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Thailand forum

Alone and first time travelling further than europe!

Posted by 03ruben on 28/6/2011 at 17:47

So I've got 4 weeks off work and decided to spend it wisely by visiting thailand.

I'm backpacking on a minimal budget and be mostly staying in hostels but more worryingly im travelling by myself. Is this a huge problem? I'm a really social guy (have to be in my job) but am i being stupid that I'm not going to make friends while I'm travelling?

Is travelling alone going to be a huge problem?

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Posted by MADMAC on 28/6/2011 at 18:06

This is a really dangerous place, very unfriendly people - you have to be very careful here. Oh wait, I was thinking of Somalia... If there is one place n earth to cut your teeth traveling alone, this would be it. Thais are incredibly friendly, easygoing people and about as safe as it gets as well.

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Posted by busylizzy on 28/6/2011 at 19:05

As well as having the opportunity to meet Thai locals along the way, you will also be plenty of opps to meet other travellers, if that's what you are after. This is especially the case if you keep to the standard tourist trail and stay at backpackers, etc.

When travelling on your own, you will find times that you are feeling a bit alone - but it won't last for long. And that's your opportunity to stick your head out and start chatting to people - locals or otherwise.

There will be lots of travellers out there in the same position as you. You'll be fine - esp if you are a social kind of guy, as you say.

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Posted by exacto on 29/6/2011 at 03:22

As the others have said, you'd have to work pretty hard not to meet people in Thailand. But I've also found that travelling just by myself, encountering others but not adjusting my plans to anyone else, is quite nice too. The only time it is a slight bummer is at meal time, but even then I use the time to write post cards or keep a journal or plan the next day or such. Particularly with post cards or a journal, it is a chance to share the experience and your observations with people who matter to you but couldn't make the trip.

If you link up with others, great. But if not, also great. Cheers.

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Posted by loadabowl69 on 29/6/2011 at 06:00

I have also chosen Thailand as my first extensive travel destination. Going on business for about a week, then a couple weeks for vacation. I've been looking also for details on solo travel and have found that this is a good place to do that. When are you planning on going? I also will be on a budget, but it's fairly open!

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Posted by MADMAC on 29/6/2011 at 11:16

Liz
When I go out to eat alone, I bring a book. No matter where in the world I happen to be, I've always done this. Gives me something to do while eating and while also waiting for my food to come. But as often as not, here I don't read it much. I am often engaged by some Thai person who sees me sitting alone and wants to talk to me. Just last week on my way to Yasothon, I stopped in Luang Nok Tha to get something to eat and a group of guys at the next table invited me to sit with them and eat. Very typical experience out here where I live.

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Posted by busylizzy on 29/6/2011 at 13:53

Hey Mac - I'm also a hide-behind-a-book person when it comes to eating alone. If I'm not reading, I'll be studying the map for the 64th time to work out where I'm going the next day. Sometimes, I'm just enjoying my book, but sometimes what's really happening is that I'm screaming out inside me head "someone please come and talk to me so that I don't look like a loser!"

However, sometimes by having my nose stuck in a book or laptop or iGadget or whatever is kind of saying to others 'I'm busy so don't interrupt me'. What I should be doing when travelling along, and having a moment of loneliness, is invite someone else who may be alone to join me, or strike up a conversation with the waiter or someone else in the restaurant. That takes us out of our comfort zones at times - but it should be a personal challenge to anyone travelling on their own. As you said, inquisitive locals will often strike up comversations as well to find out where you are from, and where you are going.

For the OP, I guess it's a case being aware that you will have moments where you feel alone, and to have strategies on hand that you use to deal with it. Strike up a conversation with the waitress, bring a book, find another solo traveller and invite them to join you. But also recognise that it's actually OK to be on your own at times, and to learn to enjoy your own company occasionally - with or without a book to hide behind!

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Posted by MADMAC on 29/6/2011 at 15:58

Yep Liz, I agree. I always prefer to travel alone, and usually do since I am mostly on my motorcycle. It's more fun that way and I also prefer the flexibility of deciding what I am going to do when I want to do it without considering the needs or desires of others.

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Posted by SBE on 29/6/2011 at 20:59

I think you'll find Thailand much easier to travel round than Europe! Not many hostels as such but plenty of cheap guesthouses (cheap compared to Europe anyway) so you won't have to sleep in a dorm much.

