Q: What are the best places to visit if you really want to get to know the country?
A: I lived in Bangkok which is the capital city and… the biggest city. I would… spend a couple of days there but [if] you want to get out and get somewhere a little more rural so you can…explore the country… go… to… phuket… an area to the south…. There’s a nice big island out there [which is a] tourist place but it’s also got… real Thai people living there and it’s also pretty close to Malaysia, so that means it’s very intercultural…. It has… [influences from] Northern Thai food… ,… China… , [and] Malay cuisine so you get… good seafood…, good rice dishes…, [and] good curry…. I would say it’s also good to go [to] the north… [of] Thailand… [since] it’s a very old country its had three different capitals. Bangkok is the current capital but it has had two other capitals. One of the capitals is Ayutthaya (aa-yoo-tuh-yaa) [which has] lots of great ruins there… [and is] a good city [to just]… bike around for a day…. There’s also Sukhothai (soo-kuh-tai)… another old capital. It’s a little bit bigger, you probably could spend two or three days there…. You could go around in a bike or you could hire a car or a tuk tuk to take you around and see the city.
Q: Do you have any tips for when traveling with airlines?
A: I mean the biggest one you’ve heard before is get there early. One thing I’d say about a lot of airports in Thailand and in certain countries in Asia… [is that] some of the airports are really nice… but it can take a while to get through customs. Sometimes there’s extra visa paperwork [so] just get there early [because] you don’t want to end up in a position where you’re having to run to catch your flight.
Airlines are pretty accessible for English speakers. Most airlines all over the world will have directions… in English and there will be English speakers. …When you do get out of the airport most places are really good about having signs about dont take a taxi driver except from the taxi ranks. Follow that advice [or] you will get scammed and end up paying way more money than you need to or possibly something worse, mostly just scammed.
Q: What was your most memorable experience while there?
A: I lived in Thailand for eight years…. I met my wife there, I had my son there, and I got married there.
Q: What places speak enough English for someone who doesn’t speak Thai to get around?
A: [In] most tourist places [like] Bangkok you can usually get around. There’s an area in the north that’s really popular with tourists… called Chiang Mai. [It’s a] really good place to visit [and] there’s a lot of English speakers there. Most Thai people learn English in schools… [and] can pass an English two or an English three class…. I also think people really try to be helpful, so if you go somewhere and you ask them phut ang krit dai mai khap (do you speak English thank you)… they’ll go out of… [their] way to help you. [Also] just being able to say phut ang krit dai mai khap (do you speak English please)… shows a lot of appreciation and respect because you went out of your way to learn their language.
Q: Can you speak thai?
A: Pasai thai neet noi I can speak a little bit of Thai [and] can understand a little bit more. I can have… short common everyday conversations but if you ask me to read a newspaper and talk about current events I would not be able to.
Q: What do locals really think about tourists?
A: I think that most locals are pretty appreciative of tourists. A lot of it depends on are you respectful to them…. One thing I’d say in Thailand is that people judge you a lot on how you dress. It’s a really hot country but… conservative country, so try not to wear sleeveless shirts [and]… shorts that are really short especially if you’re going to somewhere like a religious temple…. It’s just a sign of respect and… you’ll just get treated a lot better if you dressed just a little bit nicely. You don’t have to be in a suit and tie everywhere but if your going to a nice place wear khakis or a polo shirt or just kind of semi formal things and…if you can speak a little bit of the language even to say like please and thank you or that was really good tasting that goes a long way.
Q: Did you have any culture shocks?
A: I lived outside the United States before but it was [still] a very big adjustment to [go somewhere] most people don’t speak the same language as you…. It was just really difficult to not be able to have casual conversations with people… It’s a strange feeling to be in a big, very busy city and to not be connected with anybody…. I think the culture shock for me wasn’t necessarily about Thailand but it was just about being in a really new place. Once I found a few restaurants I like to eat at and connected with a few people and… found some ways that I like spending my time I felt more adjusted. I’m still not fully Thai and there would still be some things that I would see and would be kind [of] confusing to me but the longer I was there the more that I would know oh okay this what’s happening.