Steve Martaindale

Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series

17. Travel tips

panorama

Expect no organization here, just a list of thoughts that might make your visit special. Several are responses to questions we’ve received.

There is great variety in rooms

open air lobby

One thing I love about the tropics is year-round open-air buildings, such as this hotel lobby.

The only reason we chose this particular location was because we had friends who opened their home to us. While such an arrangement is impossible to beat, it’s also difficult to come across.

Going the more traditional route of renting a room presents a broad range of possibilities, starting with the obvious hotels, including some international chains.

There are smaller, locally owned motels, too. After we kicked them out of the house, Thomas and Tukata picked up a room at a cost of about $16 US per night.

Don’t forget hostels and backpacker inns. Then there are numerous signs hanging outside homes proclaiming, “Room for rent.” Just how adventurous do you want to be?

Use local money

It’s easy for Americans to rely on the convenience of using U.S. dollars at many spots around the world, but that’s not as accurate in Ao Nang.

Tiger Cave monkeys

Don’t play with the monkeys.

As soon as possible, convert some money to the Thai baut. Getting familiar with the exchange rate will help you feel comfortable about not overpaying. At this writing, an online site says one baut equals about three cents. One dollar equals about 34 baut.

When you’re exchanging money, the conversion rate can change between different locations. We used a walkup exchange booth – of which there are many – probably three times and also used an ATM more than once.

Getting there half the fun?

Anyone who’s flown to the other side of the world, such as Asia or Australia, knows how challenging it can be just to be on an airplane for half a day or longer.

Keep left

Remember traffic operates on the left side of the road. If you’re thinking about renting a vehicle, review earlier comments about how crazy it is. Thinking about a scooter? Thomas said, “Tourists should not be allowed to driver scooters,” presumably because they don’t understand how to function within the madness.

When we returned from our South Africa trip in 2014, we eliminated one transoceanic flight by taking a cruise from Europe to Florida. That’s not possible or affordable most of the time, but do at least investigate whether you can break up your trip, such as laying over at least a couple of days in Hawaii. Alas, we’ve never had the time and/or the money to do such a thing.

If you’re flying, there are a few things you can do.

Research your airline carefully; pay attention to the reviews. To be honest, most U.S. airlines are not popular when it comes to long-distance travel. I have had much better experiences on China Air, Qantas, Qatar Airways and, our favorite so far, Emirates. And, contrary to logic, the more comfortable airlines are sometimes less expensive.

Pack light. Think carefully about how little you might get by with. Your life in transit is much easier if you can get by with less luggage. We have traveled for extended periods with nothing but carry-on bags, but we did check one bag on our Thai trip. If you check a bag, make sure your carryon has everything that’s important and that you’re carrying enough to get by if your bag is lost. Also, if you have long layovers like we had, remember you cannot access your checked bag during that time.

Mosque

I’m aware of two mosques in Ao Nang. There is a sizeable Muslim population. There are also quite a few immigrants, mostly from other Asian countries.

Dress comfortably. Wear loose clothing. Consider layering clothes so you can adjust your attire to the inevitably changing cabin temperatures. I finally arrived at a comfortable shoe solution for me. I wore a pair of wool socks and my slip-on sandals. Maybe I looked a little funny, but I loved it.

Nap when you can. You’re changing a lot of time zones and adjusting will likely be a challenge. Help yourself by trying to not get too far behind on your sleep. It’s often easier said than done, of course, but at least relax as much as possible.

Be friendly with the flight attendants. Just because.

Dress (and act) politely

While I poked a little fun at a sign in an earlier section, there’s really something to the idea of dressing “politely.”

Longtail ride

Expect to share transportation with other people, especially if you’re on an arranged outing. The good news is it’s a great way to meet interesting folk. This is on a long-tail boat.

Many cultures are not as open to displaying as much skin as ours. Conversely, there are places in the world many of us feel uncomfortably overdressed. In most of Asia, it is considered politer to not wear revealing clothing.

And then there’s how you conduct yourself.

Some traveling Americans have earned a negative reputation overseas for being loud and overbearing, for having arrogant and self-important attitudes, for demeaning the people they’re visiting, for being ignorant of local customs, and generally taking the attitude that the U.S. and its people are better than others. You might believe that is true, but don’t act like it. You’ll enjoy your experience much more and might learn a lot.

Be weather aware

Fortunately, one does not have to prepare for a broad array of weather if traveling to southern Thailand.

Beach

Did I mention sunscreen?

It is the tropics, however, and there is usually a dependable rainy season, plus there is sun.

Bottom line is to go prepared for rain and make sure you use sunscreen. If you can, pack sunscreen because it’s expensive there.

As for temperatures, it was rather warm even though it was the middle of “winter.” Temperatures were well into the 80s and maybe the 90s. I suspect summers are a good bit warmer.

Healthy and happy

One reader asked if the bugs were bad.

We were advised to carry mosquito repellant on our trip and did so, but I don’t think we ever needed it. As for insects in general, I did not feel there was an abnormally large number.

You could see some interesting-looking specimens, though.

In case you missed it, I talked near the end of Section 3 about the inoculations we got before going.

Otherwise, we relied on common sense and had no problems.

I might add that Thailand has a deep, dark reputation in the sex trade. If that’s your reason for visiting this beautiful and amazing country, I can’t help you.

Potty patrol

Another question we’ve received, more than once, is about the rest rooms.

Squat toilet

The squat toilet on left, personal cleansing equipment on the right.

You’ve probably heard that Asian toilets are different and that’s mostly true, though many public rest rooms now include western style toilets and … notably … toilet paper.

However, there’s a good chance you will come across a squat toilet, so you’d best be prepared for it. If you don’t think you would be comfortable – or proficient – cleansing yourself with a water sprayer (which is what I saw a lot of around our area; think of a kitchen sink’s vegetable sprayer mounted next to the toilet), you might want to carry some paper with you.

And leave it in the trash can, not the toilet.

A quick search pulled up two articles – here is one and here is another – that do a better job than I can, partly because I’ve been lucky enough to encounter my serious business at times when familiar apparatus was available.

Same same

Leah had read about this before our trip.

Thais really hate to disappoint customers and will go to great extremes to avoid telling someone “no.”

You ask, “Is this the tour where we see starfish?”

The answer might be, “Same same but different.”

That is, it’s the same as the tour where one may see starfish, but they will be snails. Same same but different.”

It’s something of a joke, too, as I saw an inn on Kho Lanta and a bar on the mainland that go by the name of Same Same.

The lesson is to simply make sure you’re getting what you want.

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Proceed to 18. Retrospective

 

 

 

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