Just returned from a good old 7 month stint in Africa and Asia and wanted to share my thoughts on the people of Thailand.
I have been before in 2005 and enjoyed it a lot. This time, however, I found it to be overrun with tourists to the point of being a bit daft, much pricier, and also found the people to be really rather unpleasant.
Bartering for goods seems to virtually not exist anymore and long gone are the days of having a bit of a lugh with Khaosan stallholders while negotiating on price. Guesthouse staff were unsmiling and quite blunt...the folk in 7-11 were pretty decent mind you.
If you have been before and are considering a return visit then do bear this in mind.
I walked through KSR a few months back and it was packed with tourists. Like anywhere, some tourists are welcome but when they overrun a place they are not welcome. On another forum, an innocent couple were physically attacked by a cook and his staff in a KSR eatery because of a minor complaint about food.
While many backpackers are OK, some want something for nothing, trying to get by on as little as possible, trying to buy stuff well below a reasonable price, maybe even running some scams. It makes it bad for everyone else. The Thais get jaded (Bangkok is way different from my first trip over 25 years ago).
7-11 staff have to be nice or they get the sack. Having said that, they do seem a good lot anyway.
If you go to Bangkok again, stay somewhere else (and I don't mean the lower end of Sukhumvit). KSR is a tip.
There are other destinations besides Bangkok! I find the people in Laos and Vietnam very pleasant. Also, you shouldn't judge all Thai people by those you encounter on KSR. I see many travelers making the very same mistake - get off the tourist trail and meet the "real" people.
Even in Bangkok, I stayed at the extremely friendly Baan Dinso Boutique Hostel - one of the friendliest places in Asia! (they even hand out small gifts when you check out!)
[ Edit: Edited on 29-May-2011, at 11:11 by Daawgon ]
This happens EVERYWHERE with a glut of tourists.
Get off the Gringo Trail and wander through places not covered in the guide books - you'll have a completely different experience.
Johnny in post #3 and Terry above make a very valid point. Anyplace, Vegas included, becomes less friendly when you get hoards of tourists. Vegas gets over 35 million visitors/year and those that deal directly with tourists can get jaded by the constant hoards.
Thailand has become too popular for its own good. The level of service goes down and prices go up with mass tourism. They do not expect repeat business, so the goal is to extract the maximum baht out of each tourist (victim). You need to visit less popular places in Tland to experience a 'friendlier face' of Tland.
This is why many now prefer to visit VN. VN has tourism to be sure, but not in the numbers that go to Tland. But it still pays to visit the less visited cities in VN as well. Any stop on the open tour bus system will have too many tourists IMO. As Terry stated, get off the Gringo Trail to have a much better experience.
Just about everywhere in the world has higher prices for things compared to 2005!
I usually find people respond in kind - if I approach someone grumpy, mean, nasty or unfriendly - some may respond in kind!
For the most part I find majority of the people I meet in Asia usually friendly and rarely inhospitable - at least neutral! Even if hotel desk clerks are not over friendly I find most of them do what they are supposed to do.
Thank you all for your valid and interesting responses.
I did happen to venture away from KSR although on this trip we were merely using Thailand as a stepping stone to visit more interesting areas of SEA, and also went to Laos (also visited in 2005) where I found the people (and the entire travel experience) to be vastly different to my first visit. I certainly don't recall any air-conditioned Toyota minivans ferrying us all from one place to the next. Luang Nam Tha was worth a look mind.
I am very widely travelled and always at least try to steer clear of the well trodden paths. I have been to Vietnam and it was pretty cool. I didn't want to return this time as I wanted at least some of my fond memories to remain.
I understand that prices will rise and that 2011 is to be more pricey than 2005 but South-East Asia is no longer a very inexpensive region to visit. I also re-visited India and went to Nepal - bargains can still be had in both those countries. I do not try to speand as little as humanly possible for everything and will always pay a fair price but accommodation prices in Thailand and parts of Laos make those suggested daily budgets that people always ask about considerably higher than most people, I suspect, would have hoped.
