The announcement of the Thai borders reopening had a lot of hopeful travellers dusting off their backpacks, all eager to get back out into the big wide world. There are a whole bunch of reasons why backpackers love Thailand, and as someone who shares that sentiment, I was eager to see what it was like now. I wanted to know exactly what had changed, and what remained the same?
The words ‘SawasdeeKaaaa..’ were music to my ears as I stepped off the plane, and confirmed I’d made the right decision to come back. Anyone not familiar with the term should know this is an extremely common greeting that means hello, and it typically gets elongated the happier the person is. While that greeting hadn’t changed I quickly noticed that other things had, and then it dawned on me… Thailand was officially “same, same, but different!”
Ok… so what’s actually changed?
With a lack of tourism over the last few years, a lot of economies have taken a big hit, yet on the other hand, the planet has most certainly benefited. Dying coral reefs have been given a breath of life, and the ocean is by far the cleanest I have ever seen in Thailand! Snorkelling in Phi Phi has never been so clear, and there are a lot more fish too. The wonderful Maya Bay is back in full swing after being out of commission for the last few years, which all builds up to an amazing trip, unlike anything many adventurers to this side of the world have seen in our lifetime.
The ocean isn’t the only benefactor following the absence of tourism, as beaches are equally as clean. Simply mentioning a trip to the islands to a Bangkok local will be met with wide eyes, round mouths and followed by “WOW! So clean! Very beautiful!” Anyone who has visited Koh Samui in the past will be left speechless to hear that I had the famous Chaweng Beach all to myself. Those of you that haven’t visited need only to imagine a long stretch of paradise, with white powdered sands that your feet sink straight into, and crystal clear blue waters ahead that reach out all the way to the horizon. This isn’t the only stretch of sand you can have to yourself. Live out your own personal fantasy of having Railay Beach as your very own private paradise!
Restaurants & bars are all slashing prices as they compete with one another to get bums on seats, and people into their establishments. Anyone concerned about spending too much will be glad to hear this is likely the cheapest time to travel Thailand since the turn of the millennium. This news is likely to spread fast, so don’t expect this to stay the same forever, just make use of it while you still can.
The cleanliness of places makes any experience you have much better, but that’s not the only thing. Tourist spots that were once booming with people, and excursions that previously overbooked or turned people away are now much quieter. Get a personal guided tour of Thailand, its beaches, snorkelling spots, scuba dives, hikes, waterfalls, viewpoints, bike rides and more. It makes for an incredibly immersive experience that is truly unique and unlike anything I’ve experienced before.
Although wearing masks has been commonplace in a number of Asian countries for some time now, even before the pandemic, Thailand was not one of them. Like everywhere else it has had to get up to speed quickly, and it is now standard to see locals and travellers all walking around with masks on. It has become part of life, and something everyone is used to… I would highly advise getting one of the necklaces that attaches to your mask. If I was still in England I’d be selling these and making a killing!
In short, get yours before travelling to Thailand. You will also want to add a vaccine certificate to your ever-growing binder of the important information you need to keep with you. Parties on Khao San road, boats between the islands and gateways to national parks all request to see evidence of your vaccine… get it before so you don’t miss out.
Popularity shift 🍻
What were once streets full of tourists and thriving businesses now resemble ghost towns… However, people still need to eat, drink and have a good time. While the strips are quite literally derelict at times, the areas full of locals and ex-pats are the talk of the town! Take Koh Samui as an example…the Chaweng district is no more (for now) and the Fisherman’s village is where it’s at. A paradigm shift has happened, but you can still find great places to eat, drink and have a good time without any issues.
Somethings never change…
The locals are still as amazing as they have always been, and the smile it puts on their face when they see a traveller walking with a big backpack on is the best. They have certainly missed us all so much, and you can tell because it takes one hell of a smile to see it through a facemask! Everyone is happy you are there, and there seems to be an understanding that the best thing they can do is give you an incredible experience that you share with others. That in turn leads to more and more people returning… that was my experience.
This could possibly have gone in the changed section, as unfortunately, people have gone out of business (primarily the larger chain restaurants). The local street food is alive, busy and as delicious as ever. Grab and Food Panda have helped keep the smaller local businesses going during the pandemic, and continue to allow you to order amazing food right to your hotel room.
I couldn’t write about Thailand without including an ode to the institution that is 7/11! Their toasties have lined the belly of many a weary traveller, and you can still find them easy enough. Some have shut down, so it now means walking a whole two minutes instead of one. It’s a trek, I know… but it’ll help you burn off that bread and cheese.
This was my first trip back to Thailand in quite a few years, and I came away having fallen in love with it even more, which is something I didn’t think was possible. I got to experience this incredible country in a way that I have never experienced before.
I cannot wait to share these incredible moments with all the travellers at Feel Free Travel. Honestly, you’re all going to have the most wonderful time as you experience everything this amazing country has to offer.
Whether you’re looking to travel solo or bring a friend along for the ride, our group tours in both Australia & South East Asia are the perfect balance of culture, adventure & party nights out. You’ll arrive as strangers and leave as the bestest of friends. There really is no better way to backpack than with Feel Free Travel 🤙🏻