Why Do Backpackers Go to Thailand?
The backpacking culture is an adventurous one in which many people, old and young, travel to countries on a budget. Many have money and are living off trust funds, but still choose to "rough it" and carry a backpack instead of a suitcase because it's a more exciting to travel. But there's also many who truly are traveling on a budget because they have to, and because of this, cheaper countries seem to be their only options if they want to travel. Thailand is one of these cheap countries, and it's name is almost synonymous with the backpacker culture. Movies like The Beach and Last Stop for Paul have portrayed the backpacker culture and ideals that one might find in Thailand. But the cheap prices aren't the only reasons that backpackers travel there. So if you're interested in learning about some of the main reasons, continue reading and you may just begin to see why it's such a revered destination in the backpacker communities.
As mentioned already, backpacking in Thailand is as cheap as it gets when it comes to budget traveling and relative safety. There are very few countries where you can travel all the way across them in a day for less than $50, or rent a hostel room for around $4 a day. Food and alcohol are also extremely cheap and thanks to many food stalls on the street, it can be even cheaper if you don't mind standing in the heat while eating your food. Word of mouth of how cheap Thailand is has spread all across the globe, and it's not only backpackers that travel there now. Many senior citizens who are living on their pensions choose to retire there for this reason as well. For the price it costs to stay in France, Italy, or Australia for 1 week, one can stay in Thailand for a month. Bangkok is about 5 times cheaper than Tokyo and offers even more of an Asian experience since it's not quite as Americanized as Tokyo is. A room in a hostel can be had for as low as $4 a day, and bungalows on some of their more popular islands, such as Phi Phi Don, for as low as $10 a day. A decent hotel in the city could cost as low as $15 to $20 a day.
Because of Thailand's cheap prices, it's fairly easy and affordable for tourists to travel all over the country, as mentioned previously. But Thailand is also a very diverse country when it comes to landscape and scenery, so people can experience the ultimate adventure there and see a wide variety of things that few countries can offer in a one-day journey. From dense jungles to developed cities to exotic islands to ancient temples and beautiful mountains, Thailand has a little of everything. Since those who backpack are usually looking for different experiences and adventures, it easily accommodates their wishes and packs a lot of punch when it comes to fun things to do. As far as visas, Thailand has strict requirements for foreigners wishing to stay, and it's not known as an easy country to live in when it comes to acquiring visas. But on the other hand, they don't require a visa for your first 30 days if you arrive by air. So many backpackers take advantage of this, because other countries may ask them to provide proof of income before allowing them to enter a country, and many of them live on a budget so this can be difficult.
Peace and Love
Thailand is well-known for it's hippie culture. After the Summer of Love in the 60's, and when the hippie movement in the United States and UK started to slow down, many hippies from all over the world traveled along the world-famous Hippie Trail, and Bangkok was one of the main destinations for many of these hippies. They were in search of freedom, adventure, religious insight, and life experiences that you couldn't learn about in your own country. Since then, the hippie culture has been adopted and embraced by the backpacker community and many backpackers choose Bangkok for this reason. They enjoy the laid back hippie vibe and island lifestyle that you find in Thailand. Khao San Road was the main destination for many hippies back in the 70's and today it's the same equivalent for backpackers and neo-hippies. The area is filled with all types of people, from Jamaicans sitting at a table with a Bob Marley banner proudly hanging on a wall behind them, to white kids from the suburbs with their hair in dreads and wearing t-shirts with pot leaves on them. The Full Moon Party on the island of Koh Pha Ngan (more commonly spelled as Koh Phangan) is also very popular for these types of tourists, as it carries on in the traditional hippie vibe with all types of partying and celebrations of life on a beach packed with over 10,000 wild party-goers. It carries on into the night with each full moon and well on into the morning and even afternoon hours.
Drugs and Booze
Thailand also as a reputation for it's cheap drugs and alcohol. Although most drugs are highly illegal in Thailand, they are rampant and easy to come across, particularly amongst the backpacker communities such as on Khao San Road and Koh Phangan. This isn't just because of the laid-back culture there, but also because Thailand is part of the infamous Golden Triangle, which is where many of the world's illegal drugs are harvested or manufactured. Unfortunately, many travelers aren't aware of the strict penalties for drugs in this country and fail to notice the huge signs at the airport that warn of these. Because of this, many travelers end up in jail, and in extreme cases, prison. It's very easy for them to get caught up in all the hippie culture and forget about where they are and how laws are very different in other countries from their own. Drugs seemed to be overlooked by the authorities in some areas, but in other areas, they have coordinated crackdowns on a regular basis. As far as alcohol, Thailand has very cheap liquor and beer, and they are well-known for having some of the more exotic drinks that Asia has to offer, such as snake wine (which is basically a full snake fermented in a wine bottle). They also have buckets on many of the islands that are filled with a mixture of many different types of liquor and something to serve as a chaser, such as Coca-Cola. Usually there will be 3 or 4 straws sticking out of the bucket for multiple people to join in and take a few gulps. It's easy to why it's a party-favorite with the backpacking culture.
Land of Smiles
Thailand is well-known to world travelers as the Land of Smiles, which is it's official nickname. The first thing I noticed when I arrived in Bangkok for the first time, was how friendly all the people were and how many times they said "Welcome to Thailand" to me with a smile on their face. It's a very welcoming and accepting country, partly because of their Buddhist roots and partly because they probably realize that much of their economy is reliant on tourism. Because of this, many backpackers can feel welcomed in Thailand, where they would normally feel like vagrants or outcasts in any other country. In some countries like Russia, the United States, Italy, and the UK, people will often treat backpackers with disrespect and view them as homeless bums that contribute nothing to society. In Thailand, they probably realize how many backpackers arrive every day and how that really boosts the economy in little bits. Not once did I ever feel like I was being frowned upon for having a backpack on my back and maybe a few holes in my clothes after traveling for some time.
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