Yanling's Blog

Article: The 21 unusual and surprising things about Thailand

In this article, you will read about the 21 unusual and surprising things about Thailand.
If you haven’t been there yet and want to know a bit more, please keep reading.

I have spent a total of two months and two weeks on trips in Thailand, in Bangkok.

Reading time: 17 minutes (130 wpm).

This is one the article from the Unusual and surprising things series.

1. Scooters

Bangkok with scooters on the road

Not until I went to Vietnam, Thailand was for me the scooter country.

Coming from the west, with cars dominating the roads, it was such bewilderment for me to see so many scooters.

Everybody who wants to move fast through the traffic needs to drive on motorbikes.
Since motorbikes can drive up to the front with every stop at the traffic lights.

2. An overloaded truck with people 

While walking on the streets, I caught a truck with people sitting and standing in it. 
It was fully packed and the end of the truck is open.

People had to hold tight to not fall out. 

I was so surprised that this is possible.

In the west, this would have not passed the laws of safety for employees.
It was very dangerous looking.

Also, the condition in which the people were transported, reminded me of a truck with pigs.

How can human beings be treated in the same way we do with pigs; putting them all in one small space?

Unfortunately, I did not manage to take a photo of it.

3. Trainstation with no lack of seats

Hua Lamphong station with many chairs

The Hua Lamphong train station is really special.
There are so many seats that it made me feel I was like at a theater or cinema.

I don’t know if this is everywhere in Bangkok and Thailand or just this station.

It became a hangout place, I have my doubts everybody there is waiting for the train.
At least, I wasn’t, I was tired of walking and took the chance to rest in one of the many seats.

I have not seen so many seats in a train station elsewhere.

4. Security gates in the subway

A security gate in the subway station

It did not strike me as Thailand being very unsafe.

It was kind of surprising to see these gates in every subway station.
When you enter, you have to walk through it.

These kinds of security mean, I am not surprised to see in Europe, like in Belgium or Germany.

Anyway, it was good to see that they work on security.

5. Watch out for traffic while crossing roads

Bangkok zebra crossing

I had been mainly in Bangkok, so I cannot say if the rest of Thailand is like this.
Most likely not.

People drive fast and they ignore zebra crossings.
Yes, zebra crossings exist but it is more for decoration than it is functional.

Even when you stand for five minutes waiting for cars and scooters to stop, they will not stop.

Also, to wait for a moment of no traffic coming is almost impossible in the main roads in Bangkok.

You have to force your way through the traffic when the traffic is less condensed.
Motorbikes will have to slow down seeing you crossing.

I have done this many times and was lucky to not have an accident.

Bangkok is not a place where you can walk safely as a pedestrian, like in Europe.
Hence, I rarely saw people walking outside for long distances (more than 10-15 minutes).

6. Really bad traffic

Many cars and motorbikes on the road in Bangkok

It was so surprising to get to know it was all day long traffic jams in Bangkok.
Roads get busy starting after 6 am.

Needless to say the usual traffic hours in the morning and late evening, are the worst.

If you have a flight in the morning around 10 or 11 am, make sure you have plenty of time for the traffic.

I once went to the airport with more time calculated for the traffic and that was needed.

Normally, with no traffic, it would take around 30 minutes to arrive at the airport.
Now, with the traffic, it was one hour and we already took the toll roads which were faster.

Bangkok is the number 8 world rank of highest congestion.

People avoid traffic jams by all means, for instance taking a motorbike taxi instead of a car.
At least you arrive much quicker than by car and it is also cheaper.

7. Order food and other pickups through Grab

Grab screen

Another thing people do to avoid the traffic is to not be on the road if possible.

They have something ordered, for example, a meal or a pickup of some medicine at a drugstore.

They will then use Grab delivery to let a bike rider get it for them, pay for them in advance and delivery it. 

By using the people already out driving a scooter, it reduces the extra traffic that comes with  traveling ourselves.

See my other article for detailed explanations on how that work:

8. Eating spicy food

Also, rice with veggies have hot red peppers

Despite the hot weather, people kept eating spicy food.

The level of spiciness was intolerable for me. 

The oddness was that almost every dish had red peppers cooked with it. 

Even the instant meals from the supermarket, like noodles, had very small pieces of red pepper.
It was barely visible, so I did not see it until the sensations from my tongue kicked in.

9. Toilet with a hose

Thailand toilet with a hose to clean the butt

The hose you see in the picture is everywhere in every toilet.
It is used for cleaning the buttocks.

People who are used to this, cannot live without it. 
They thought only using toilet paper is not clean.

It came as a surprise for me because bottom cleaning I only knew this from Japan.
In Japan, there are toilets with a hose and some toilets have a spray inbuilt, to spray your bottoms clean.

10. Speech shows gender

It was surprising to know that men and women say things differently, depending on their gender.

Men and women say things differently by adding ka (for women) or krab (for men).

To thank someone, a man will say: “Khab khun krab”.
A woman will say: “Khab khun ka”.

This is for everything you say.

What about a transgender? 
They use “ka”.

11. Kingdom and king are sacred

Big picture of the king on the street

It was surprising to see how important and valued the kingdom is in Thailand.
The king, as well as the rest of the royal family, are seen as important.

Coming from a monarch country, The Netherlands, this is still surprising.

