Thailand is captivating and fascinating. It’s arguably one of the most beautiful countries in the world. The north is expansive, with emerald green mountains, gold and white temples, and a simple, laid back lifestyle. Bubbling hot springs are tucked away in dense, thick jungles. Zig-zagging, crumbling roads through the mountains lead to small towns with a few fruit stands and houses made of wood. Rice fields, with their ocean wave like patterns coat the northern lands like a great quilt.
There’s Bangkok, which is a bizarre destination in itself. Ladyboys strut the streets at night with their high heels and seductive makeup, hoping to allure the lonely male backpacker. The constant musical beat of honking horns and revving motorbike engines contribute to the melody that is associated with the traffic in Bangkok and never quiets down. Towering, pearl white walls encompass golden temples in the middle of the city, all surrounded by the madness that is Bangkok.
There’s southern Thailand, with its azure colored water and crimson colored sunsets that stretch along the horizon for miles and miles. Each island has a character of its own, and each attracts a different type of crowd. Some attract the thirsty, frat guy backpacker looking to sip on buckets and dance on the beach until sunrise. Other islands attract the older crowd looking for a quiet escape from reality, while others are simply a place a few Thai people call home. But every island is just as enchanting as the next. Cerulean water kisses snow colored sand on each island as the waves flow in and out in sync with the pattern of the moon, day by day, night by night.
Thailand is the dreamy romance we all want. It’s cultured, it’s inexpensive, and it’s full of good food. It doesn’t mind that we keep coming back for more, never fully ready to leave. It has the perfect party-rest balance. It parties until the sun is high in the sky, and it relaxes along canyons as the sun sets below the horizon. It has taught us so much about ourselves that we would have never learned otherwise.
After backpacking for three months all around Thailand, I couldn’t help but notice these little habits Thailand instilled in me. These are the 25 backpacker habits you’ll pick up traveling in Thailand.
1) You’ll develop a water bottle brand preference
Brand in the top left: winner
You’ll start to prefer one water bottle brand over the other. You’ll even dread going out to eat because you’ll potentially receive that one water bottle brand you hate. Some water will have a milk like consistency, while others will taste like it’s laced with sulfur. You’ll convince yourself there’s a chemical in some of the water bottles that make your tastebuds go to war.
It’s like cupid struck you in the ass when you see the water bottle brand you love. You’ll run towards that water, parched from constantly avoiding the other brands. That first sip will slowly drip down your dry trachea, giving it the moisture that it needs. You’ll immediately feel as new as a dog leaping through the ocean on a hot summer’s day.
2) You’ll throw your toilet paper in the garbage
The sewage system in Thailand is different than what we’re used to, so you’ll find a lot of signs plastered above the toilets that say “please throw your toilet paper in the bin.” This will become so much of a habit that you won’t even think twice about disposing your used toilet paper into the strategically placed bin.
Once you leave Thailand, you’ll be confused as to why there is no garbage bin next to the toilet. After a few seconds you’ll remember, and it will feel strange throwing it into the toilet.
3) You’ll stop using toilet paper
Those little faucets next to the toilet aren’t used for cleaning it. They’re the bum-guns of Thailand. What you once thought was the oddest thing in the world is now a strange habit, and leaving the bathroom with a wet ass is just as normal to you as using toilet paper.
4) 7 Eleven will become your savior
The possibilities are endless.
Your eyes will bulge at the colorful display of toasties, soda, chips, and shampoo. You’ll feel like a leprechaun walking on a rainbow searching for a pot of gold. Well, 7 Eleven has your pot of gold. They have everything you’ll ever need and anything you could ever want.
You’ll even consider living in 7 Eleven, pitching up a tent and sleeping in the corner. Why would you want to leave? It has everything. Those 10 baht Oreos? I’ll take them all, please.
And better yet? They’re open 24/7. That little beep sound that announces your arrival and departure when you walk through the sliding door becomes music to your ears. You’ll feel like royalty entering 7 Eleven every single time.
You’ll fall in love with 7 Eleven and ask yourself why 7 Eleven can’t be a person. They give you everything and only ask for a few baht in return. You’ll get a bit depressed at this realization that you and 7 Eleven can never get married. Forever alone.
5) You’ll consume toasties on a regular basis
So many toasties, so little time.
It’s 4 a.m., you’re drunk and hungry. But wait: is that 7 Eleven in the distance? You’ll sprint through the darkness, that luminescent red, orange, and green sign lighting up the way. You’ll run into the store and straight to the toasties section. Ham and cheese croissant, puff burger, chicken salad toasties: the options are endless. You’ll pick three of your favorite kind, all less than 50 cents, and fill your stomach with that microwaved nourishment from heaven it needs.
Maybe marrying a toasty is more feasible. You’ll daydream about toasties and wish you could be with them every second of every day. You’ll even throw toasty parties and munch on their delicate goodness with your friends. Oh, toasties, how I love you.
