It has been aweek since this Asia vacation started. Thailand’s Chiang Mai and Phuket were fun provinces felt like Orlando, San Diego or the New Jersey Shore.
One thing I can advise folks is carry local currency account for $50-$70 cash per person and carry a credit card, no one asked for identification.
Although more the commercialized providers such as convince stores(7-11) fast food chains(Burger King, Starbucks) and tour agencies take credit card, cash is king. Most stores, businesses and attractions are cash only. Where they do take card, many will state 3% fee, not to mention it slows down your transaction. The exchange is roughly 30 Thai to 1 American so the math is easy enough.
During my stay in Chiang Mai I did engage with a few expats, in Phuket there were areas dedicated to catering to Russians. From signage to food choices this must be their Florida. It is taken for granted English is a global language, not sure I could have gotten around if all I spoke was Spanish.
The beaches were the best I have ever experienced. The public beach where we stayed and the island tour had very little solicitation without a single sing stating it was not allowed. Very friendly people never felt threatened. I am a swimmer but not a very good one, no worries the water is crystal blue clear, shallow, warm and calm. Having been to Hawaii in the past six months (Oahu and Kauai) Phuket and the Phi Phi beaches were by far more enjoyable for me.
Don’t bother renting a car, bike or worry about how to get places the number one solicitation was for a taxi. The Uber equivalent is the Grab app is also available. Yes it sounds like a kidnapping app but didn’t have any issues. Don’t have cell service, no worries connect to WiFi order Grab. The Grab app is good to get a rough estimate of the fare as the taxis do negotiate a price so beware. That said have cell service, get a VPN and connect to WiFi, many dead zones.
The time we spent in Chiang Mai was to visit an Elephant sanctuary. Mistreatment of animals is very common here. It may be illegal but elephant riding is offered, don’t do it. They break the elephants back to allow this and such majestic animals should not be exploited for profit.
Prostitution maybe legal here, as well as underage flighting don’t be shocked if you see an eight year old in Mouy Thi MMA fights and very young looking women hanging from the pole.
The number one attraction is “Ping-Pong” shows. Thailand women past their prime perform on stage and place various objects and small animals in their vaginal canal and take it in and out for viewers entertainment. Mainly discussing but had to see it to believe it. Although I did hear about this in watching it, didn’t find it entertaining and spent more time figuring out how it’s done, why they do it, and in some cases if it was just a magic trick. The women keep their clothes on and just kind of bend over to insert and remove the objects.
We had very different Ping Ping experiences one was “free” with a mandatory $30 drink order the “The Underground Phuket”. Most drinks in Thailand cost $2-$5. The second was in hole in the wall “The Lost Boys”. The Underground front door and premises looked like a NYC club but the entertainment was weak and only women in stage.
The Lost Boys was men and women, way better no cover or minimum drink, and had a more constructed performance. It was a lip-syncing, drag looking, amateur￼ hour type of show but it was a show and it tried to entertain not just gross out tourists curious about Ping-Pong. The place was near empty except for an audience member, a below average height female Russian that took over the stage. Needless to say I would have rather spent my $30 here even if there were no live animals envolved. As the only patrons￼ here it was basically basically a show just for us, it was a tiny venue had a Old Las Vegas vive, best Thai experience that night. The performers posed with us for pictures no fee involved. It only ended because they were closing.
Time on the beach. Be sure to get an umbrella or use protective clothing this is no ordinary sun. Maybe it reflects off the powder white sand and light blue water to make it stronger but holy cow did I get sun poisoning. I don’t tan, living in Dallas I know a thing or two about skin protecting with 70SPF sport level sunscreen and still got toasted.
Last thing we did was a Lady Boy show. Thailand is known for transexual men that look just like women, either naturally or surgically. Attended the show “Phuket Simon Cabaret”, a poor-mans version of a Las Vegas show, it was on the classy side for Thailand. They did global dances from India, Brazil and South Asia then moving on to American impersonators. I was so burnt out from the sun that day, fell asleep intermittently￼ however it was enjoyable no complains from the people that stayed awake.
Coronavirus came up from time to time. There were screening machines that scan you at a distance similar to night vision or heat sensors. One place did laser our forehead, our temp was 40C/104F, how can it not be we had just walked in the sun for 30min. The establishment let us in anyway after we explained.
Masks all over. Coronavirus or not Asians wear masks for many reason including pollution. My mask experience has been positive and I may use it on a regular on flights and other places with a high concentration of people in close proximity. Some people get over zealous￼, saw someone wearing in the ocean. That is dangerous you could drown. Most service staff and tour operators had them on. Would really appreciate if people cooking my meal did but it wasn’t consistent.
As of March 9 we have moved on to Cambodia and today flying to Vietnam and last stop for me is Singapore by myself. Nearly half out travel party will not be joining as planned, due to the stringent travel restrictions governments have placed on individuals having gone through Iran, Northern Italy or South Korea. Although they spent 1hr in one of these places after calling the USA embassy they confirmed visitors will be detained for 14 days symptoms￼ or not. I have a minor cold from the in-and-out of extreme heat to recirculated cold air conditioner and just plain travel happens almost all trips. Hope all continues to be fine for me and sad we lost some people along the way.
Needless to say these are the times we come to know what travel insurance is made out of. I called before I left the USA for something not travel related, call times were long. My motto is hope and pray for the best which so far has been the case, and emotionally and financially prepare yourself for the worse.