Tons of other people travelling alone there too and they are probably equally keen to hook up with someone. If you see someone sitting alone in a restaurant looking as bored or desperate for company as you feel then just wander over and ask if they mind you joining them (or invite them over to your table). It's socially acceptable to do that kind of thing in Thailand, much less so in Europe.If you hit it off so much the better, if not then it's only going to last the time it takes to finish your meal and then you can scarper.

It's actually harder to make contact with people in some of the more popular spots where youngsters often travel in groups of friends. Ko Tao and Ko Phangan spring to mind... if you aren't in the group you can feel isolated but a cheerful happy open disposition can work even in those circumstances. Joining a snorkelling trip or something is also a good way to meet people...you're almost bound to get chatting with other people during the trip.

Sitting hunched over a book or a computer is a "do not disturb sign" so if you'd actually rather be talking with someone then don't get too engrossed in them!

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Posted by MADMAC on 30/6/2011 at 00:40

"Sitting hunched over a book or a computer is a "do not disturb sign" so if you'd actually rather be talking with someone then don't get too engrossed in them!"

SBE this is true - unless we are talking about Thais of course. They don't read signs of any type very well. Stop signs, yield signs, do not disturb signs...

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Posted by SBE on 30/6/2011 at 08:11

Depends where you are MM. Thais who live in places that are mobbed with foreign tourists are often pretty jaded and not particularly interested in having a chat with them....unless it's business related.

Many Thais don't speak good English either...they aren't going to try and strike up a conversation with a random farang who they assume speaks no Thai. Partly a face thing (potential embarrassment on both sides) and partly quite widespread xenophobia which isn't overt or noticeable to your average holiday maker but it's nevertheless there. Don't worry about that BTW 03ruben... they'll smile anyway!

My comments were to do with farang encounters...which I presume was what 03ruben meant when he said he wanted to make friends. Thais who actually *make friends* with foreigners are sometimes just being friendly but often there's an ulterior motive...particularly in very touristy areas.

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Posted by MADMAC on 30/6/2011 at 10:44

SBE
All true - although there are just enough people around here (Issan) who speak English and want to practice it that I do get interrupted while dining more than I would prefer.

It is important to remember though, that it is VERY EASY to meet Thais outside the beaten tourist path (and easy to meet women on it). In places where few non-Thais come around, they want to interact with you, although often are shy to do so. You are exotic to them, and often assumed rich as well. In a place where money is everything, being rich is a huge plus.

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Posted by SBE on 30/6/2011 at 16:10

I've lived in Thailand as an expat too MM...both in Bangkok and Mahasarakham (Issan).

Most tourists probably have probably never heard of the latter...it isn't exactly on the banana pancake trail. The only farangs I saw there were a colleague at work and one fairly old expat couple (both frarangs which is unusual) who kept themselves very much to themselves and I never had an opportunity to actually talk to them.

Hardly any of the locals spoke a word of English there but they were super friendly and there were no ulterior motives either. They were unbelievably kind to me, kept showering me with gifts, constant invitations to restaurants, and at the weekends I invariably got invited out and shown around, taken to see Buddhist ceremonies, taken to see all the local attractions in the surrounding area. Even the guy selling tickets at the bus station sat me down with some friends who spoke some English (about 5 words of English) and bought me a large Leo while I was waiting for a bus to Bangkok once.

I was blown away by their generosity and hospitality.

But I think it was largely because they'd had very little contact with foreigners. You don't get treated like that in most places.

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Posted by busylizzy on 30/6/2011 at 17:17

But I think it was largely because they'd had very little contact with foreigners. You don't get treated like that in most places.

That's the key, I think. The more 'off the track' you go, the more of a novelty you are, and the more likely you are to meet genuine people who are interested in you rather than the potential business that you represent.

The downside of this, if you are blonde in particular, you scare the begeezus out of little toddlers who have never see a westerner before. I guess we look fairly similar to a fabled evil spirit! This happened twice: once in rural Flores, and again in rural Vietnam.

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Posted by MADMAC on 30/6/2011 at 17:19

Mahasarakham - one of my dancers is from there. Been through there a few times since my son is in Khon Kaen and I live in Mukdahan.

