for a Trip to Thailand.’ This is by no means an exhaustive list, the idea is more to bring your attention to a few things you might not have thought of – things I wish I knew before my first trip. Hope it helps!
Enjoy your trip, and please feel free to share this to help our a friend who might be planning a trip to Thailand.
1. Memory foam
Ok at the risk of sounding like a past-her-prime dancer, these old joints are not what they used to be! Those staying in tourist friendly hotels will be fine, but if you are backpacking or staying in more rural areas, be warned. You are likely to be given a bed that is a wooden table with an inch thick mat ontop. I have so much respect for the Thai people who can sleep on the floor on cement and tiles! Even the elderly do it in Thailand, but my poor old body with all its aches and pains can’t cope. Nothing like waking up for a day of hiking or sightseeing and realising you can barely move. I spent a trip to Thailand (where I was teaching dance!) just aching all day every day. Not worth it. A roll of memory foam or similar to lay over the bed and take the edge off can be bought online and while it does add weight to your bag (so skip this one if you are not on that type of holiday, nice hotels don’t have this problem) but if you are roughing it and have hip or back complaints its BYO comfort!
As my friends know, I’m always packin’. At home, I can have up to 3 different muesli bars, a bag of pocorn and a fun size Twirl in my hand bag at any given moment.
Now, this might just be a personal priority you won’t be as fussed by. You will eat very well in Bangkok and around tourist destinations, but in more remote areas you might not be so lucky. Please don’t get me wrong, Thai food is beautiful, fresh and very rich in flavour. Sometimes though, I just like to have snacks from home with me – particularly if I am spending a long time away from home. Sometimes I crave very plain chips or biscuits after a few days of intense flavours and spices, and you can’t always get what you are craving from the 7/11 so I come prepared. Not sure that I need to say this, but refrain from eating your western food in front of your Thai hosts/friends, because manners!
(Does any one else get homefoodsickness? Just me?)
3. A light jumper/sweater
Yessss I know you’re heading to an extremely humid and muggy climate, but believe me the second you get indoors these people pump the AC like nobody’s business. Like, they are notorious for it. Shopping centres and cinemas can get chilly, tour busses and the like can be absolutely freezing. Something lightweight in your backpack, especially if you feel the cold easily like I do, is a great idea, trust me!
4. Vicks Vapour Rub
OK listen. This is a lifesaver for me when I am in the North visiting traditional food markets. My pro tip? A bit of Vicks dabbed under your nose will save your life. I have battled through my share of very lightheaded moments when walking through the food market. Have you ever seen a table laid out with pig faces? (Yes. Faces.) Often meat and fish (and more!) are laid out on tables next to spices and soups, often in the sun, and very often in billion degree heat. The imagery already makes my sensitive vegetarian self slightly freaked out but I try to act unfazed so as not to offend my friends. Aaaaas you can imagine though, the smell on a hot day is something else. It hits you like a punch in the face and can honestly knock the breath out of you. Its a bit hard to act cool when you are holding in dry reaching! You can buy little sticks in Thailand that look like lip balm, but guys I need the strength of Vicks. Probably not as necessary if you are sticking to the touristy spots and beaches, but further inland at traditional markets etc? Please pack a little stick or pot of Vicks. You will be so glad you did.
5. Small money pouches
While we’re talking about markets, a great idea is to divide your cash into small money pouches instead of flashing your full wallet at a market stall. It is already generally assumed that westerners have a lot of money, however you still don’t want vendors get a glimpse of your wallet bulging with notes. You’ll find items will instantly become more expensive for you, haggling will cease to be an option, and it might also make you a target for scammers or pick-pockets. I always use the smaller pouches method. ATMs are also fairly easy to find around shopping hubs (depending on the area) so you really don’t need to pack a wad of cashola.
6. A shawl / lightweight shirt
This one is mentioned on just about every Thailand travel blog or article, but it is really worthwhile remembering. Thailand boasts over 40, 000 Buddhist temples of varying size and grandure (or ruin), and while you might plan day trips to specific temples, you are also likely to come across one just while out walking and if you want to duck in and check it out, you will need to be correctly dressed, or entry will be denied. All temples require your chest and shoulders to be covered so if you are out sightseeing it’s smart to carry something light in your bag so you can cover up quickly. Respect is a big deal in Thailand – knees will need to be covered too. Generally speaking, foreigners are given a little leeway on customs and culture, but on the streets and in restaurants, Thai people will appreciate it if you dress on the conservative side. For both men and women, while you may not run into any actual trouble, you will find that the way you are dressed will directly impact the way you are treated by locals.