6) You’ll learn to weave through traffic on a motorbike like a pro
Do as the Thai’s do. Just because the cars are stuck in traffic doesn’t mean you have to be. You’ll learn to weave between the cars and avoid the closest accidents. Nothing can stop you on that motorbike. What once made your heart stop in fear is now exhilarating as you pass car after car. You’ll start to wish the traffic in your hometown was like this, even once, so you could show your friends and families the absurd skill you’ve managed to pick up.
7) You’ll learn how to haggle like a pro
You’ll develop your own secret strategy for shaving 20 baht off of a tuk-tuk fare. You’ll know exactly how to haggle and can predict the tuk-tuk driver’s next move. You’ll learn to stand your ground instead of just caving in like you used to, and won’t get nervous when the tuk-tuk driver looks like he’s not going to change his price. You know he will.
8) You’ll learn how to cure a Changover
All that Chang, all in one night. You once woke up with a pounding headache and every regret in the world. Now, you’ll wake up feeling more refreshed than ever. You’ll learn the appropriate amount of water, Thai Gatorade, and toasties you need to consume the night before to prevent that Changover. You’ll nurse the newbies back to health who have just arrived in Thailand and share your new found wisdom with them.
9) SangSom and Thai RedBull will be your drink of choice
One bucket, two buckets, three buckets, floor. Those buckets are strong. You’ll end up at bars and order the cheapest bucket, knowing it’s a $7 well spent. You and your friends will split multiple buckets and end up forgetting who owes who which amount of baht.
You’ll convince yourself there’s something else in those buckets that make us coming back for more. Maybe it’s the same thing that’s in the toasties.
10) You’ll learn how to take care of Thai tattoos (motorbike wounds)
Everyone you’ll meet will have a scar of some sort from a motorbike incident. Whether it’s you or your friend, you’ll learn how to disinfect and take care of those wicked Thai tattoos. What once was a reminder of the pain you or your friend endured will become a forever lasting souvenir.
You’ll tell stories of how you were riding through the unpaved jungle path, overgrown with thick brown roots that wrapped around the rode like a slithering snake. You’ll say that you were maneuvering around the roots like a kid playing Frogger in an arcade. At the last second, a hidden root betrayed you as it stuck out of the path and tripped your bike like a third grade boy picking on his crush. You spun out of control and landed in the bushes, your limbs tangled between finger-like stems and golden flowers. You’ll lay in the bushes and think of the tale you now have to tell.
I even have a motorbike story.
11) You’ll look forward to drunken Pad Thai
The sweet aroma of Pad Thai drifts towards you as you wait in line. A Thai woman works hard to feed ravished backpackers her delicious $1 Pad Thai. You’ll start to dream about Pad Thai when you’re sober, and convince yourself your drinking habit started solely due to the drunken Pad Thai consumption.
You’ll savor those first few bites, knowing you drank hard to earn them. An explosion of lime, peanut, and chicken will ooze in your mouth like melting chocolate cake. You’ll savor each and every bite and promise yourself you’re going to eat Pad Thai for every meal, every day. Pad Thai to the drunk backpacker is just as important as caffeine to the coffee addict.
12) You’ll develop a coffee addiction
Why drink one cup of coffee when you can have several, all for under $1? You’ll start to drink coffee in the morning, the afternoon, the evening. It’s so delicious and cheap.
One day, you’ll venture off and try the Thai iced coffee. You’ll take that first sip and immediately know it’s game over. The condensed milk will crawl down your throat and into your stomach, leaving a trail of euphoria behind it. You’ll take another sip, and another. You’ll order another Thai iced coffee. Why the hell is it so good?
You’ll savor every sip. The creamy texture and sweet taste will become friendly with your tastebuds, an everlasting friendship that should have started years ago. Together at last.
13) You’ll develop a fruit smoothie addiction
Those delicious $1 fruit smoothies will become part of your daily routine. You’ll try all of those fruit smoothies, from mango, to coconut, to banana, to papaya. You’ll start to experiment with the smoothies and start to mix different fruits together.
You’ll convince yourself and everyone else around you that you’ve found the most delicious tasting smoothie of them all when you mix pineapple and mango, or strawberry and coconut. When you start to notice your shorts have gotten slightly tighter, you’ll never admit it’s because of those fruit smoothies or the copious amount of sugar that’s in them.
14) You’ll need rice with every meal
You thought you were going to get sick of consuming rice every day, but now you seek it out. You’ll need rice with your green curry or khao soi, it just doesn’t taste the same without it. And better yet? It’s cheaper than water.
15) You’ll love saying hello and thank you in Thai
“Hello” and “thank you” are part of the past, Thai language is the way to go. You’ll pat yourself on the back after learning this communication skill you never thought you could obtain. It becomes fun to say, almost like a chant. You’ll constantly say “Swa di kaaaaa,” “Kap un kaaaa,” but will never know how to spell it.
Those strange words become a sing song that you and your friends say to each other for no apparent reason at all. You’ll start to mix up the two phrases from saying them so much. You’ll also get confused if you’re supposed to say “Kap” or “Kah.” You’ll ask yourself which is the female term and which is the male term. You’ll say whichever one comes out of your mouth first and look back with no regrets.
