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I have been living in Chiang Mai, Thailand for over a year at this point. Now that I have spent such a long time in the “Land of Smiles,” I figured I would share 5 things that I hate about Thailand. I do want to preface this post by saying that I do NOT hate Thailand. I have absolutely loved the time that I have spent in Thailand. No country is perfect, though. I could probably write a post about 5 things that I hate about every country in the world. These are just a few things that you should know before visiting Thailand, and especially before moving to Thailand.
The rest of this list is in no particular order except for this one. The air pollution in Thailand is absolutely the #1 reason that I hate Thailand. Although the air is not great in all of Thailand, this complaint is a bigger problem in Chiang Mai or other cities in the north.
“Burning season” or “smoky season” begins every year in Chiang Mai around February. This year, 2019, it started a little bit early in January, and it lasts through April. Burning season and the horrible air quality occurs for three reasons: naturally occurring forest fires, intentionally set forest fires, and burning crop fields.
All of these smoke particles contribute to a poor air quality index (AQI). There is a great app called AirVisual that will tell you the AQI of where you live. It also has a list of the current cities with the worst air quality in the world. A rating of 0-50 is good, 51-100 is moderate, 101-150 is unhealthy for sensitive groups, 150-200 is unhealthy, 201-300 is very unhealthy, 301-500+ is hazardous. Chiang Mai reached an AQI of over 500 in April of 2019. It easily had the worst air quality in the world.
Luckily, I was backpacking around Australia when it reached 500, but I was in Chiang Mai when it was in the 400s. Let me tell you: it is horrible! All you can smell is smoke when you walk outside. Absolutely every single person that I knew got sick during this time, including myself.
You can wear a mask, and I did, but this still only does so much. You will see many Thai people wearing thin surgical masks during this time. These masks do absolutely nothing. If you are in Ching Mai during the worst of burning season, you need to wear N95 grade masks.
In the 14 months that I have lived in Thailand, I have not had a single day where I have not had at least one mosquito bite on my body. Unlike “burning season” mentioned above, there is no season for mosquitos in Thailand. It is always mosquito season!
I am no expert on mosquitos, but I have heard that mosquitos are more attracted to some people than others. There is a chance that I am one of those people that mosquitos love to bite. I have been in several situations where I have been with a friend or a group of people, and I am getting a ton of bites, and everyone else is only getting one or two. Mosquitos may not be a problem for you if you come to Thailand, but they have been a massive problem for me.
A random, interesting fact about Thai women is that many of them don’t shave their legs. This because they grow very little body hair. I bring this up because when I first moved to Thailand, I was unable to find any women’s shaving cream. I ended up purchasing men’s shaving cream. This was a huge mistake because the mosquitoes were really attracted to the smell of that shaving cream on my legs. One night I was hanging out by the pool with a group of friends. I woke up the next day with around 40 or more mosquito bites on my body, mostly my legs. A friend told me to use
This will only affect you if you are planning on moving to Thailand.
So, I actually have a love-hate relationship with this one. I have always considered myself someone who loves to cook. Cooking in Thailand isn’t the best option though because eating out is generally cheaper than buying from the grocery store. Now, this isn’t true if you are eating a bunch of westernized restaurants, but it is true if you are eating at Thai restaurants. If you are interested in learning more about the price of grocery shopping in Thailand, I made a grocery haul video that you can watch here.
The reason that I love how cheap eating out is is
I hate that I can’t cook in Thailand though because I do really enjoy cooking. I used to love reading different food blogs and scouring Pinterest for recipes. Grocery shopping literally used to be one of my favorite things to do back when I lived in the USA. I do miss that I can’t have that creativity or fun in the kitchen anymore. I can only really eat things that restaurants make.
Cooking isn’t completely impossible in Thailand. I do have a rice cooker, a hot plate, and a toaster oven. I really hate the hot plate though, and I haven’t used it in probably 6 months. The rice cooker is used on a weekly basis to make a batch of rice, but I can only make one thing with it: rice! I really only use my toaster oven to reheat food that I purchased from a restaurant. A normal kitchen in Thailand is very small and doesn’t come with an oven or stove. If you are planning on staying in Thailand long-term, it might be worth buying more kitchen appliances. Do know that your grocery bill will probably be higher though.
The Plastic Problem
Plastic is a massive problem in many countries in the world, and Thailand is no exception. This has been something interesting to research to make this post. I went to zero waste market one day in Chiang Mai. I remember reading a sign at that market saying that Thailand is the 6th largest producer of plastic in the world. This article says that Thailand is 19th.
While the United States, the country that I was born and raised in, produces significantly more plastic than Thailand, it is also a fully developed country. Thailand is not. High-income countries tend to generate more plastic per person. I am concerned with how much plastic Thailand uses for how under-developed it is. As it becomes more developed, I am worried that the problem will become worse.
Saying no to plastic in Thailand is something that I have to be really conscious of. Even though the average American uses significantly more plastic than the average Thai person, the United States also has more low-waste or zero-waste options. Thailand has almost no zero waste options. When I was living in Nashville, I got to the point where I was living a very low-waste lifestyle. That is nearly impossible in Thailand, but there are ways to reduce your plastic use by refusing plastic straws (or bringing your own), carrying your own utensils, bringing your own takeaway containers to restaurants, and shopping with reusable bags. I usually would say that an easy way to reduce waste is to bring your own reusable water bottle with you. This isn’t an option in Thailand, though, because the tap water in Thailand is not safe to drink.
This one will also only affect you if you are living in Thailand.
It has actually been a great practice in versatility not having absolutely everything shipped to my house through Amazon Prime like I did when I was in the United States. It has forced me to become more resourceful to try to find things that are only available in Chiang Mai. And piggy-backing off of what I just finished talking about, not having everything shipped to
Some things just aren’t available in Chiang Mai that I really want. For example, Chiang Mai doesn’t really sell any vegan and cruelty-free makeup. This is something that has to be shipped from another country. Shipping most things to Thailand is such a pain. And it’s not just a pain for the fact that I have to pay international shipping and it takes around 2 weeks for any package to arrive. It is the customs fees that Thailand makes you pay that is such a pain.
Thailand can charge you up to 60% of the cost of the item in customs fees. So if you purchased something that costs $100, Thailand can charge you an additional $60 just to have that item enter the country. $160 for an item that should only cost $100. Although I have found that Thailand really only charges you customs fees on items over $100. Almost a year ago, I had my mom send me a box with a bunch of things that I missed from the United States. Thailand hit me with a hefty customs charge, so I could take that box home with me.
Tip if you do want to shop online: try looking for your desired product in Australia. I have found several items available from a retailer in Australia that will ship to Thailand. They generally have lower shipping costs than if it were coming from a country like the United States
Even though I said this at the beginning of the post, I was to reiterate it again: I DO NOT HATE THAILAND! This post is simply my opinion of things that I have come to learn about Thailand in the time that I have lived here. I just wanted to share this information with those you that are planning on visiting Thailand, and particularly those of you who are planning on moving to Thailand. Thailand is still a wonderful,