Why I Did NOT Want to Visit Thailand… and How I Feel Now That I’ve Been

When I heard that my study abroad friends wanted to head to Thailand on our Spring Break my first thought was, “…Why?

In all of my travels, I felt like I must have been the only person who had never felt an inkling of desire to go to Thailand.

Nothing against the country but honestly I just had not been wooed by any of the millions of Thailand photos I’d seen.

Not for lack of trying—I’ve seen some spectacular stuff. From the bustling city of Bangkok, to the infamous southern islands like Ko Phi Phi, and the mountainous jungles of Chiang Mai.

It seems like everyone raves about their Thailand ventures—but that’s sort of the problem.

First of all, I felt like everyone and their mother, sister, daughter, estranged aunt, and retired preschool teacher had been to Thailand. And through all of their photos and tales, it had begun to feel like I had already been to Thailand, losing some of it’s magical appeal for me.

I’m not a travel snob, but come on—what’s the point of going to a place where everyone has already gone and done everything, twice over? It sounded like one big Disneyland to me.

And secondly, how can everyone who goes there have such a freaking good time?

I’d heard some horror stories with pickpocketing and moped accidents for sure, but those fell to the wayside of the adamant stories of how cheap, picturesque, and exciting Thailand was and how people “definitely would return” or how they “ended up never leaving and had been living there for 8 months now”.

Could those Ko Phi Phi beaches really be so picturesque and ultra-saturated in person? Could the wats in Bangkok really be so Instagram perfect and tranquil if I actually went?

The “amazing Thailand” selling point actually made me insanely skeptical of Thailand, simply because I thought it was impossible not to get disappointed after all of the hype.

I won’t go into detail, but I was blackmailed ended up buying my plane ticket and committing to an itinerary of 6 days in Thailand, including Bangkok, Phuket, Kata Beach, and day tour of the nearby islands including notorious tourist traps like Ko Phi Phi, Monkey Beach, and Maya Bay.

Well, you wanna know what I thought of it? If it lived up to the hype, or if I was on target being as skeptical  as I was?

Well, If I had to summarize in a sentence, I would say:

Big Buddha, Overlook of Phuket | Thailand, Spring Break

View over Phuket from the Big Buddha pavilion

F*ck, it was amazing.

Damn it. Damn it. Am I just as easily brainwashable as everyone else who goes to Thailand?

You know what, maybe I am. But in the best way possible.

It’s obvious to anyone why Thailand has the appeal that it does, between gorgeous resorts for cheap, the beautiful sunsets and beaches, and the insanely cheap massages—and it did impress me in those aspects.

But it truly captured me in a way no other country really has yet.

As a country, Thailand is the random hook-up that gives you the best sex of your life and then walks out the front door without saying goodbye, leaving you thinking, “What the hell just happened?”.

When it gives, it’s good, but when it takes it can be so, so bad.. Somewhere deep in my memory, I can remember someone describing Thailand to me as “raw”—and now I can’t think of a better descriptor.

Me at Wat Arun 2| Thailand, Spring Break

Wat Arun view| Thailand, Spring Break

Bangkok Boat Tour| Thailand, Spring Break

In Bangkok we stayed in the Landmark Hotel near Nana Square, giving us easy access to the heart of the city.

We were greeted by stray cats, the gut-wrenching smell of sewage, immediate prostitution, and rush hour traffic. But we were also brought there by the best public metro-system I have ever been on, our gorgeous hotel that was ridiculously inexpensive, and my favorite aspect of traveling—being invisible.

Invinsible? How?

Well, this city does not give a flying flan about you—it just doesn’t have the time. We were swept into crowds crossing the street, dodging rogue mopeds and traffic. We were swept into tuk-tuks that navigated between traffic in a way that doesn’t agree with the laws of nature. We were swept up by the beauty intertwined with the weeds, and how every footstep felt like an adventure. It’ll chew you up and spit you out, and you can only hope to God to keep up.

However, Bangkok was also where two of my African-American friends traveling with me experienced unapologetic racism. They were blatantly refused from multiple restaurants without reason. Something I did not face myself, but does not make it any less disgusting and disappointing. I had never heard reports of or could have imagined happening in Bangkok.

The prostitution and money scams were also blatant, and aggressive. I guess it happens when you have 4 young, American guys in your group. Lady boys, young women, old women, waving at any man or women that glanced their way. Prostitutes slyly supervising children who were begging in the street, waking them up if they fell asleep late in the night.

