Video #36 | May 17, 2018
In this video I’m going to go through 30 myths about Thailand. There’s a lot of misinformation about Thailand out there, and this video aims to set the record straight!
Click on the following link to check out more on Important Advice For New Visitors.
Welcome to the thirty-sixth video of Bangkok Unmasked! The YouTube channel that helps you get the most out of your visit to Bangkok city! If you’re new here, please consider subscribing! In this video, I’m going to go through 30 myths about Thailand. There’s a lot of misinformation about Thailand out there, and this video aims to set the record straight!
Let’s get started!
Myths about Thailand: 30 popular myths that’re simply not true!
Myths about Thailand – Myth #1. Thailand is sleazy.
If you mention that you’re going on a trip to Thailand, it’s almost inevitable that someone will mention ping-pong shows, ladyboys or prostitutes. While all these things, and more, are available this is a microcosm of the true Thailand. Thailand is a very conservative country and outside of the tourist areas, this type of thing is hidden away from plain sight.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #2. All Thai are poor.
This one makes me laugh. Thailand is actually a very rich country. The problem is that the wealth is not well distributed. As time goes on the middle class is growing in size and purchasing power. Go to any of the major Thai cities, especially Bangkok, and you’ll see plenty of luxury cars, designer clothes, and conspicuous consumption. Note. Thailand has a good number of billionaires [in USD]. According to Forbes, The Chearavanont brothers of the Charoen Pokphand Group are worth $21.5 billion. The top 28 richest Thai are all worth over $1 billion. My guess is that there are also a good number of Thai who have managed to stay off the Forbes list!
Myths about Thailand – Myth #3. Thailand is a bad place to take kids.
Thailand is quite literally full of fantastic family activities. Go-Karts, water parks, amusement parks and more. The country has it all. If you stay in a proper 5-star hotel they’ll likely have kids’ clubs and babysitters!
One piece of advice. If you’ve got young children and you’re in Bangkok check out Kidzoona and KidZania. A good friend recently came through Bangkok with his wife and young son. Kidzoona was definitely one of the highlights of his son’s visit to the city!
Myths about Thailand – Myth #4. You’ll have to negotiate the infamous squat toilet.
Great news; squat toilets in Thailand are becoming more and more of a rarity. I haven’t come across one in Bangkok for literally years. Unless you visit the boonies, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll even see a squat toilet. Much less be forced to use one.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #5. Many Thai women have to ‘sell their body’ to escape poverty.
Please…Any woman desperate to earn money can easily get a job in a factory. At an average factory a woman, with no education at all, can earn at least 13,000-baht a month. With overtime 20,000-baht or more is absolutely doable. Here’s the thing; it’s possible to earn 4 times this, or more, by working in the sex business. The dream is often to meet a wealthy Thai or foreign sponsor who’ll take care of them, and their family. Note. The foreign sex business in Thailand is minuscule compared to the domestic market.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #6. Thailand is overrun with tourists.
If you stay on the tourist trail this is absolutely the case. Get off the beaten track and you’ll find very few to no tourists! When I go to my wife’s hometown of Singburri, I rarely see foreigners, much less tourists.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #7. You’ll be disconnected from the rest of the World in Thailand.
Thailand is a very easy place to conduct business and stay in constant communication with your loved ones back home. There’re countless WiFi hotspots available at coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, and guesthouses in all the major towns and cities.
While some regional neighbors [think Burma, Cambodia or Laos] are notorious for unreliable internet connections, Thailand’s IT infrastructure is solid. This is especially the case in Bangkok.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #8. All Thai women want a Farang boyfriend/husband.
This myth is generally spread by men who spend an unhealthy amount of time in the Thai red light districts. I know a good number of Thai girls that have zero interest in foreign men. The reality is, there are a lot of Thai women out there who would be somewhat interested in having a Farang boyfriend but given a choice they’d rather be with a Thai man. Frankly, all power to them.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #9. All the designer goods are fake.
