Thailand is often referred to as "The Land of Smiles", but I never quite figured out if the smile part referred to the happiness of the local people or to the visitors who'll never experience anything like it anywhere else.
Thailand is truly unique and each time I've visited I feel a little as though I've been thrust back to reality. I've even found myself thinking, if only everywhere was a bit more Thailand?
Across maybe 8-10 visits to Thailand I've experienced a few of the below feelings, while others are maybe a little more tongue-in-cheek. Maybe you've got your own to add in the comments below!
You know you've recently been on vacation in Thailand when...
What traffic jam!
Your ride service pulls up and the driver calls out your name, instead of confirming you respond, “how much?”
Once the awkward feeling wears off it’s replaced by a new feeling of disappointment that no matter how far down the windows roll, no matter how loud the music, no matter how many flashing lights, sitting in traffic just isn’t the same without a tuk tuk.
Living your best mahout life
You take the family dog for a walk and wonder what life might have been like as a mahout.
And as you see your dog clamber out of the nearest swamp, with a stick looking identical to the last two you threw into a clean patch of grass you think what if bath time was elephant sized fun?
Cleaning up after your furry friend brings you back to reality in a BIG way.
Coffee just isn't the same
You spend at least an hour of your first day back at work secretly shopping online for one of those Thai style coffee makers.
Bonus points if you use your lunch break to find a tin of condensed milk.
Now say it like you're a zombie, "Paaaaddd Thaiiiiii"
Hunger is now accompanied with the unsettling feeling that the Thai Tourist Board has you playing an unwitting extra in a zombie movie.
Play along for a moment and tell me it isn't true: First, roll your eyes back and hold out your arms. Drag your feet a bit as you shuffle about and groan out a mumbling "Paaaddd Thaiii".
Now imagine stumbling around the city aimlessly, hoping that you'll fall upon a hapless Thai restaurant. Are you doing it? Does it feel like the right body movement to match your insatiable hunger for real Thai food?
After a few days of wandering you think, why can't I just make it at home?
You make a list, check it twice, splash some cash on a new wok and plenty of fresh ingredients to try and make your own Pad Thai. Heck, you even find tamarind paste and spend 20+ minutes crushing up dried peanuts for garnish...
While the result isn’t displeasing, you find yourself feeling just as empty as you do full.
Add your own soundtrack
You start to wonder why more sports only play music during a pause in play as opposed to playing music throughout the excitement.
Don't forget the paper straw
You pick up some fresh coconut and take it home to realize you don't own a machete.
More of the contents end up on the walls of your garage or the grass of your backyard than you actually end up drinking. You pretend to be refreshed anyway.
Related | Need to open a coconut?
Don't forget the reef safe sunscreen
You've returned from your vacation a changed person, inside and out. One of the more obvious outward indications of your time in Thailand is a wicked set of tan lines.
More bonus points if 8 weeks from now your feet still have the distinct tan lines only flip flops can explain - it's like they're the unofficial footwear of Thailand!
Even more bonus points if you were smart enough to wear the reef safe sunscreen or to cover up altogether. Even the cloudy skies of Thailand can burn the unsuspecting visitor.
*Note, you should also wear appropriate footwear when hiking.
After circling the fresh produce section of Whole Foods for 30 minutes you're almost as frustrated as you are disappointed. There's plenty of dried mango but the staff don't even know what a mangosteen is.
Looks like someone's got a case of the Mondays
After a bad day at work you find yourself searching one-way tickets to Bangkok and calculating how long you could survive in Phuket if you sold everything you own by Friday.
More bonus points if you instead start drafting a business plan for a beachside bar as a tenable option for your retirement.
The most fun festival around
You've already put in your vacation request for the next Songkran and every April 13 for the next 10 years. You also placed a bulk order of water balloons.
Bonus points if you tried to plan ahead and searched how to laminate your passport.
You lose points, however, if you ruined your passport by trying to laminate it.
Joking aside *Don't laminate or otherwise attempt to modify your passport.
Whose fruit is this anyway?
Every event you attend, before helping yourself to a snack or a drink you do a quick check for a statue of Buddha to make sure you don't accidentally eat someone's offering (again).
But do they have it on tap?
By the time your first Thursday back rolls around you’ve already found a local liquor store that stocks Chang and/or Singha.
More bonus points if you’re wearing a Chang or Singha shirt when you get the beer.
Following your lackluster culinary achievements at home and your desire for some Thai refreshments, you make reservations for Saturday night at your local Thai restaurant.
You’re determined to enjoy a bowl of spicy green curry or a plate of thick Pad See Ew, washed down with that beer you’ve been dreaming about all week.
The family who runs it is Thai and they serve their own family recipes made fresh with the finest authentic ingredients available. Not only do they have your choice of beer but you even spot a bottle of SangSom or an out of production Mekhong behind the bar!
Although the experience is excellent and just about as authentic as you’re going to find, you’re full and you’ve had a great time, there’s still something you can’t quite put your finger on as missing.
It's not just the scenery. Replicating Thailand is simply impossible.
At this point I’d encourage you to engage with your hosts, not everyone is entirely comfortable and the restaurant may be busy – but Thailand's people are renown for being particularly friendly and those living in your neighborhood may have their own fond memories of home to share.
You may have just found a new favorite restaurant and someone to share your dreams of another visit to Thailand with.
That’s just one of the amazing aspects of travel, it can make the world a smaller place.
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