16) You’ll learn how to sleep on a hard mattress
When you first arrived in Thailand, you were convinced you were never going to sleep again after feeling the mattresses. After a while, you’ll learn how to sleep on those mattresses that are as hard as a tiled kitchen floor, which initially seems more appealing.
When you have to sleep on the floor during bus or train transit, you’ll thank those hard mattresses for all of those nights of training. Those mattresses were prepping you for something bigger and you never even knew.
17) You’ll learn how to take a shower over a toilet
When you arrived in Thailand, you were confused at their shower system. You felt awkward and dirty at first and tried to avoid making eye contact with the toilet. It sat there staring at you with its exposed interior, mysterious brown stains and porcelain that once shone but is now as dull as an old lightbulb.
You’ll learn how to take a shower over the toilet. One day, you’ll decide to combine the use of both of them and try to shower at the same time as using the toilet. You’ll never admit this though.
18) You’ll prefer the Wai over shaking hands
You’ll start to prefer bowing (Wai) as a thank you, and wish that you could bring it back with you to your home country. Why would you want to touch someone else’s hand, anyway? Who knows where its been, you dirty little devil.
You’ll love this cultural knowledge you’ll gain and start to do it at every opportunity you get. You’ll do it after purchasing your 7 Eleven toasties, you’ll do it after your $4 hour long massage, and you’ll do it after every tuk-tuk ride.
19) You’ll learn how to order your food in under three seconds, and then eat at different intervals with your friends
From the second you sit down at a restaurant, the waitress is at your table waiting for your order. You’ll get anxious and scared, especially if you’re the food-regret type. Eventually, this won’t even bother you anymore. You’ll learn how to quickly scan the picture menu and pick something that looks good.
Or, you’ll come up with a new tactic and convince yourself you deserve a reward for it. You’ll stand outside and look at the menu first and know what you want before you sit down, wowing all of your friends.
You and your friends will never eat a meal at the same time. Your friend who ordered first will eat after everyone’s finished. Your friend who ordered last will eat first. You’ll expect each person to eat at different intervals, and won’t get anxious when you eat first. Everyone’s eyes will be glued to your plate like a spoiled dog watching his owner eat a juicy piece of chicken.
20) You’ll think eating out of a plastic bag for takeaway is completely normal
Those times you don’t feel like sitting at a restaurant will come. You’ll wait for that plastic bag filled with whatever you just ordered, those BPA’s leaking into your meal. You’ll start to like the added flavor and train yourself not to think about what you’re putting into your body.
You’ll feel as uncoordinated as a lanky boy going through puberty as you try to pour your meal from the plastic into a bowl. Some will spill on the counter and onto your white shirt, which you still won’t understand why you brought backpacking. You’ll wonder if there’s a secret way the Thai’s eat their takeaway meals, and feel left out with the realization that you will never know.
21) You’ll expect food poisoning at some point
If you haven’t had food poisoning yet, it’s coming for you. You’ll be wary of everything you eat on the street at first, but that won’t stop you. If you wake up one day with liquid coming out of both ends, you’ll know your time has come and to just endure it. You’ll hope what they say is true, that “once you get it, you won’t get it again.”
22) You’ll never expect the same meal to look or taste the same twice
You’ll never have that green curry you ordered at that one restaurant again. One green curry will have carrots and peppers in it, while the next green curry will have some strange vegetable and basil leaves in it.
You’ll base half of your meals off of the picture menu, knowing it will never look like their Google Images picture says it will. You’ll never expect the same meal twice, and kind of enjoy the Thailand food gamble.
23) You’ll become immune to the amount of people that can fit onto a motorbike
They’re the clown cars of Thailand, all squished onto a motorbike like the NYC subway during rush hour. When you first arrived in Thailand and saw a dad with his three children zooming down the streets of Bangkok, you wanted to chase after them and stop them. Now, seeing four adults on a motorbike won’t even phase you. They’ll zoom past you and you won’t even notice. You’ll even ask, to no one in particular, four people on a bike? Why don’t they have six?
24) Street food won’t scare you anymore
You’ll try anything. You’ll even eat a scorpion on Khaosan Road. That strange looking fish/chicken/octopus thing on a stick? I’ll take three, please.
When you first arrived in Thailand, you played it safe and only ate what you knew. That will become a thing of the past. You’ll pick three random items that look edible, interested to try them out. It won’t phase you that those three items have been sitting on a table all day as the sun’s rays gently caressed them and black flies feasted on them like myself at a sushi buffet. You’ll love every strange flavor that makes your taste buds scream with excitement.
25) You’ll walk around barefoot more often than not
You’ll probably lose your shoes at some point. You’ll have calluses tougher than wood. You’ll prefer to walk around barefoot and get annoyed when you have to put on your shoes for some reason or another. You’ll start to love the barefoot freedom you’ve given yourself, and appreciate the time you’ll save not looking for your shoes before you leave your hostel. You’ll go to bars barefoot, walk around a city barefoot, and even visit 7 Eleven barefoot.
Oh, Thailand. How I love you.
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