7. Slip-on shoes
You will be removing your shoes in Thailand. A lot. Not only to enter Temples but often to enter cafés, beauty parlours and some restaurants too. Trust me, you will get sick of unlacing shoes and taking socks on and off very quickly, so ditch the joggers or hiking boots …unless you are literally going jogging or hiking. A good pair of sandals are your best bet, something comfy that will easily slide on and off without being as flimsy as thongs/flip flops if you are planning on a lot of walking.
A general rule: if you notice a pile of shoes outside the door, definitely remove your own before entering.
Sunscreen is not hard to find in Thailand at all, but is quite expensive! Also most body lotions in Thailand contain skin whitening ingredients and many sunscreens are among these whitening products. Thai people loooove their skin whitening! Better to bring a brand you know then pay a very inflated price for something you don’t know the ingredients in.
Do not take this one lightly. Ladieeeees (Actually men too, I assume your loos are the same) keep a little pocket pack on Kleenex in the old back pocket, I am telling you.
Obviously this will vary depending on where in Thailand you are, however, it is very common to run into a public loo that only has water in it – no toilet paper to be seen. It took me a surprisingly long time to learn this lesson. If you’re not in the habit of carrying tissues at all times and you are in the habit of peeing first and checking for toilet paper later (an unfortunate but prevalent combination among us privileged westerners) Thai toilets will not be kind to you.
Pro tip: If you see a toilet with no flush, the bowl of water by the toilet is to be used for flushing. Take the little container and fill it with water, then swish it into the loo with purpose. It’s all in the wrist!
Another one for the ladies (obviously?) but I saved the best for last because honestly, this is important. I highly recommend you BYO-ing your favourite feminine products.
In Thailand tampons are considered unclean and kind of… whats the word… slutty?
They are hard to find and awkward to ask for when you can’t find them on the shelf. In my early days of travelling without speaking any Thai I got by very well using my miming skills to ask questions or to explain what I needed. I was always a hit with the locals using my comedy skills to act out the situation, getting the answer I needed and usually drawing an audience of passers by all laughing (and sometimes filming on their phones) by the end of the performance. There is a time and place for hilarious yet practical acting skills to be used though, and as you can imagine, trying to mime “tampon” to the demure young Thai girl in the cosmetics aisle of Big C is probably not one of those times.
You can find pads in stores but they are not any of the brands we know and love, and let’s just say they’re not exactly what my delicate lady parts are used to. In a pinch though, they’ll do the job. Tampons are notoriously elusive, and if you are lucky enough to score a little packet, you’ll find they are not what you expect. Also there is no such thing as applicator tampons there. So, if you are planing a trip longer than your month, or even if you want to be safe just in case, I say STOCK. UP.
You’ll be glad you did.
So what DON’T you need?
Flashy jewelery – Expensive watches, gold jewellery etc is just not a good idea for many reasons. Take a layer of stress off yourself and just don’t bring them at all, you don’t need them.
Low cut tops/spagetti straps – Girls, we don’t want to see your girls, ever. While most areas won’t mind you dressing casually, cleavage is never a good idea at any time.
Chopsticks – We usually see chopsticks at Thai restaurants here at home. In Thailand, the only place you eat with chopsticks is at a Chinese restaurant! When dining, unless in a very western restaurant, you will usually be given a fork and spoon (no knife). The fork is only used to push the food onto the spoon, it is the spoon that goes to the mouth.
Your temper – “Mai Ben Rai” as they say. This is pretty much “no worries.” A calm smile will go a long way in Thailand, the land of smiles is full of accommodating, tolerant, and warm people who all practice keeping a cool heart or “jai yen”. It is not looked on favourably to behave in a loud or aggressive manner, but you will be in one of the most beautiful places on Earth so this shouldn’t be a problem.
Enjoy your time in the land of smiles! I hope this list has come in handy, I wish I had read it before my first trip. Please check back later for more travel posts, specifically Thailand related as I have a trip coming up very soon!
If you have any questions or would like other topics covered such as culture or etiquette in Thailand, please leave a comment below.
Thank you all for reading, Kapkhunka!
All photos used are from unsplash and pexels