I just got back from what was, after I counted it up, my fifth trip to Thailand. I’m not alone – many tourists take multiple trips to Thailand, but what is it that draw people back to the “Land of Smiles” again again? Well this is what brings me back over and over again: maybe some of them will work for you as well:
- Thailand has almost year around perfect climate – yes it has two wet seasons – but that means its always dry somewhere in the country! And the wet seasons aren’t that bad anyways.
- It has variety – Thailand is a large country, you won’t find snow-capped mountains – but you will find tourist meccas (Phuket), undiscovered islands (“little” Ko Chang), large city (Bangkok), pleasant regional town (Chiang Mai), remote, fairly un-touristy areas (the western provinces) and even some history (Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi)
- It has great international air connections. Coming from Europe and North America – many flights end in Bangkok. Coming from Australia and New Zealand you also have the option of flying to Phuket in the far south.
- The internal transport connections aren’t too bad either. There is an extensive train and bus network, but if you don’t have the time the flights weren’t bankrupt you either, and most will take under an hour.
- The people – even when you are being scammed by a smart operator, its done with a genuine smile. You really have to try hard to get angry in Thailand – and it just seems to be too much effort for most of the locals.
- The food – Thai food is both delicious and healthy – that’s why you can find a Thai restaurant in most towns of the western world. In Thailand of course its the best- and the variety is mind-blowing. Why the locals seem keen on western fast food is utterly beyond me!
Thailand Tourism Started Thanks To Vietnam
Thailand tourism really hit the big time with the huge American presence in the Vietnam war – Thailand was the R&R base and Bangkok’s and Pattaya sex tourism industries were founded on the good old GI dollar. After the Americans pulled out in the early 1970’s it was the time of the hippies – who with an emphasis on cheap dope and desert beaches and reggae bars discovered such gems as Phuket and Koh Samui.
The first time I did a Thailand trip was in the late 1980’s. By then most of southern Thailand was too expensive for my backpacker’s budget, but there were still moderately priced bungalows to be found in places like Koh Samui (which had just got an airport).
Tours to Thailand and mass “Thailand Holiday Deals” really took off in the 90’s as the explosion of cheap long-haul airfares, suddenly meant that tours in Thailand were accessible for someone with maybe 3 weeks holiday and a day job.
Invariably Thailand has gone more and more upmarket – some of the world’s most expensive and luxurious resorts are in Thailand. Is it still a dirt cheap destination – no not really – there are plenty of cheaper countries in Asia, but its certainly one of the easiest countries to travel in.
Ex-Hippies on Thailand Package Tours?
One trend has been obvious over the years – that those long-haired hippies who discovered Koh Samui – are now older, with grayer, albeit shorter, hair. They have kids and disposable incomes, yeah I rather suspect that quite a number of today’s Phuket’s package tourists are yesterday’s beach bums!
What does seem new though that more and more gap adventure tourists starting their travel in Thailand. In a lot of ways traveling Thailand is an “Asia-lite” experience – the level of tourist infrastructure, at every price point means that unless you really try to break away – the young backpacker will be seamlessly handed on from one Thailand activity to the next adventure tour!
One thing that is very obvious in Thailand though is the Americans don’t vacation in Thailand very much. The vast majority of tourists are Europeans, followed by Australians. I guess its just too far for Americans to come with their limited vacation time.
Will I take many more trips to Thailand? Yes probably – with current exchange rates its cheaper than going to Australia’s resorts, and the food is better and beer cheaper. Unfortunately, in general, that is what Thailand has become – just another beach resort – with the culture and adventure of actually discovering the Thailand well-hidden from the average tourist. Trips to Thailand are mainstream tourism these days, not confined to the adventurous backpackers of the past.