The current king and the former queen are well-loved in the Netherlands.
However, we don’t see heaps of display with pictures of them or anything about the kingdom.

This huge outer display is on the streets, in shops, in stations, in the parks, etc. 
See the picture in point 3 Hua Lamphong station with a picture of the king hanging on the wall.

It shows how much people love their kingdom and king.

12. Pay with 7-eleven stickers

7-Eleven stickers

When buying something at the 7-Eleven stores, customers will get stickers.
Good that I dug up some information about it before throwing them away.

No, this is not a sticker for a collection, to earn points to get a discount or get free products.
And no, this is also not a sticker for children or anyone to collect them like they do with stamps.

They are cool looking, I have to admit. 

You can use them as real money to pay in convenience stores.

On each sticker is a number, indicating the value. 
So, 1 is 1 baht, 3 is 3 baht. 

In the picture above I had 27 baht. 

With that, you can buy something in the 7-Eleven store.
For 10 baht or less you can buy one bottle of water of 500 ML.

This is super cool, I like it. 
After each visit to the 7-Eleven, I bought three or more items and every time I got stickers.

13. Chinese medicine is popular

Suan Kwang Tung, Chinese medicine clinic in Bangkok

I was very amazed to see so many Chinese medicine clinics in Bangkok.

So there is this Suan Kwang Tung clinic.
See my article:

And Hua Chiew, another Chinese medicine clinic.
This is a large clinic with doctors as teachers and students learning there.

Also, plenty of Chinese herbal shops.
There must be lots of Chinese living in Thailand.

14. Heaps of temples

A red temple in Bangkok

Thailand is full of temples. 
Whereas in some European countries you see churches, here are temples.

It was very surprising to see so many, even in a crowded city like Bangkok.

To enter the temple, you need to wear something with sleeves and pants that cover the knees.
No visible shoulders and no shorter than the knee shorts/dresses/skirts.

One of the touristic temples that I visited was Wat Pho with the reclining Buddha statue.
A huge statue of 46 meters long and 16 meters in height.

15. Heaps of squirrels in the city

A squirrel on a cable

I was very surprised to see squirrels in trees and running on the cables in the city.

I expect them in more natural areas.
Not in a big city like Bangkok with barely green.

The reason they stay in the city is people want them to be there.
They hang buckets with food on the trees.

Once, I saw a cute unicorn getting down the tree, grabbed the banana and went up to eat it.

16. Monitor lizards and other creatures

Monitor lizard walking on the road

If you are from a tropical Asian country, this is not such a big deal at all.

Being from the west, it is a surprise to see a huge monitor lizard walking slowly in front of me.
Until he saw, he hastened his way out.

I thought I saw a crocodile and was super shocked.

The shock became excitement and I tried to take a picture of it.

There are more tropical animals in Thailand. 
See my article:

17. Animal cafes

HOPS, the house of Paws dog cafe

I was surprised to find animal cafes in Thailand.

I thought this is something from Japan, as it is immensely popular in Japan.
It turns out the origin of animal cafes came from Taiwan.

And Thailand does have a variety of animal cafes. 
So surprising.

I had visited the Kitty cat cafe. 

Despite my cat allergies, I wanted to see how my body is after acupuncture treatments.

Who knows, maybe I was improved. 

Unfortunately, not really, however, I did not experience a severe reaction as I did not touch cats.

I had also visited a dog cafe HOPS.

And the Little Zoo Cafe, with some zoo animals. 
Like the wash bear.

Washbear in Little Zoo cafe

After visiting a few times animal cafes, I decided to stop doing this.

I had developed compassion for the animals.
Seeing the dogs there without going outside a lot, is not good for them.

Going to these animal cafes might be fun for us, but it’s also keeping these businesses alive.
I know that if I don’t go, not much will change, as plenty of others will visit. 

But at least this is what I can do about it on my side.

18. Animal shows in the zoo

Elephants’ show in a zoo in Thailand

I was so surprised to see animals in the zoo being trained to put up a show.
This is quite unusual for zoos to do, I think.

There are many animal activists around in Europe, that it is not possible to do so.

19. Christmas and new year with 30 degrees and bright sunlight

Christmas in Thailand

For the people “down under”: in Australia and New Zealand, this is pretty normal.
For me, coming from the west, this is an unusual experience.

I don’t have any Christmas feeling at all with the bright warm sun of over 30 degrees.

Also, Thai people don’t celebrate Christmas.
They might have a Christmas tree and decorations, but that is more in commercial areas.

Christmas days I spent in Thailand were passing by like a normal day. 

20. Pollution levels are high

The pollution was surprisingly so bad, that there were days they had to make rain.
It was not raining for a long period of time and therefore there was a lot of smog.

Comparing Thailand to India, maybe not so bad.

Thai people are wearing masks against the smog.
It is much needed, without it people notice the symptoms of air pollution.

People noticed difficulty in breathing, coughing blood, etc.

21. Street dogs

A dog and a rooster just on the street

It was amazing to see many dogs roaming outside.
In The Netherlands, every dog has an owner or they are in a shelter.

Some of them have owners, some don’t. 

Thai people take care of wandering dogs by leaving water and food basins on the streets.

Even though they look cute, it’s best not to touch them for hygiene reasons.



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