5 things you get wrong about Thailand

Here are 5 things people usually get wrong about Thailand and that sometime prevent them from even considering a trip here.

Thailand is a third-world country and Thais are poor

Thailand is an emerging country and is soon expected to be considered a developed country. Thailand has the strongest economy in South-East Asia, highest growth rate and, like other SEA countries, has been very resilient to the last world financial crisis and is said to soon return to pre-crisis economic level.

There are still poor people in Thailand but the poverty level has been reduced from 27{5f676304cfd4ae2259631a2f5a3ea815e87ae216a7b910a3d060a7b08502a4b2} to 9.8{5f676304cfd4ae2259631a2f5a3ea815e87ae216a7b910a3d060a7b08502a4b2} in the last 10 years (well ahead of the UN Millennium Development Goals set for 2015) and there are incredibly rich people in Thailand too. The 2013 Forbes list of 1’426 billionaires has 10 Thais. And Thailand’s King Bhumibol is the richest king on earth.

UPDATE 2013-10-29 - Thailand too prosperous to qualify for development donations

Thailand is a cesspool of pedophilia, drugs and prostitution

Pedophilia and drugs are severely punished in Thailand, with double strike being the rule for pedophilia (if you get convicted of pedophilia in Thailand you will get jail time there and when you are sent back to your country you will be trialed there again). Because of that neither drug consumption nor pedophilia are higher than anywhere else.

On the subject of prostitution, most people get it wrong because prostitution (which is illegal but tolerated in Thailand) is highly visible when it comes to catering to foreigners. Places like Pattaya’s walking street, Patong’s Bangla road or Bangkok’s Patpong, Nana plaza or Soi Cowboy are tourists attractions where prostitution is on display (much like some well-known red districts in Europe). However, according to NGO working in the field, the number of people working in the sex trade in Thailand is around 300’000, which is less than 0.5{5f676304cfd4ae2259631a2f5a3ea815e87ae216a7b910a3d060a7b08502a4b2} of the total population of about 68 millions. And about 90{5f676304cfd4ae2259631a2f5a3ea815e87ae216a7b910a3d060a7b08502a4b2} of those are catering for the local population and are doing so in far more discreet places that those mentioned above. Compare that to figures in Western countries and you will see that sex-tourism in Thailand is no worse than local prostitution in Europe.

I will add that when you compare Thailand’s hot spots to places like the Bois de Boulogne in Paris or the same kind of places in Lyon, Zürich or Lausanne (I used to have an office in Sevelin) there is no question as to which is the seediest.

Most of Thailand money comes from tourism and prostitution

Tourism accounts for a mere 6{5f676304cfd4ae2259631a2f5a3ea815e87ae216a7b910a3d060a7b08502a4b2} in the total GDP of Thailand which is mostly coming from industry (43{5f676304cfd4ae2259631a2f5a3ea815e87ae216a7b910a3d060a7b08502a4b2}) and agriculture (13{5f676304cfd4ae2259631a2f5a3ea815e87ae216a7b910a3d060a7b08502a4b2}). And Thailand has a positive balance of trade which means it exports more than it imports. Again, Thailand has a booming economy and, although tourism is an important part of Thailand’s image abroad, it’s only a small part of the wealth of the country.

Those who say (and I read a lot of expats complaining about the way they are treated) that Thailand wouldn’t survive without tourism and that there should be more respect paid to foreigners are just plain wrong on the economical level and should also stop seeing themselves as the masters of the world who deserve unconditional respect.

The Thai characters are logograms, like Chinese characters

Thai characters belongs to an alphabet, there are 44 consonants and 32 vowels (made of 16 different symbols). Thai is a tonal language with 5 different tones and there are also diacritics marks to indicate changes in the basic tone of a word.

There are also marks to indicate repetition (repeating a word in Thai is a manner of emphasis) or the fact that a word as been shortened (some Thai words can be very long and usually have shorter versions, like the official Thai name of Bangkok which is shortened to Krungthep Maha Nakhon or Krungthep but is in fact muuuuuuch longer).

There is also a diacritic to silence a letter or a group of letters, this usually indicates the word has been imported from another language and is often seen in Thai names or words relating to technology, like อินเทอร์เน็ต (internet). One of the difficulty when reading Thai is that there is no punctuation. No space between words, no comma, nothing…

Tradition has it that the Thai alphabet was engineered from Sanskrit and Khmer by King Ramkhamhaeng the Great in 1283.

The most beautiful girls in Thailand are Ladyboys

I wouldn’t say this one is totally untrue, you would actually be really stunned by the miracles of plastic surgery and hormonal treatments. However, Thailand has some of the most beautiful girls in the world, tall, slender with creamy white skin and we had the chance this year that the 2013 contestants for Miss Thailand came to Phuket for their bikini shots.

Some references

This post is part of the second “Back to Blogging” challenge initiated by Stephanie Booth.

2 thoughts on “5 things you get wrong about Thailand

  1. mary poppins

    Wow sorry to say but Thailand is as bad a place as it is perceived to be. Try living here and trying to get anything accomplished here. The interactions with Thais most foriegners will be exposed to are low quality. Low expectations are the normal result. Prostitution indeed is EVERYWHERE in Thailand. Not only in tourist spots, but everywhere. Thais are extremely materialistic so for (enough) money you can do anything. Violent crime, drugs, human trafficing, fraud. Come on man don’t sugar-coat it. Corruption dominates society. Indeed it is precisely a third world country. Regarding beautiful women, can I ask how often do you interact with women of miss thailand caliber? Precisely.


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