These were undesirable but real parts of Bangkok.

Colorful Tuk Tuk | Thailand, Spring Break

Was trying to stay skeptical but then saw this tuk-tuk in Bangkok… Don’t need Xhibit, this ride is already pimped!

AirBnb Poolside | Thailand, Spring Break

On the side of the infinity pool of our Airbnb… Like, WHAT?

In Phuket, we stayed at an AirBnb villa in Kata Beach for pennies, and it surpassed our wildest expectations. House-wide surround sound, infinity pool, 6 spacious, bedrooms… Life was rough, obviously. Can’t beat those Thai prices! We rented mopeds for 250฿ ($7.20USD) a day, and got around the island on those, everything fun within a 15 minute drive.

I admit, Phuket was just as touristy has people warned it would be, but, again, in the best way. It didn’t feel touristy like face smiles and pressed shirts and $25 photos—it was island-touristy, with walking the beach barefoot, buying a coconut drink for 100฿, and buying a handmade wooden monkey from a lady carrying a small store on her back. And Kata beach had massage stations lining the whole beach for $7 for one hour (yes, I did die and go to heaven multiple times).

There was street food lining the road for more than a mile, with fresh fruit, smoothies, stir fry, and really anything else you could think of.

The shrimp eggrolls would prove to be fatally food-poisoning for one member of our group the next day… but that’s the dice you roll eating street food! The Thailand-Tummy takes no prisoners. Thankfully, the rest of us made off unscathed.

Phuket also was a little more pricy than all the vagabond backpackers had made it seem, but when pricy actually means average, American prices, you swallow the annoyance and make due.

Patong and Bangla Road did not disappoint in the slightest, brimming with tourists from around the world and locals selling everything under the moon and sun.

We had amazing food the nights we spent in Patong, and it was endlessly entertaining walking along the beach and people watching, weaving through the markets trying to resist the perfectly replicated Yeezy boosts, Nike-wear, and other American brands, and of course, cheap massages.

The infamous Bangla Road also made for a great night of partying! The DJ was great, and made dancing with the other tourists amazing fun, and I had the time of my life. And in true Thailand fashion, drinks were endless!

But aside from the Patong parties,  Phuket had a lot of other interesting cultural things to do. We took a day tour around the island that led us to the Big Buddha, Old Phuket, Wat Chalong, and some scenic viewpoints like Kata Viewpoint.

Outside of Temple | Thailand, Spring Break

Just chalong at Wat Chalong. Get it? No?

Me at Thai Temple | Thailand, Spring Break

Alright, I admit, these warm colors give me LIFE! I don’t even care that the wraps they gave me make me look like I got dressed in the dark!

Me at Big Buddha | Thailand, Spring Break

She got a Big Buddha so I call her…

Big Buddha Statue | Thailand, Spring Break

Big Buddha. 😉

Inside of Temple | Thailand, Spring Break

How is it possible that a wat is prettier on the inside?!

The islands were the final straw for me. Even after being surprised by Bangkok and Phuket as a whole, I still did not want to go these dumb islands. In my mind there was absolutely no way they could live up to all of the impossible praise that is constantly rained upon them.

But, like this trip, somehow I ended up going.

We took an island tour for 2300฿ per person, which I thought was way too pricy when I paid. It left at 12PM, and had an itinerary of Ko Phi Phi, Ko Phi Phi Leh, Monkey Beach, the Viking Wreckage, and Maya Bay.

I got on the boat with very low expectations. And, surprise:

 

A post shared by Gabby 🌏 (@packslight) on

I was in love.

I did not want it to be true, but it was. Frustratingly, every single island surprised me at how it could possibly be more scenic than the last.

We only stayed at each place for around hour, but it was the perfect amount of time. We snorkeled at Koh Phi Phi Leh with gorgeous fish and explored the corals, and of course the water was the perfect temperature.

I mean, look at these photos. It’s not humanly possible to not be instantly star struck by these sites. Not possible, I tell you!

Ko Phi Phi Leh Sun Shot | Thailand, Spring Break
Me at Ko Phi Phi Leh| Thailand, Spring BreakKo Phi Phi Leh  Swimming| Thailand
Snorkeling in Thailand | Spring Break

This face was the. “Aw, s***… I’m have an amazing time”-face.

We got off at Monkey Beach, Ko Phi Phi, Lo Pile, and Maya Bay. At Monkey Beach I lounged as people took photos of the monkeys. Ko Phi Phi we a great lunch, and walked around the tourist shops for a bit. Lo Pile is the lagoon in the cover photo of this post, and was as magical as the photo shows.

