• By Matthew
  • January 9, 2023 - 5 min read
Country Details

  • ✈ïļ Arrived 2022-11-18
  • 🔚 Departed 2023-01-02
  • 🕝 Length of Stay 46 days
  • ☀ïļ Season High/Peak
  • 🌐 Visa 45 Day Visa Exemption Scheme


Thailand is one of the World’s most popular tourist destinations. It was my introduction to South East Asia and I wanted to go there to make my own mind up about a country in which you hear mixed reviews.

We visited Bangkok, Koh Chang and Koh Kood in Thailand spending only two nights in the capital before heading to the islands for a month and half. We found the two experiences to be polar opposites. The city, hectic and the islands, amazingly calm.

What to eat?

Let’s start with the most important part when you visit Thailand. We’re not going to list out all of the amazing food we were served but here are a few dishes you’ve got to try:

  • Noodle Soup: simple but a great lunch time option that is very popular with the locals.
  • Stewed Thai Chicken: We discovered this late on in our trip but were addicted, another popular lunch time choice.
  • Tom Yam Soup: The national dish is a must try but beware it’s spicy!
  • Thai Style Fish: Cheapest place I have ever eaten a big fish like this, so good.
  • Chicken Cashew Nut: Lulu’s favourite dish was one we didn’t expect to find here but we loved it.

The Thai Culture

Central to the Thai lifestyle is their culture of communal eating, the most common Thai Phrase is Tan khao ma rue yung? which means “have you eaten yet?”. If the answer is Yung (“not yet”), Thai people will invite each other into their homes for food or a snack. We noticed at night local people would often share a bottle of Whisky and tonic in groups of neighbours, friends and family. There was a real sense of community with the local people, they seemed to eat with each other and help each other and that was really refreshing to see.

Thailand really is the “Land of smiles”. We found the people to be extremely happy and polite.

When talking to locals one thing that came up was their tough years during COVID. I remember speaking to Tan, our trekking guide and him saying it was a hard time and really boring with no one around, lots of people closed down their local businesses or even left Koh Chang to find work elsewhere. This interaction made me think about what had caused Thailand to be such a big tourist hub in the first place and how many tourists there were compared to its neighbouring countries.

Tourism in Thailand

The main reason Thailand developed as a major tourist hub was due to the development of Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok in the 60’s and being sold heavily as a dream land in the 80s. In the past decade Thailand has become the second largest South East Asian destination for tourists, second only to China. 1

This made me wonder how the collapse in tourism over the COVID-19 period would have affected Thailand as a whole.

The Export Orientated Economy

It turns out that most of Thailand’s economy revolves around trade, with the total value of exports and imports equivalent to 110% of its GDP in 2019. To put that in perspective the World average was 56% in 2019, 63% in the UK and 26% in the US. 2 So what does Thailand make? Most of Thailand’s exports are machinery, electronics and vehicles. Office machine parts, Gold, Cars and Motor vehicles are all big industries in the Thai economy. 3

Thailand's exports by Category in % of U.S Dollars


The culture of Thailand is centred around their delicious food. The people of Thailand were amazing, smiley and happy and inspired me to dig deeper into how the country works. The Thai economy is export orientated but this does not play down the devastation on local tourist based economies caused by COVID-19.

Sometimes as backpackers we like to think of ourselves in a separate bin to tourists. In reality backpacking is just another form of tourism. Although the return of world travel has its downsides I am happy to see the magical little towns that we visited starting to do a little better.

  1. Max Roser and Bastian Herre (2017) - “Tourism”. Published online at Retrieved from: ‘' [Online Resource] ↩︎

  2. Data from Fouquin et al. (2016) via Our World in Data.

  3. Dashboard published online from Retrieved from: ‘' [Online Resource] ↩︎