This is complete nonsense. While there’re still a lot of fake designer goods out there, it’s far less than a decade or two ago. The authorities have been fairly successful at reducing the business of counterfeiting. They actively want consumers to buy the real thing at Siam Paragon, Emquartier, Central Embassy etc. so they can tax the sales.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #10. Thai food is too spicy.
Thai food can certainly be crazy hot. However, there are plenty of non-spicy options available like Pad Thai or Khao Pad [Fried Rice]. Over the years I have met a good number of Thai who don’t like their food to be too spicy. Or even contain any chili at all!
Myths about Thailand – Myth #11. You’ll need to learn how to use chopsticks.
While chopsticks are used for certain Chinese, Japanese and Korean foods, in general, the Thai always use a fork and spoon to eat with. If you’re not comfortable with chopsticks you’ll be fine, and won’t be expected to use them. As a foreigner, it’s generally assumed that I can’t use chopsticks, and I’m often presented with a fork and spoon at Chinese and Japanese restaurants.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #12. Thailand is not a good destination in rainy season.
It’s true that when it rains in rainy season, it really rains! Coming from the UK I’m familiar with rain, but we rarely get torrential downpours like in Thailand. Sometimes the rain is so heavy, nearby big buildings can literally disappear in front of your eyes! With this said, the rain in rainy season is very sporadic and tends to be over pretty quickly. You can often set your watch by the time of the downpour too. Holidaying in rainy season is a great way to take advantage of low season prices. There’s also the added advantage of having beaches and markets literally to yourself when compared with high season.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #13. Thailand is cheap.
While rural areas of Thailand are still relatively cheap, the time of major tourist areas like Bangkok, Phuket, and Koh Samui being cheap have been and gone. From what I can see many things are cheaper in London than Bangkok and Phuket in particular. If you want to live like a typical Westerner, expect Western prices. This goes for property, food, motoring and the vast majority of imported consumer goods.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #14. Both street food and ice are unhygienic and dangerous.
Most visitors to Thailand who are new to Asia will understandably be very suspicious of food carts and street food. My rule of thumb is that if a food cart has plenty of Thai diners, it’s probably safe to eat at. There have been numerous occasions where I have seriously questioned the food safety, but touch wood I have never gotten sick from Thai street food. Interestingly, it was a Burger King burger in Bangkok many years ago that, literally, made me wish for death.
There’s also the perception that ice is unsafe and should be avoided. Ice served by restaurants and street vendors in Thailand is manufactured under hygienic conditions by the same people who supply bottled water. It’s a huge business and I have [so far] never been sick from ice anywhere in Thailand.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #15. You can always buy your way out of trouble.
This one is an extremely dangerous belief. Sometimes you can. Sometimes you can’t. I certainly wouldn’t advise breaking the law with the expectation that paying off a police officer, or police officers, will end all your problems when caught.
Sometimes foreigners are made an example of, and if this is you, money won’t help you unless you’re talking serious amounts of it.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #16. Anything involving elephants funds cruelty.
Riding an elephant these days is considered cruel. Frankly, I don’t really understand this as I doubt that riding an elephant in any way hurts them. That said, there are plenty of other activities for you to do with them. Thailand has a good number of sanctuaries where it’s possible to learn about, bathe with and play with elephants. Their purpose is to educate people about elephants and provide them with a loving place where they’ll be safe.
Thankfully the days of elephants roaming the streets of central Bangkok are well and truly over! While it always gave me a thrill to see them, they’re a frightful hazard to motorists. When I first arrived in Bangkok there were frequent reports of elephants being hit by cars. In most cases, the accident ended badly for both the motorist and the elephant/mahout.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #17. Thailand has an underdeveloped infrastructure.
This one makes me smile. Thailand has twenty airports, eight of which are international. There’re also trains, extensive bus routes, and modern highways throughout the country. If you’re in Bangkok there’s also the BTS and MRT which while already good, are getting better with multiple extensions.
Coming from the UK, the highway system in Thailand is definitely better than that which I’m familiar with in the South-West of England!