Back on the boat. Snorkel snorkel, photo photo.

By the time we got to Maya Bay the sun setting, and we quickly explored the little island and made fast friends with some other tourists.

In Awe at Maya Beach| Thailand, Spring Break

At this point I couldn’t hide my smile!

Group Photo!| Thailand, Spring Break

The whole crew! (+random guy doing the bunny ears to my friend)

Maya Beach View Deck | Thailand, Spring Break

Pose on Maya Beach Thailand, Spring Break

And that’s it. 

I tried you guys, I really did. I did not want to fall into the Thailand-trap, but it got me good.

There were food poisoning incidents. My friend got his cash stolen from his wallet. There were minor moped injuries and incidents. There were tourist traps. Sometimes it felt slightly overpriced. English was not at all the dominant language, and we sometimes had to either get very creative or give up when asking directions…

And I loved every single minute. In Thailand, everything feels so in the moment. If feels like you’re truly living, and there are an infinite many things to do in the different parts of the country. You can see just 25 must-do’s of Thailand here!

I guess I learned the long way, that sometimes there are dumb overrated tourist attractions, and sometimes there are real reasons why some things are as popular as they are!

So, whatever.

Add me to that list below your retired preschool teacher of people who have been to and fallen in love with Thailand. I deserve it.

And you know what? I will be back!


Did you have the same reservations about going to Thailand? Does this make you feel any differently about going? Leave me a comment below!

When I heard that my friend's wanted to go to Thailand, my first thought was, "...WHY?". See why I had no desire at all to see the country, and what I think after my time there.

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When I heard that my friend's wanted to go to Thailand, my first thought was, "...WHY?". See why I had no desire at all to see the country, and what I think after my time there.

No, pin THIS!

31 Discussion to this post

  1. Im so glad Thailand changed your mind! Thailand is a beautiful place with wonderful people and I really couldn’t get enough if it either! Thats why its so important to try everything once because you might end up liking (or loving) it! Koh Lanta is a great island to visit, a little quieter but still gorgeous!

  2. Abbi says:

    I absolutely totally agree! I’ve only been to Bangkok and Ayutthaya in Thailand so far and I admit there are things about the country that I didn’t like as you described, and things I don’t want to see like the tiger temple, full moon party etc. I love visiting less touristy places, but as you mentioned, sometimes places are popular for a reason. I had sort of written off Thailand while everyone I know goes there on ‘lads” holidays, but I realise I need to give it a chance. I’m hoping to head to Myanmar later this year so perhaps I’ll combine it with a trip to Thailand!

    • Gabby says:

      If you have the means to tack on Thailand to your trip you definitely should! I also like slower, more cultural travel things and Thailand does offer those. Cooking classes are really popular in Thailand!

  3. Nate says:

    Great post! I am thinking the same about Thailand. I don’t feel the need to visit the country, because at least 5 of my friends spent months there already. However, next month we will give Thailand a try. We will be there for a whole month. So let’s see, how my opinion about Thailand will be after our stay.

    • Gabby says:

      Hopefully yours is changed like mine was!

      Thailand is a land of give and take but it can truly be a good time, I hope it surprised you! 🙂

  4. I love Thailand and I’m so glad you did too! I think for me, it was my first long haul trip so everything about it was like a whole new world! You are right though, since I went I’ve noticed everyone and their dog talking about their own trip! It really is worth the hype though! Love the post!

  5. Glad you loved Thailand! I hate it when people ask why you’re going there and it’s nothing special and blah blah more travel snobbery.
    Thailand still has tons of places no one knows about- it still has authentic and real and off-the-beaten-path if only you look in the right places.

  6. Susie says:

    Love this! I can definitely relate. I avoided most of the tourist spots when I was there two months ago, but your post makes me want to go back and give them a chance!

  7. Julie Lane says:

    Great writing style! I’m heading to Thailand in a month to meet up with a friend who’s having me join their itinerary of: Bangkok, Phuket, and Koh Samui and have been feeling like you were. Hopefully I will find it just as magical as you did!

  8. penelopi says:

    Yes Thailand is a dreamy place!!! Glad that you changed your mind!!!!!

  9. Aubrie says:

    I really loved this post and your writing style and I can really see where you are coming from. I actually just went for the first time in November and I really loved it too! I went to Phuket, Chiang Mai, Similan Islands and James Bond Island so I missed some of the places that you went. I loved your pictures and will definitely have to visit those places next time!

