Andrew and I in Bangkok

Why we keep Coming Back to Thailand

Travelling, by its very nature, can be extremely disorientating and leave you longing for the familiarity of home. I’ve been the first to admit that living our lives in a constant stream of new places this past year has resulted in some powerful bouts of homesickness. However, what I haven’t mentioned yet is that somehow we’ve unexpectedly managed to carve a sort of home-on-the-road for ourselves here in Thailand.

Us in Thailand in 2009

Us in Thailand back in 2009

Thailand served as our introduction to Asia when we took a month-long trip around the country back in 2009.  Not only were we filled with wonder as we explored its beaches, cities and forests, we were also gripped with a spark of wanderlust that eventually led us into the lives of travel that we’re now living. So, it was a landmark moment to arrive back here in the land of smiles last August, this time as long-term travellers ready to kick-start our addiction with the country we now think of as our Asian home.

Sunset in Koh Phangan, Thailand

Sunset in Koh Phangan Thailand

By the time we head back to England for a visit this summer we will have spent nearly a third of our trip (four and a half months)  in Thailand. A disproportionate amount, I know. Even odder is the fact that we’ve only seen a very small area of the country – Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, Chiang Mai, Pai, Chiang Rai and a few of the islands. Instead of seeking out new destinations, as we do in every other country we visit, we return time and time again to our favourite spots, even spending an entire month living in an apartment in Chiang Mai – but why?

Andrew and I in Bangkok

Andrew and I in Bangkok in 2013

Why do we Keep Coming Back to Thailand?

I write this post from Chiang Mai, a city we’ve returned to after over four months of exploring the rest of South-East Asia. Those months were fascinating, fast-paced and intense and we had some heart-shaping experiences – particularly in Cambodia – which I wouldn’t trade for anything. Still, there were times throughout this journey when we found ourselves seriously craving Thailand. We missed its vegetarian cafes, comfortable hotels, fast wifi and reliable buses; we pined for the cities with their malls, markets and cinemas as well as our apartment and the familiar streets of Chiang Mai.

Sandwich at Juicy for You Cafe in Chiang Mai

Sandwich at Juicy for You Cafe in Chiang Mai

Travelling through other South-East Asian countries has helped me see just how relatively wealthy and tourist-friendly Thailand really is. Although there’s some political instability here right now with the ‘Shut down Bangkok, restart Thailand’ protests and I’m aware from visiting the Death Railway that Thailand’s history isn’t free from bloodshed, the country still seems to have emerged relatively unscathed from recent conflicts to thrive economically and become the most popular tourist destination in the region.

Thai Woman at the Bangkok Protests in 2014

Woman at a Bangkok protest site

By contrast, we saw levels of poverty we’d never before encountered in Laos, Burma and Cambodia, which was not only humbling but left us seriously pondering our roles as responsible travellers and dealing with western tourist guilt. We were confronted with the devastating effects of past conflicts; from unexploded ordnance in Laos to birth defects caused by the use of American chemical weapons in Vietnam to the killing fields of Cambodia. I believe learning about these issues was incredibly worthwhile and I have much to write about my experiences in these places, but dealing with all of that did take a toll on me emotionally.

Amy at the Killing Fields in Cambodia

Reflecting at the Killing Fields in Cambodia

In addition to this, although we enjoyed a good level of comfort in Vietnam, the physical aspects of travel were tougher in Laos, Burma and Cambodia. In all three countries we endured long, uncomfortable bus journeys and numerous break downs, accommodation was pretty basic and we both had our share of stomach aches from dodgy food experiences. I’m aware that these aren’t exactly hardships, but in combination with everything else, they wore us down over time and left us longing for a break in Thailand.

Thailand – Our Asian Home?

