Modern Thailand, new tourists

By Derek Miller
Of all of the places to visit in South-east Asia, the Kingdom of Thailand is easily the most popular with Western travellers.

Attracted initially by the flavors of old Siam, the stunning natural beauty of the islands, beaches and mountains of the North and the warmth of the Thai people, many visitors never leave or come back time and again.

What tends to anchor travellers and secure repeat trippers are the convenience of easy access to most Western โ€˜necessitiesโ€™. In many parts of Thailand access to fast-food chains, bookshops, video stores or English language TV is easily available.

At the same time the throbbing Tuk-tuks, the street hawkers selling chocolate coated grasshoppers and the long-tail boats jetting down pungent canals never let anyone forget where they are. Even the French-fries will be served with a sachet of chilli sauce.

Western amenities are not the only home-comforts for the tourist in Thailand; western standards are also becoming the norm too. The standards of many of the international hospitals in Bangkok (and elsewhere) are truly world class and often the hospitality they offer really sets them apart.

Traditionally visitors to Thailand have included the budget travellers, the sex tourists, the beachcombers, the middle-aged world tourists and the businessmen but these days more and more people are coming here specifically for the medical facilities. The rationale is why not combine a relaxing beach holiday with dental work, cosmetic surgery or even elective surgery?

Especially when the standards of medical treatment can rival any in the world and the low prices mean that those relaxing weeks on the beach are effectively an idyllic free recuperation.

Thailand is so ready to receive Western tourist these days that many of the old frustrations have been completely eliminated. Also the ability of most Thais to be able to offer basic assistance in English helps things run smoothly.

However, as with visiting any foreign country, some care should be taken in communicating with people to minimize those awkward misunderstandings. In Asia particularly it is important not to show anger or impatience as it will only count against you. Also, choose your words carefully to be easy to understand. Listening to irate โ€˜Farangsโ€™ shouting โ€˜Department of Consular Affairsโ€™ at a wide-eyed motorcycle taxi driver in Bangkok can be extremely tiring for all concerned and unlikely to be successful for the tourist.

Now that Bangkok has state-of-the-art mass transit in its unique sky train and ultra-modern underground rail system it is a lot less draining to move around this sprawling metropolis. The systems donโ€™t cover every part of the city yet but you can travel in comfort to the area you want first, so to eliminate those interminable cross-town taxi or bus rides.

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