I just got back from a trip to Thailand for a friend’s wedding. I learned a few things and am recording them here:
- If you’re overweight, the best thing you can do to prepare for the trip is to lose weight. It will make traveling in small seats more comfortable, walking / climbing easier, you will stand out less, and any new clothes you buy will probably fit. Lots of places we visited didn’t sell XL (much less 2X or larger)
- Learn some Thai words. I didn’t know any Thai before the trip. Now I can say: Hello/Goodbye, thank you (and thank you very much), you’re welcome, cheers (as in “let’s drink”), drunk (and very drunk), glass, and bathroom. I also learned to gesticulate like a mad man. When people speak English at you in a foreign country, it’s a bit like saying “I know Windows” on a resume. Levels of competence vary, so be prepared to act out whatever you want — talking louder doesn’t help. Also, if you want another something (e.g. you need another purell) bring the thing you want with you. Acting out “hand sanitizer” is not easy.
- Luggage — we brought backpacks. This turned out to be a good decision for some situations (we had to climb stairs, walk on beaches, etc.) where wheeled luggage would be a hassle. But in other situations, backpacks were a bad idea. My wife got a bad sunburn on her back so I had to carry 2 backpacks for a few days. Also, they weren’t organized well (that was probably user error) so staying for 1 night in a hotel meant you had to explode the whole thing and repack it in the morning.
- Luggage — look up the luggage policies on the airlines before you go. We flew three different airlines (2 were domestic to Thailand) and one of them had fairly restrictive luggage policies. I paid the extra $7 to upgrade our luggage to a higher weight class when I bought the tickets, but other group members didn’t. They paid an extra $40 (I think?) to check all of their luggage.
- Bring Febreeze. We went to JJ Market and I took my messenger bag to carry some purchases. It got a serious infection of “shrimp smell.” That’s just how the market was. Febreeze cured it when I got home, but I had to endure that smell for a week. I would’ve paid a small ransom for a 3 oz spray bottle of Febreeze.
- Bring rehydration powder. We didn’t, but it was readily available at local pharmacies. Unfortunately when you’re dehydrated, you don’t feel like traveling. We were also on an island where access to the main land was only between 10am and 6pm (roughly) so if you didn’t have it, you had to wait.
- Buy TP when you get there. They have purse packs at 7-11. Very few places have TP in the stalls. You have to grab it before you go in (or ladies, have it in your purse). Also … they have bidets there. External ones … like the sprayer in your kitchen sink.
- Ask the hotel staff to show you how to use the hot water. All 4 hotels we stayed at had different hot water configurations. We figured them all out, but some other people in our group took cold showers most days.
- Plan your layovers. We had an 8 hour layover in Incheon (Seoul’s airport). We kinda wanted to do a transit tour (it’s a tour around Seoul where you don’t need a visa or have to go through customs/immigration) but we didn’t realize that it was 34 degrees in Seoul this time of year. We were in tropical weather wear. So we grabbed a room at the transit hotel, took a nap, used the wifi, and took a shower. The layover at your airport may offer different amenities.
There’s so much more I could post … this is the stuff I want to remember for next time we travel.
Things we did right:
- Called the banks / credit card companies. All of our credit cards / ATM cards worked. I even found out that one of my credit cards didn’t charge a foreign transaction fee!
- Bring your own medicine. A bite stick (mosquito bites), sun screen, bug spray, purell, pepto bismol tablets, immodium, antibiotics (only if needed), neosporin cream.
- Look at all the clothes you want to pack, and leave half. I didn’t wear a few of the ones I brought even then. I bought some clothes while there, and we had laundry done a few times, too.
- Keep some toiletries in your carry on. On our trek back, we had 4 flights (20 hours) over a 2 day span including 17 hours of layover time. We needed a shower, to brush our teeth, and to reapply deodorant during that window.
- Mobile data plan — this was half right / half wrong. I borrowed a phone from Verizon (free) and didn’t make any calls, didn’t send any texts, and sipped data for $25. My wife’s phone didn’t work (VZW didn’t set something up right?) so we bought a burner phone ($26) and 300 baht ($10) worth of time. Her phone + time was more expensive, but we used the heck out of it. If we needed a taxi and couldn’t give the driver directions to the hotel, we’d bust out the thai phone and call the hotel. I don’t know what was said, but we arrived safely and the meter was running. She still had like 150 baht when we left, too. So next time, we’ll bring the $26 phone and just pick up a new SIM (if we go to a diff country) and more time at a gas station / airport. Her thai phone didn’t do data, but we didn’t need that. My phone did data, but we didn’t really use it — only in a pinch.