Coming back to Thailand feels strangely like coming home to us now. Arriving back in Bangkok a few days ago we revelled in familiar comforts; cheap foot massages and tasty meals, trips to the mall, cinema and Tesco Lotus and the chance to download episodes of The Walking Dead. We were overjoyed to step off the bus into a familiar Chiang Mai evening and settle down in the UNIrish pub to have pie, mash and for Andrew, to watch the football. On Sunday we jostled through the crowds at the Walking Market to seek out our favourite food stalls and gorge on potato twists, rice salads and samosas, fruit shakes and mango with sticky rice. We went to bed full of food and feeling at home.

Amy at the Night Market in Chiang Mai

Eating at the Night Market in Chiang Mai

As this initial phase of our travels will soon be drawing to a close we will spend this month, our last in Thailand, finalising plans for our summer in the UK and trying to research and decide where in Asia we want to live and work from September onwards. For various reasons, our minds have shifted from being firmly set on moving to Taiwan, to considering other options. Could we end up in Hanoi, Vietnam again? Or perhaps we’ll go to South Korea or Japan; which we hear are great places to teach? Or maybe, just maybe, since my heart already hurts at the thought of leaving Thailand for good, we can make this our temporary home?

Siam Mall in Bangkok Thailand

A trip to the mall in Bangkok

But these are all questions to be answered another day. We have time to figure things out over the next few weeks of peace in Chiang Mai, Pai and Chiang Rai before enjoying the grand finale of our time in Thailand: the giant water fight that is Songkran.

Do you find it hard to drag yourself away from Thailand?

  • Kellie
    Posted at 14:29h, 30 March Reply

    I love it when you find a second home, somewhere that keeps drawing you back. We also share your love for Thailand and I see us returning there too. Friendly people, great beaches, delicious food whats not to like?

    • Amy
      Posted at 14:36h, 30 March Reply

      Indeed Kellie, what’s not to like? 🙂 I’m going to be so sad to leave Thailand, the only thing that will make it easier is knowing that we’re heading on to another of our fave countries in South-East Asia: the Philippines.

  • Emiel
    Posted at 14:50h, 30 March Reply

    I so agree with you! We went to Thailand for the first time with our kids in 2009. We hesitated. We thought everybody goes to Thailand, it must be so touristic. But we went. And we are still so glad we did. We love it for exactly the same reasons you have described: ease of transportation, (street) food, friendliness, etc. We do want to discover other Asian countries, and we will do so. But every time we fly into Bangkok and before heading towards Cambodia or Myanmar, we stay in Thailand for a couple of days. It’s indeed like coming home !!

    • Amy
      Posted at 16:26h, 30 March Reply

      Exactly Emiel, we really like spending time in other Asian countries and then coming back to Thailand for a bit of familiarity and comfort in between. We’re currently in Pai and are content just eating, working and relaxing. Glad to hear you’re another Thailand fan 🙂

  • Jon Willis
    Posted at 17:04h, 30 March Reply

    Yes! Me, too! Return to BKK on May 17; then a week in Kanchanaburi to Erawan Falls, the hot springs, Buddhist cave temples, etc.!

    • Amy
      Posted at 05:26h, 31 March Reply

      Oh, we love Kanchanaburi and Erawan Jon! Have a great time 🙂

  • Patti
    Posted at 23:12h, 30 March Reply

    I was just going to say, have you decided to return to Thailand to teach?

    I absolutely love the photo of you and Andrew (the 3rd photo from the top) because you have such a sparkle in your eye. And of course I’m partial to the first photo because that’s the photo I put with your interview on my site. Think of how much you’ve accomplished since that interview!

    • Amy
      Posted at 05:27h, 31 March Reply

      Thanks Patti, it is crazy to think of how far we’ve come since that interview 🙂 We are still deciding where to live, South Korea and Vietnam are looking likely but more about that soon!

  • Carmel
    Posted at 02:21h, 31 March Reply

    When everything is constantly new, finding some familiarity on the road is comforting. Even though Bangkok is CRAZY, it’s comfortable in a sense. I see what you’re saying and we’ve only been there a couple of times. I think it’s cool that you’ve found another place that feels like home in a completely foreign place.

