Bangkok for Beginners

Well here we are in Bangkok, Thailand! After wanting to come to South East Asia for over a decade, we've finally made it here. We've been here for a week so far and are easing into a new way of life, in a country with a different culture, diet, and customs to our own. We expected to feel a little culture shock, being far from our home comforts, but we want to share with you a few things we've experienced since arriving in the land of smiles.

1. Jet lag.

We had a 17 hour flight from London Heathrow (including a 3 hour layover in Guangzhou, China) and arrived into Bangkok at 10pm local time. We thought that after a good night's sleep we'd be cured of any jetlag incurred, but boy, were we wrong! We've experienced days of waking up at 5am, random sleeping in the middle of the day, and at the moment we can only seem to fall asleep by 5am and subsequently wake up at noon. Hopefully this will get easier soon, but it's sure taking its time!

2. Dietary change.

We knew that Asian cuisine is very different to our own Western offerings, but this knowledge alone simply didn't prepare us for how different things would be. Of course, we'd tried westernised versions of Thai green curry and pad Thai, but these dishes bare little resemblance to authentic Thai food. The flavours and amount of spice in 'real' Thai food are very different, and this proved to be a bit of a shock for our tastebuds. We discovered things we'd never heard of before, such as Thai eggplant and the Durian fruit.

The Thai portions offered are also small compared to portion sizes back in the UK. At first we struggled to eat enough (in part due to our jet-lagged routine) and ended up eating Asian-style pot noodles from the 7/11! The other day we braved some street food and ended up eating a dish that really didn't agree with us (it contained many different sorts of mixed meats, boiled eggs and rice). I'm sure we will find a balance soon, but the food here is certainly very different to how we imagined.

3. Confusion. 

It definitely helps to research A LOT before you do anything here! If unprepared, things could get tricky quite quickly, and you could find yourself ushered into one of the many tourist traps or scams. Luckily, there's such a wealth of info online that you can prepare for just about anything before you do it. I'd read up about making sure that the meter is turned on in local taxis and poured over an article about which boat to take on the Chao Phraya river. There are so many options, that things can easily get overwhelming.

I'm trying to learn Thai, but it's hard, and a lot of people laugh at me (I must sound stupid, to be fair!). A lot of the time the vendors don't understand what I've tried to order, and we end up getting a completely different dish or drink than originally intended, but then I guess that's also part of the fun!

4. Health and Safety.

The UK is the land of health and safety! Cordons, yellow warning signs, hard hats and the rest. Expect none of that here! It certainly adds to the sense of adventure when walking along a busy road with no pavement, sharing your path with motorbikes, trucks, cars and tuk-tuks. Expect steps to be narrow, cables to be overhanging, wires to be sticking out, and sections of path to be missing. Also watch out for stray dogs, they are abundant here! We think they're quite cute but are a bit worried about rabies...

5. Saying hello.

Thai people are incredible polite and friendly. We're used to London tube etiquette (look at and speak to no one!), but here you are often greeted with a friendly 'Sawatdee-Ka' or 'Sawatdee- Kup'. It makes us feel like smiling all the time! But, of course, us British people like to analyse everything and we find ourselves thinking all sorts of things, such as: 'at what point should I say hello?', 'who do I not say hello to?', and 'should I wai (prayer-like gesture)?'. This can also be overwhelming for a westerner who wants to fit in and not look silly! But then, I guess we have to be ok with looking silly sometimes, eh?

What were your first impressions of Bangkok? 
Did you experience culture shock? 
We'd love to hear from you in the comments!


  1. My first encounter of Bangkok was in 1986. At that time the traffic was unbearable with many smoky vehicles. As soon as we arrived in Bangkok a young man, claiming to be a student, invited us to the seafront, places to eat and cultural events which we enjoyed tremendously along with his company and commentary. What was remarkable to me at the time was how clean the toilets were! Also how clean the street food was and easy to digest. Loved Bangkok and Thailand except for the traffic

    1. That sounds like an amazingly memorable experience! That's brilliant that you were shown around by one of the locals who helped you find the best places to go. The best experiences are the spontaneous ones! Thanks so much for sharing.


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