1. Death is lurking around every corner
People my age tend to feel “sketched out” far too often. I was told, by friends that have never been to Thailand, that I should feel sketched out about living here. The common exclamation “Thailand? that’s amazing!” was almost always followed with “don’t die”. Lucky for me, all of those naysayers are completely wrong about this country.
There is crime like any other country, however it is arguably safer than most of America’s major cities. In the northern city of Chiang Mai, my newfound home, violent crimes are few and far between and theft not nearly as common as ignorance allows people to think.
During orientation, our Program Director told us that there are no ghetto’s in Chiang Mai, and we should rarely feel unsafe wandering around day or night.
I can walk alone down my soi after dark, in pursuit of a street smoothie, and feel confident in my safety. Realistically, you should always be aware of your surroundings, but, come on people it’s called the land of smiles not the land of imminent danger.
2. Good luck living in the stone age
Ten or twenty years ago it may have been accurate to think of Chiang Mai as a fairly undeveloped city. But these days it is a largely developed and easy to navigate city.
Despite this, I’ll admit I was skeptical about access to atms and wireless internet. The reality of 21st century Chiang Mai is that you cannot walk down any street without passing by a 7-Eleven equipped with at least one atm in front of it.
Thai’s are just as, if not even more glued to social media as any other culture, so businesses benefit from having free wi-fi. It’s pretty rare to walk into a restaurant, coffee shop, hotel, etc. without having access to free wireless internet. Subsequently, it’s pretty rare to walk into a restaurant, coffee shop, hotel, etc. without having access to snapchats and pre-instagrammed selfies.
Even in the mountains, far beyond the outskirts of the city, I was able to get functioning wi-fi at a cabin-style guesthouse and an elephant park, making shameless selfies with elephants very possible.
3. The toilets are medieval
Everywhere you go in the world there are variations of how bathrooms work. Matter of fact, there are variations on what bathrooms, water closets, and banos are called.
I had a friend say the other day that her grandmother told her to have fun peeing into a hole in the ground for five months. Alright, I will say that northern Thailand’s villages and rural areas customarily only use squatter style toilets.
For a westerner it’s as much of a nightmare as it sounds squatting down butt-to-ankles to use the bathroom. But it humbles you and is still a porcelain toilet bowl so it’s not as archaic as you’re probably picturing.
In the city, it’s much less common for an establishment to have squatters. A lot of bathrooms in Chiang Mai have western style toilets equipped with a small water hose for cleaning instead of toilet paper, which evidently is more sanitary.
So, while the toilets here are a little different, I promise you’ll be grateful for the humbling lesson on cultural differences and the new muscle tone in your thighs.
4. You’ll get so tired of Thai food
False. There was a point during my first week here that I thought this as well. ‘Theres no way I’m going to keep wanting to eat this much rice and eggs everyday’ I thought. Double false. I can honestly say that I and my taste buds have become so accustomed to Thai food that we’re in it for the long-haul.
I have always been a lover of Thai food, and since being here I’ve become passionately obsessed with authentic Thai meals. I probably eat upwards of 30 eggs a week, have consumed a few gardens-full of basil, and eaten enough rice to cause a demand for speedier rice production.
It’s hard to get tired of Thai food when everywhere you go, a meal is flavorful and more than likely a dollar or two. I will never grow tired of Thai omelets, khao soi, fried basil, and pad thai–my true loves.