    • Amy
      Posted at 05:29h, 31 March Reply

      You’re right Carmel, even though Bangkok is crazy, it’s familiar – being there is a bit like being back in London for us. I hope wherever we end up next year it feels as homely as Thailand does.

  • alyson
    Posted at 03:57h, 31 March Reply

    I’ll watch and wait! The Indian Subcontinent truly holds my heart but Thailand is very high up there. It’s EASY, you know what you’re getting with Thailand and the food is great ( I’m in Guatemala, can you feel the bland from there?) We may well be back in Thailand soon. See ya round!

    • Amy
      Posted at 05:34h, 31 March Reply

      Yep, it is so easy here in Thailand Alyson and it’s so nice to not worry about going out sightseeing and just relax and work for a while. Guatemala sounds nice (minus the food), we keep dreaming about getting over to that part of the world after our year of work and saving in Asia of course.

  • James Long
    Posted at 05:49h, 31 March Reply

    Hi guys, I know exactly where your coming from. When I fly into Bangkok to meet up with Alyson and the kids, back last year it was just like coming home. It had been 15 years since my first trip there and numerous trips since. It really is a great easy place to hang out. I think that is why it has the popularity and massive tourism compared to other countries in Asia. I also want to go back and get out of Central America, a part of the world that holds nothing for me.
    Cheers James

    • Amy
      Posted at 05:55h, 31 March Reply

      Hi James, glad to hear we’re not the only ones addicted to Thailand – we’ll be so sad to leave after Songkran. Sorry to hear you’re not loving Central America that much, we’re holding out hope that we’ll enjoy it when we finally get over there.

  • Steven
    Posted at 11:14h, 31 March Reply

    I feel the same way about Thailand compared to the rest of South-east Asia – development offers a certain level of comfort and familiarity that makes it a great base between more adventurous trips to neighbouring countries.

    As for your next step, I’m sure you’ll have a great time wherever you choose to go! As you know I taught in Japan and South Korea for three years. Would recommend both – lifestyle depends hugely on where in particular you live, rather than which country you choose. As for Taiwan, I visited for a long weekend and loved it to.

    Good luck, and if you have any questions feel free to ask.

    • Amy
      Posted at 11:21h, 31 March Reply

      Thanks Steven, I will definitely email you with questions once we’ve decided exactly where we’re going – Korea seems like a distinct probability though. It’s reassuring to hear that you had a great time there 🙂

  • Heidi Wagoner
    Posted at 12:57h, 31 March Reply

    It’s nice to find a second place that feels like home. It sounds like the perfect blend of culture and familiar things. We should be heading that way late summer, so perhaps we will bump into you somewhere. Enjoy your time.

    • Amy
      Posted at 13:51h, 31 March Reply

      That’s a good way to put it Heidi; the perfect blend of culture and familiarity. Hope to see you over here in Asia later in the year 🙂

  • Kendra Granniss
    Posted at 14:35h, 02 April Reply

    I have not been to Thailand, but I will be going there next year. I have heard so many wonderful things about the country, I cannot wait to finally get there. It’s good to know that I am not the only one who suffers from severe homesickness even when I am in the most beautiful places!

    • Amy
      Posted at 15:59h, 02 April Reply

      Hi Kendra, thanks for reading and commenting. We love Thailand and I hope you will too; we find it’s definitely the easiest and most comfortable country in South-East Asia but it’s also still ‘Asian’ enough to keep us happy!

  • NZ Muse
    Posted at 02:26h, 03 April Reply

    We adore Thailand. It really does strike a nice balance as it’s affordable and yet reasonably foreigner friendly and of course amazing food. Asia is too hot for us but Thailand is definitely a place I could return to.

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:16h, 03 April Reply

      Hi, thanks for commenting 🙂 Asia is too hot for us at the moment too, we’re looking forward to cooling off during Songkran!