In my experience, while the vast majority of people here do not speak English, there are just enough that I find myself being approached fairly frequently when away from the flag pole. Luang Nok Tha (in Yasothon province) is not a paragon of cosmopolitanism, and it was there that I was invited to dine last week with "Sam" and his friends. Sam spoke excellent English. So, very surprisingly, did the cop who stopped me for speeding (but who also let me off with a warning).

My son, who came out here for the first time three years ago, was able to meet people on his first day here. By the end of the week, he was out (with my bike) all the time. I really think it's easy to meet indigenous people here if you want to. That's been my experience in the four years I've been here.

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Posted by MADMAC on 30/6/2011 at 17:27

That's also why I recommend to people - if you want the "genuine" experience, go where other tourists don't go. Go to places like Mahasarakham. If you go to the tourist highlights like Chiang Mai or Luang Prabang, etc. etc. well there's a ton of tourists there. So of course the dynamic is much different. Not that there's something wrong with that, people go to those places for a reason. But they are tourist destinations. Expect to be treated accordingly. You don't go to Siem Reap to see the "real Cambodia". The idea of the homestay was to have that genuine experience, but that's become commercialized and is now out the window. Truth be told, most people don't want that experience. Living in a crappy hut and eating lousy village food is over-rated.

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Posted by SBE on 30/6/2011 at 17:46

The downside of this, if you are blonde in particular, you scare the begeezus out of little toddlers who have never see a westerner before. I guess we look fairly similar to a fabled evil spirit!

LOL. before I started wandering around SE Asia I spent many years living in Africa. In rural out of the way places in Ethiopia people were constantly touching my strange hair... not at all like theirs. And in some places in West Africa they think white people are dead people come back from the grave. They have gris gris (voodoo) ceremonies where they cover themselves in white mud or chalk stuff to make them look like they're dead.

And they say we SMELL like dead people too. It's true we smell different ...their sweat smells different, something to do with different diets I think (not just different hygiene standards).

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Posted by MADMAC on 30/6/2011 at 18:07

SBE you lived in Ethiopia? That's funny, so did I. I loved K'bri Dehar. Where were you?

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Posted by SBE on 30/6/2011 at 18:42

I worked in a town called Nazareth for a year as a gap year volunteer when I was 17....rather a challenging experience as there was a civil war and a major famine going on at the time but it was a life changing experience. I probably wouldn't be on this forum if I hadn't done that!

I've been traveling ever since I finished my degree and have no intention of ever going back to the UK ....much to the dismay of my mother who is now very old and thinks it's high time I grew up, came home and "settled down". Home is wherever I happen to find myself and I cannot think of a single reason for going and living a mind numbingly boring existence as a suburban housewife or something in the UK...so she's out of luck! ;-)

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Posted by SBE on 30/6/2011 at 20:26

PS. Ethiopia was my very first trip abroad, the very first time I'd ever been on a plane ...talk about jumping in at the deep end!

Thailand is easy, really really easy for anyone Ruben. You'll be amazed how easy it is.

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Posted by MADMAC on 1/7/2011 at 00:01

Yep, very easy. I suspect you'll really like it and also have no trouble meeting people of whatever stripe you wish to do so. Have a great time.

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Posted by CrankyCarrot on 3/7/2011 at 21:40

Sometimes an iPod is all the company you need. I couldn't think of anything more excruciating than being tethered to someone else while travelling. Good way to kill a friendship. Just make new friends - preferably ones who won't be glued to you 24/7.

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Posted by CrankyCarrot on 5/7/2011 at 14:28

...or bring a volleyball and name it Wilson. That seemed to help Hanks beat the loneliness.

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Posted by MADMAC on 5/7/2011 at 16:21

If you are lonely here, it's because you want to be.

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Posted by CrankyCarrot on 6/7/2011 at 14:14

How could anyone be lonely with a jolly fellow like this to keep them company?

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Posted by SBE on 6/7/2011 at 20:44

You know what? You sound distinctly weird Mr Carrot....or just plain cranky maybe!

Speaking of which, did you ever get sociable enough to meet up with Captain Bob when you were in CM?

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Posted by CrankyCarrot on 7/7/2011 at 11:14

Nope. With beer, coffee and pizza all on offer, my every need was catered to at Mad Dog's farng food restaurant.

