This surprised me.
Ordinarily, when I fall hard for a country, it's language, food, and culture -- in that order. But in Thailand, first, I fell in love with culture, I had a strong liking for the food before arriving and found a few new things to adore while there (but I don't really like sweet things or coconut milk or fruit, so the food relationship would never be anything more). After spending a bit of time in the country, I developed a little bit of a crush on the language, but truly, the unknown script, tones and loose consonants plus the ease of Tinglish meant that if I was honest, I really only liked the language (and the food), but I *loved* the culture.
|This table on the beach is a restaurant. (There was one other one.)|
I mean, these people are CHILL.
And the landscapes are gorgeous. And the infrastructure and engineering is super pragmatic/hacked (see Long-tail boats).
The lifestyle in Phuket, Koh Samui, and Koh Tao are all focused and functional enough to feel like you could get most things done, eventually, and medical treatment if you needed it, but relaxed enough to feel like just about *anything* you wanted to do would be tolerated, so long as you were polite enough to find a place where it was not super conflict-causing.
On the laundry scale, Thailand was a place where it *should* always be very easy to get your laundry done because many people advertise the service and the prices are extremely reasonable (50 Bhat per kg). We had our dive center do our laundry before we left Koh Tao and it was exemplary -- we handed it over and for $7 USD it came back in 24 hours, clean, dry, and folded. Such Luxury!
|This was our "road" for part of our bus ride from Phuket.|
|Thankfully, the hard rain was during a paved section of the bus ride.|
|The seas were a bit rough on the ferry to Koh Samui.|
In a perfect example of what I'm trying to explain -- there were *so* many travel agencies, all selling the same stuff. At any given point, some number of them would be closed for smoke breaks, lunch, family business, etc. But there were more than enough open at any point in time, and because they were in heavy competition, when we tried to book a ferry and overnight train to Bangkok, we got the best service packaged all-in-one with all transfers at the exact same price that everyone else dependable/reputable/recommended/English speaking was offering.
|Views from our Koh Samui guesthouse.|
|CPX orange boat -- our main Bangkok transport.|
|Tuk-tuks in Bangkok.|
After we got over how awesome the wrong way one-way trick was, we pointed out that this wasn't our hotel (the Sheraton). Instead, he'd seen our backpacks and assumed we must need the hostel district. Ooops. Eventually, once he realized we needed to go somewhere else and couldn't seem to read our phone map (a super common issue in Southeast Asia, btw, handing someone a phone map with directions does not immediately solve the problem like you'd expect it to do). Finally, E cut me off from trying to repeatedly say "Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel" and just kept saying "Sheraton" "SHERaton" "SheraTON" until the driver's face lit up and he said, "OH, SHER-A-TON! I KNOW!". E's phone thought it was 6.1 Km to drive from where the driver understood to the hotel, but the tuk-tuk took us through some alleys and various "pedestrian" paths such that we were there in 1.5 Km.
|Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho is HUGE.|
|Khao San Road in a nutshell -- 7/11, massage and tattoos.|