  • Katrina
    Posted at 19:34h, 04 April Reply

    My best friend is currently living in Thailand, and I’d love to visit her! It’s just convincing the hubby to do so that’s the issue!

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:56h, 05 April Reply

      Keep on convincing him Katrina – Thailand is worth the effort 🙂

  • Maddie
    Posted at 13:44h, 06 April Reply

    We felt exactly the same way about Thailand 🙂 Yes it’s super easy for travellers but sometimes you just need that and when combined with incredible food and wonderful people then there isn’t a lot not to love.

    • Amy
      Posted at 15:30h, 06 April Reply

      Definitely – we really are addicted to Thailand, now that we have just under two weeks left here I’m really starting to feel sad about leaving.

  • BlogDaz
    Posted at 03:59h, 15 April Reply

    I first came to Thailand in 1999, I’ve only been back to the UK twice since that time, and only spent 10 weeks there. I’m married with children now and consider Thailand to be my home. Thailand is a truly amazing place, it never stops surprising and delighting you, it’s like walking through a jungle, you never know what’s beyond the next tree.

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:16h, 15 April Reply

      I love that sentiment; having just experienced my first Songkran in Chiang Mai I absolutely agree that Thailand never stops surprising and delighting you. I will be so sad to leave in a few days’ time but we’re already planning when we can return. Thanks for commenting and sharing your love for Thailand 🙂

  • Tiffany | The Together Traveler
    Posted at 20:58h, 28 January Reply

    Chiang Mai and Pai were my absolute favorites in Thailand (oh and Koh Phi Phi too of course). I intended to stay for 3 weeks and then cancelled my flight home. When our visas ran out, we left the country only to return shortly after. I completely understand how you feel! I’ve stumbled upon quite a few other travel bloggers who feel the same way about Thailand too. It’s an amazing place.

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:53h, 29 January Reply

      Hi Tiffany, thanks for reading and commenting. I’m glad you understand my love for Thailand! I will be heading back there in June and I absolutely can’t wait 🙂

  • Telma
    Posted at 01:20h, 27 April Reply

    Hi Amy,

    Been reading your articles about Thailand and I was wondering how did you manage to stay in Thailand for 4 and half months?
    Did you apply for the 60 day visa and got it extended while there or just kept extending the 30 days visa?

    My partner and I are in Fiji at the moment and soon will be flying to Vanuatu and Solomon Islands, after that we want to travel to Thailand for 2-3 months so we can get our blog started!

    As there is no Thai embassy in the Pacific, we will just get to Thailand and get the 30 days visa (we have european passports).
    But we want to stay for 3 months, although can’t seem to find a way how.

    Any suggestions? Or how did you do it?

    Because you were also outside the UK, so where and how did you manage to stay for that long?

    • Amy
      Posted at 20:50h, 29 April Reply

      Hi Telma, thanks for reading. We got a 60-day visa from the Thai embassy in Malaysia before we visited Thailand and then extended it for a further 30 days from the office in Chiang Mai. The other times we visited Thailand separately on 30-day entry visas. This was a couple of years ago now, I’ve heard that the visa rules have changed now though and you have to get a multi-visit visa and I’m not sure where you can apply for one; it’s worth researching on the Thai government immigration website; the British government have info about visas for other countries on their site I believe. Good luck – we’re busy teaching in camps at the moment in Spain but will be researching this too in a couple of months as we plan to go back to Thailand in August. Let me know if you find anything out!

  • Bob Johnson
    Posted at 12:07h, 16 July Reply

    After being to Thailand three times, I still want to go back. I’ve visited other countries in SE Asia but Thailand has it all. The beaches on the Andaman islands are incredible (I’m looking at you, Koh Lipe) and the entire country is just geared up so well for tourism at any price point.

    • Amy
      Posted at 15:07h, 29 July Reply

      Hi Bob, totally agree! There’s still so much of Thailand I haven’t seen and will be returning lots more in future. In an ideal world, I’d spend every winter there!

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