Myths about Thailand – Myth #18. Thailand is unsafe.
Thailand is a very safe country for both expats and tourists alike. Thai people are welcoming, respectful, and generally non-violent towards foreigners. Check out a video that I did on; Is Bangkok Safe? A link to this video can be found through the ‘i-icon’ above. Note. The video discusses safety both in Bangkok, and Thailand in general.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #19. You’ll stay in a bamboo hut with dirt floors.
While this is available should you want it, Thailand offers the same amenities as Western countries. In the major Thai cities, Bangkok and Phuket being cases in point, you can easily stay in accommodations that would not be out of place in Bravo’s; ‘Million Dollar Listing’! The average Thai certainly does not live in a bamboo hut with dirt floors! Note. If you visit a major branch of Home Pro, Boonthavorn or Thai Watsadu you’ll see that you can buy pretty much all the same home improvement supplies that you can in the US and UK.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #20. You’ll only be able to eat Thai food.
Admittedly if you’re outside the tourist areas, Western food is somewhat more difficult to find. It’s always there, but the quality can be patchy at best. However, in all the tourist areas you’re literally spoiled for choice in terms of dining. Italian, German, English, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and more. It’s all available.
The quality of the top tier restaurants can be breathtaking. I have eaten at many Italian restaurants in Bangkok which serve food just as good as anything that I’ve eaten in Italy. The only problem is that the prices can be high, to very high. To get an idea of what’s available in Bangkok, check out some of my reviews in the Bars and Restaurants in Bangkok category of this YouTube channel.
If you need a junk food fix McDonalds, Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut/Pizza Company are literally everywhere throughout Thailand.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #21. You won’t be able to find anything that you need.
In all the major Thai cities you’re spoilt for choice in terms of shopping. In Bangkok, there’s quite literally nothing that you can’t buy. Siam Paragon is a case in point. You can buy everything from a lettuce through to a Lamborghini.
Below is a list of stores that provide me with what I need for day-to-day life.
If online shopping is your thing there’re also plenty of decent [Thai] online stores. Lazada stocks pretty much everything these days, and they even do cash on delivery. [Their search function sucks, but this is a separate conversation].
Myths about Thailand – Myth #22. Thailand is for drunks and sex tourists only.
There’s certainly a dark underbelly to Thailand, Pattaya being a case in point. That said, peel back the layers and you’ll find that the country is an extremely cosmopolitan place to live.
From what I can see the younger guys coming to Thailand are very far from sex tourists. A good number of them are ‘digital nomads’, as the IT infrastructure is solid, and the cost of living can be manageable depending on how, and where, you live.
Bangkok, in particular, is a global city full of international companies hiring expats, and schools in need of qualified native English teachers.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #23. Thailand’s hospitals are dirty and dangerous.
Anyone who says this has no idea what they’re talking about. Hospitals like; Bumrungrad International Hospital, Bangkok Hospital and Bangkok Nursing Home Hospital [BNH] are world-class on pretty much any metric you care to choose. Medical tourism in Thailand is a huge industry. What follows are a few interesting stats.
- Nation-wide the healthcare system in Thailand treated 2.81 million foreign patients in 2015, up 10.2%. In 2013, medical tourists contributed an estimated USD 4.7 billion to Thailand’s economy.
- Medical tourism makes up 0.4% of Thailand’s GDP, while tourism overall accounts for around 6% to 7%, and is considered the third most important economic driver in Thailand.
- The prestigious Joint Commission International [JCI] certification for healthcare service providers, worldwide, has been awarded to 52 hospitals, specialized clinics, or medical centers in Thailand, up from 22 three years ago.
- More than half of the accredited hospitals are in Bangkok followed by Phuket, Pattaya, Chiang Mai and Samui.
- According to Kasikorn Research Center – Kasikorn is a local bank – income from international patients at private hospitals will generate THB 48 to THB 49 billion this year. An increase of 3% to 4% year-on-year.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #24. Cocktail buckets contain amphetamines [or speed].