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Posted by CrankyCarrot on 7/7/2011 at 11:33

"You sound distinctly weird Mr Carrot"


True. Soon I'll be rambling on about Fukushima nuclear reactors :)

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Posted by MADMAC on 7/7/2011 at 11:42

Funny, I always thought Cranky sounds like a normal guy.

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Posted by CrankyCarrot on 7/7/2011 at 12:12

Thanks Madmac, I'll take that as a compliment.

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Posted by SBE on 7/7/2011 at 13:31

Well I think anyone whose only friend in Thailand is a Father Christmas doll is weird.

Especially in July.

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Posted by CrankyCarrot on 7/7/2011 at 13:35

The doll and I aren't even on speaking terms ...that's what I get for befriending inanimate objects.

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Posted by Rasheeed on 7/7/2011 at 14:06

But like many friends here, just have to put money in...

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Posted by MADMAC on 7/7/2011 at 15:42

On that note:

To Cranky

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PsnxDQvQpw

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Posted by Rasheeed on 7/7/2011 at 15:55

That's kinda what I imagine Carrot looking like, but without the paper airplane-making ability.

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Posted by MADMAC on 7/7/2011 at 16:57

I dropped my bags and stayed for four years... and counting.

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Posted by Rasheeed on 7/7/2011 at 17:03

Might wanna consider unpacking then Mac, those fisherman pants you wear around all the time are getting a little ripe...

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Posted by CrankyCarrot on 7/7/2011 at 21:01

Re: Regular Everyday Guy

I don't have a beard ...or a hat.

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Posted by MADMAC on 7/7/2011 at 23:04

I don't wear fisherman's pants. I don't want to look like a dork. I have a reputation to maintain.

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Posted by CrankyCarrot on 9/7/2011 at 13:34

But you pay for it like that guy does, eh Maccas?

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Posted by MADMAC on 9/7/2011 at 18:21

Cranky,
I'm an old married guy. Lucky to get anything at all. But I still have an image to maintain.

This is me with one of my students social dancing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoaJAa3A92M

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Posted by CrankyCarrot on 9/7/2011 at 19:46

Wow. I always imagined a huge beer gut. I guess all that foot shuffling keeps you lithe.

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Posted by SBE on 9/7/2011 at 19:51

No shoes either. That other video was not an ordinary everyday guy at all. Amazing clarity of vision, I love guys who don't take themselves too seriously. Got his phone no. MM? ;-)

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Posted by MADMAC on 10/7/2011 at 01:34

SBE
You mean Jon Lajoie? I agree he's cool, funny - world class comedian. Which is what he is. No, I don't have his number, sorry.

Cranky
I was a competetive boxer for a long time, and when my body told me it was time to give that up, I became a dancer. Neither is conducive to a beer gut.

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Posted by CrankyCarrot on 10/7/2011 at 13:42

But all the beer is conducive to a beer gut, mai?

I'm trying to work off the beginnings of an early-thirties gut as we speak. Evidently eating bacon and egg American breakfasts every single day can make you fat even faster than beer. I don't wanna be 'pum pui' until I'm at least 50!

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Posted by MADMAC on 10/7/2011 at 18:01

Well I am 50 - and I don't want a beer gut. So I am at least reasonably cautious with my intake.

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Posted by Rasheeed on 11/7/2011 at 09:33

Bacon. Mmmmm. Bacon.

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Posted by MADMAC on 11/7/2011 at 11:22

Bacon is Haram Rasheed.

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Posted by Rasheeed on 11/7/2011 at 13:05

Mmmmm... Haram...

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Posted by CrankyCarrot on 11/7/2011 at 15:39

I can't find any gyms here in Pai so I've rented a 6-gear push bike (with one working gear) - Also went tubing yesterday which proved to be an unexpected workout what with constantly trying to steer clear of all the branches and shallow, rocky, bum-grazing areas.

Plus I missed my stop and had to walk 20 mins back into town, sopping wet and with a huge black rubber tube in toe. Lost my 15th pair of 150 baht 'First' sunnies to the river too. I'll be buying my 16th pair of 'First' sunnies soon. Irony anyone?

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Posted by CrankyCarrot on 11/7/2011 at 15:40

Oops double post - one too many espresso's making for an itchy mouse finger today

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Posted by SBE on 12/7/2011 at 01:55

At last you're having fun Cranky. Well done! ;-)

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Posted by CrankyCarrot on 12/7/2011 at 13:29

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

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