  10. Marguerite says:

    When I visited Thailand (I only saw the islands), I didn’t know what to expect, but I immediately fell in love with the country and now I’m planning a trip again this fall, and will be doing Bangkok and hopefully Chiang Mai! There are travel trends, but sometimes places deserve their reputation, I’ve learned!

  11. Joanna says:

    I loved Thailand! Definitely want to go back. I went with 5 of my girlfriends (we’re all African American) Andy everyone treated us like celebrities. Sorry your friends had to go through that. I’m happy you enjoyed yourself.

  12. Sarah says:

    First. Gorgeous photos!!! But yeah, I totally feel you on this!! When I graduated college my best friends wanted to do a cruise of the Bahamas. I was like…how basic does it get?? In my mind, both the cruise AND the Bahamas were for lazy Americans who couldn’t be bothered to actually go somewhere more unique. But in the end it was an amazing time with my friends, and I ended up falling in love with the Bahamas. Sometimes we just need to go do the touristy thing!!

  13. B says:

    Despite the crowds, I think Thailand has so many gems that that you can appreciate one way or another. Glad it turned out that way for you. I miss the street food and lovely beaches for sure!

  14. Diana says:

    Looks so amazing – I would love to visit. Great photos

  15. Flo says:

    I totally get why you were skeptical and didn’t want to be disappointed! But glad to hear that Thailand knocked the ball out of the park! It’s such an amazing country – if you make it back make sure to check out Koh Samui and Chiang Mai as well 🙂

    • Gabby says:

      Koh Samui and Chiang Mai are for sure the top of the list next time! Somehow I think I’ll like Chiang Mi even more than the islands, if thats even possible!

  16. Rachelle says:

    Bravo! This is one of the best posts I’ve read EVER! We all have those destinations in our minds – OUR Thailand – where we don’t want to fall in love with the touristy feelings and Insta-overload, but isn’t it crazy when that changes? I haven’t been to MY Thailand (France), but I can’t wait to see if I have the same feelings that you did with Thailand!

    • Gabby says:

      Wow Rachelle, I really appreciate your comment I’m so glad you liked it!
      I totally agree, and France is similarly hyped up like Thailand is, but hopefully for good reason! 🙂

  17. Erin says:

    I think this post is even better because you said beforehand how you didn’t want to go. I’ve felt the same way! Like, no way a country can be that amazing and that cheap. I’m glad you talked about the real stuff too. Thanks for this post, now I guess I’ll have to go there and see for myself!

  18. Caitlin says:

    Its great to see that Thailand changed your mind at the end of your trip! I guess you could say I’m one of those brain washed people who are dying to visit Thailand. Many places, unfortunately, have become very touristy throughout the world, but I don’t think that takes away from its natural beauty and culture. Hopefully one day I’ll be lucky enough to visit here. Thanks for a great read!

  19. This was an interesting post for me to read because I love Thailand, I ended up calling that place my home for a year after initially backpacking there. I returned as an English Teacher but I taught in the rural areas where there are no foreigners, so I go to see it from two very different points of views, as a backpacker and an expat. I’m glad you let the beauty of this place take a hold of you. You’re completely correct that some things are popular for a reason and this is one of them, same with Angkor wat and Halong Bay I think. But Bali, is one I don’t understand all the fuss with, to be honest.

  20. Christine says:

    Wow awesome post! So happy I read this before planning my trip to Thailand! Your trip looked amazing and you photos are really nice too!

  21. Alyssa J says:

    Hahaha! I’m glad you enjoyed Thailand 🙂 I’ve been there five times now, and probably will return once more now that I’m back in Asia again! I think each destination is unique to every individuals, even if it may come off as very touristy. I used to cringe at the thought of Bali, but it remains one of my favourite spot not because of what it has to offer, but the memories I built in Bali. I met so many amazing people, interacted with the locals, learnt a little bit more about myself – and that’s all that matters 🙂

    P.S. you should definitely head to Borneo and the Philippines, they’re one of the top spots of South East Asia in my opinion 😀

  22. Dariel says:

    Sounds like you had an amazing time. I didn’t buy into Thailand and still don’t even though I’ve only visited Bangkok and Phuket. Maybe I went to the wrong places?

  23. Lauren says:

    I’ve also never been to Thailand and it’s never had that appeal for me that it does for other people, so I totally resonated with this post on that level! I really love the way you write and explain things too, it actually made me read it all and not give up after the first sentence 🙂

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