I heard this all the time when I first arrived in Thailand nearly 19 years ago! This is a myth that started on the Thai islands and spread through word of mouth across the Southeast Asian backpacking trail.
Although the cocktail buckets which contain a potent mix of; Thai whiskey, coke, and an energy drink might make you feel like you’ve ingested something illegal, you haven’t. The old story of Thai Red Bull containing amphetamines is simply not true and never has been.
The buckets are loaded with alcohol, sugar, caffeine, taurine and a whole list of other nasty additives. This is what explains the confused state that you’ll be in after finishing a couple of them.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #25. You can bargain for everything.
Whilst you can certainly bargain for things in markets or certain malls like MBK or Pantip Plaza, it’ll be a very short conversation pretty much everywhere else. Ultimately you need to keep it sensible and politely ask; “lod dai mai?” This might get you a small reduction.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #26. Khao San is the heart of Bangkok.
Many friends have spent a few days on the Khao San Road and thought that they were in the heart of Bangkok. Wrong! Khao San and the surrounding neighborhood is just a small part of the old city. It’s relatively underdeveloped and regarded by most Bangkok locals as a farang-only-zone. [Farang is the Thai word for foreigner].
For a better taste of what Bangkok really has to offer you must head to; Siam, Silom, Thonglor and pretty much anywhere on the lower Sukhumvit road i.e. the downtown parts of Bangkok city.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #27. By giving money to street kids, you’re helping them.
It can be tempting to give money to beggars on the street, especially the young kids selling flowers or candy. Don’t do it. Many are victims of human trafficking gangs that cart people in and out of the city to tug on the heartstrings of tourists and locals. The kids don’t see any of that cash. Instead, give money or time to one of the many local organizations trying to help Thailand’s less fortunate.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #28. ‘Templed out’.
On the surface it might appear that all the Thai temples are broadly the same. If you believe this, and feel ‘templed out’, there are quite a few very unique temples. Some examples are:
- Bueng Kan: Wat Phu Tok.
- Pathum Thani: Wat Phra Dhammakaya.
- Nakon Pathom: Wat Samphran.
- Chiang Mai: Wat Srisuphan.
- Bangkok: Wat Pariwat. [The David Beckham temple].
Google “unique thai temples” and you’ll find plenty of lists for unique, bizarre and eclectic Thai temples.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #29. The only proper party is a full moon party.
If you think attending a full moon party on the islands is steeped with Thai culture, religion, and tradition, you’re very wrong. It was simply an impromptu party put on by some backpackers in the ’80s that happened to coincide with a full moon.
While a full moon party on Koh Pha Ngan will attract thousands of visitors looking for an infamously good time, there are plenty of other beachside parties to attend including half moon and black moon parties. You can also head to many of the other vibrant islands like Koh Phi Phi and Koh Samui.
Myths about Thailand – Myth #30. Civil servants like police, soldiers & teachers get really low salaries.
Working for the state is a dream job for many Thai. Salaries are low, but only at the bottom of the ladder. Work as a civil servant for ten, twenty, thirty years and your salary will be very respectable by Thai standards. On top of that, you can get interest-free loans, a nice pension, free accommodation, free healthcare, retire at 55 and plenty of other benefits. In many positions, there’s also scope for ‘commissions’ i.e. corruption in one form, or another!
Anyway…that’s it for this video. I hope that helps clear up some of the myths about Thailand. Expect a new video next week.
For all you techies out there, this video was shot on a Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus and edited using HitFilm Express.
To check out details on arranging a bespoke Bangkok tour with experienced tour guides, and luxury private transport, please click on the link in this video’s description section.
Finally, please don’t forget to subscribe to this channel through the button below! Also, I’d like to hear from you if you have any questions on one or more of the 30 myths about Thailand. Maybe you have some myths that I missed! Please do reach out to me through the comments section of this video!
Thank you very much for watching. I’ll see you next week. Goodbye.