On this trip I also visited the Philippines which had very little tourists and no 'tourist ghetto' apart from arguably Boracay. It was fantastic - courteous, helpful, smiling, and genuine people and ABSOLUTELY no sign of the violence and danger that we had been repeatedly warned about. Refreshing to say the least. It's also interesting how many posts pop up on here when one searches. Perhaps I stumbled across somewhere where I didn't have to say 'Man, I wish I was here ten years ago, blah blah...'
Dawgon, I merely mentioned the bartering with KSR stallholders as an example - I spent 6 months in SEA in 2005 and too found the Lao and Vietnamese to be friendly. A guy at a guesthouse in Luang Prabang threatened to kill me this time around when I chose, politely, not to take his room. I have also travelled widely in Thailand - including the Isaan. I am at ease with the concept of 'losing face' and am always polite and respectful. Sadly, I did feel that the Thai people were respectful back this time around. I sensed barely concealed hostility. Even away from KSR.
I feel I should end this post by saying that I am a real Asia nut and am continually fascinated by the history, culture and customs. I will continue to travel in Asia and will watch the rapid changes with interest. I will also say once again that I was disappointed with the attitude of many people I encountered on this trip. The shirtless westerners, beer in hand, who swagger down the KSR do not help matters any. But for a humble traveller trying to speak Thai/Lao/Tagalog and who is polite and respectful I found it hurtful to be lumped into the same category and treated in a way that I felt was unfair.
Ok it has been about 20 years since I have ventured into Khaosan road, and have no desire to go there. Until recently I was passing through Bkk on a regular basis and stayed out of the main city centre in Bagkapi at a wonderful and cheap hotel called Siam Society resort and spa. The people there are extremely friendly as well as the locals when walking down the street. You see very few foreigners there. however it is a 120 to 150 baht taxi ride into town, not overly expensive really.
Hi I’m rather new to this. Nevertheless I’m glad that I found this website and read most of the experiences from other travelers had to share in many forums. I would say most of the discussions posted are considerably true to some extent.
I took a short trip down to Bangkok alone last month. I don’t wish to explain why I would travel alone to a foreign land. I only have few bad experiences that would make me think again if the next time I would return there alone.
First is getting direction from the locals is rather painful. Not to mention walking towards a wrong direction under the hot weather. I’m not sure whether the person that gave me these directions is fooling me or they simply do not understand basic sign language like me pointing on the map where I want to head to. I even tried speaking some basic thai from a book politely but every time I end my sentence I can notice there is this look on their face thinking I’m an idiot. So try not to get lost if u can because it is really a painful experience. I’m not afraid though and maybe that is why I’m still here today. If we remain calm and not panic I’m sure we can orientate ourselves towards the right way eventually. I will bring my iPad for a planned map direction on my next trip.
Second is I notice many locals tend to offer help to take me around when I my dress and hair style do not blend with the locals. Luckily I came across this website that told me that these are tourist touts. On my second day of my trip I switch into local dress-up-alike and get a haircut in a small saloon. I was rather surprise my hair end up funny but at least now I tend to have a more peaceful trip to myself without unwanted distraction. I still get offers from one or two person which I believe they are the most experience tourist touts even a disguise effort can’t fool them you’re not tourist.
Other than these two bad experiences I had I think my trip was rather peaceful and pleasant. I’m grateful that none of the unpleasant stuff happened to me and I arrived home safely after a week in BKK. I want to learn more thai language before I make my next trip down to BKK.
1.) "... I don’t wish to explain why I would travel alone to a foreign land..."
That's a relief. I'm sure the hundreds upon thousands of other solo travellers out there are relieved we don't have to explain ourselves either.
2.) "... even a disguise effort can’t fool them you’re not tourist..."
Unless you're Thai there is NOTHING you can do to disguise yourself to blend as a local. If you think you're fooling anyone you're sadly mistaken.