A query to seasoned LRR travelers

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A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby plummeting_sloth » 03 Apr 2012, 16:27

Alright people. Imma cast travel prep then I'm gonna to flash back that sucker and cast it again. I'm quickly approaching a long trip abroad (Thailand) and this is not a thing I've done before. I know there is a multitude of people on this fine site who've done the the intercontinental mambo before and I would like to pick their brains about long air trips and adjusting to new surroundings. Anyone with Thailand tips in particular will receive tons of extra sloth points, which are like normal points but slower.
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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby Lyinginbedmon » 03 Apr 2012, 16:54

Do you speak Thai?
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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby plummeting_sloth » 03 Apr 2012, 16:57

I'm taking classes, but by the time I get there, probably not so much. Thankfully, I won't be there too long.
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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby Lyinginbedmon » 03 Apr 2012, 17:15

I have a personal rule which seems to be carried by a lot of people which is to always travel to areas where I can speak the local language and avoid areas where I will be unable to communicate without assistance.

This has a lot of advantages, chief among them being the substantially reduced likelihood of being sold into slavery whilst looking for directions to tourist spots.
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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby Tapir12 » 03 Apr 2012, 17:36

plummeting_sloth wrote:I'm quickly approaching a long trip abroad
plummeting_sloth wrote:Thankfully, I won't be there too long.

???

Exactly how long are you going for? A month? 6 months? And if what capacity? As a tourist? For work? Just to explore?

It really depends on what you are going to be doing. If you are sticking closely to touristy areas then you will probably find a lot of people speak English (sort of) and try to sell you over-priced souvenirs.

Make sure you are up to date on your vaccines and have your travel medical insurance sorted out. Make a couple photocopies of your passport and have a safe place to store it. Keep things like wallets, cell phones and jewelry secure as well.

I think it's worth doing a bit of research about the country ahead of time and taking a few minutes to learn about intercultural communication and culture shock. The later is especially important if you are going to be living and working with locals.

Here's a couple handy sites:
- Country Insights
- Intercultural Effectiveness
- Culture Shock

Be open to a different way of thinking and doing things. Keep your expectations flexible and positive. Also, have a few things with you that remind you of home so that you can escape into your own little world if you need a break.

As far as the flights go, take a couple good but light books. Bring a light blanket. Have a supply of snacks and drink lots of water. The free booze is free for a reason (... it sucks). Try doing some light exercises in your seat or standing to get the blood flowing. Wear layers and nothing too tight. Be prepared to watch a lot of bad movies... and think they're brilliant because it's better than nothing.

This has been Tapir 12's Travel Tips TM
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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby plummeting_sloth » 03 Apr 2012, 17:42

Sorry, yeah good point Tapir. Around one months plus a bit, depending on job-type circumstances. Inside the limit of the free 30 day re-ups on travel visas.
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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby rustak » 03 Apr 2012, 18:13

In Thailand, I don't think you'll have any problems getting by with English -- I wouldn't worry too much about that. Medical insurance and copies of your passport are all good precautions. Also bring some basic medicine, e.g. pain killers and stomach medicine, even something as simple as a roll of rolaids... just in case some of the local food disagrees with you, you don't want to have to hunt that stuff down. Some general tips... let's see.

Books are good for flights, yeah; as are good noise-cancelling headphones, and a simple eyemask. The eyemask may look goofy, but it makes a huge difference for sleep quality. If you normally have problems falling asleep, Benadryl (my preference) or Dramamine (gives me horrible dreams) work pretty well. Figure out what time you'll be departing and arriving, and plan your sleep on the plane accordingly... I usually bring a few powerbars or similar on long flights, so that I can eat something whenever I want instead of being limited to only the times that food is being served.

Grab a local pay-as-you-go SIM as soon as you arrive; you should be able to get them cheaply at the airport. Do a bit of research ahead of time to figure out what will work for your phone -- e.g. http://prepaidwithdata.wikia.com/wiki/Thailand has good info. Having Google + Maps in my pocket always made me feel a ton more comfortable about exploring :)

Bring a power plug adapter or two -- Thailand uses north american plugs in most places, but you can still run into the two-round-pins european plugs as well.

If you plan on taking a taxi from the airport, print out directions to your hotel/lodging beforehand so that you can show the driver; have the phone number handy as well, in case you need to give them a call.

Beyond that, go with an open mind and have fun; I've been lucky enough to do a bunch of international travel, and have generally had a great experience on all trips. (The one exception was spending a week by myself in Kyoto -- which should have been fantastic, but I just felt lonely and isolated, especially since Japan's crazy phone system meant that I couldn't use my phone at all. That's on my list of places to revisit and fix that memory. :) )
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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby plummeting_sloth » 03 Apr 2012, 18:18

Thanks, rustak. Sadly, my ancient verizon phone doesn't have a separate SIM card, so I'll probably have to by a Pre-paid there. Good call on the Benadryl, I'll try to grab some of that.
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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby Alja-Markir » 03 Apr 2012, 20:31

1) Learn to like curry. It's cheap and everywhere.

2) Be the polite and quiet kind of tourist - you're gonna stand out, but you don't have to be known as "that obnoxious American" to the locals.

3) Memorize the exchange rate, even "official" exchange centers may try to rip you off.

4) Read up on the ettiquette of bribes, in case of emergency.

5) Get yourself a "mug wallet". Basically carry a normal wallet with almost nothing in it, and a secret hidden wallet with most of your money and documents. Transfer money between the two only in secure places.

6) Read up on haggling, and on how to avoid tourist trap markets. You can get some great deals (and friends!) sometimes, and ensure you don't get ripped off at others.

7) Bring a mini-medkit. Don't go overboard, just the basics, useful in a pinch.

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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby Metcarfre » 03 Apr 2012, 20:51

For the flight, dress nicely, but comfortably. If you're dressed nicely, you're more likely to get bumped up a class.

Be prepared for security; easily removable shoes, minimal metal, research carry-on procedures and have things packed accordingly.

Since you're going for a month or so, there's no reason to bring more than what a carry-on can take. You should plan on doing laundry and purchasing some clothing locally. Bring plenty of undies and socks, and a few changes of other stuff. If you're bringing a coat, wear it on to the plane, so it doesn't take up too much room.

Can't help you much with exotic travel otherwise, though.
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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby Tapir12 » 03 Apr 2012, 21:05

I've never been to Thailand myself, but what Met said just reminded me of a guy I met a couple years ago who had been there and told me if he ever went back, he would aim to arrive on a Saturday morning with almost nothing, because apparently there is a huge market on Saturdays where you can get t-shirts and other clothes really cheap. I'm assuming he was in Bangkok.
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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby Alja-Markir » 03 Apr 2012, 21:13

Oh, one more thing.

BE NICE TO THE MONKS.

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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby the amativeness » 03 Apr 2012, 21:20

amative's travel tips:

1) Always introduce yourself to people as a tourist. Tell them you have no idea what you're doing, or where things are.
2) Keep all your money and identification in a tourist wallet, on a lanyard around your neck.
3) Wear plenty of obviously-out-of-place clothing. Y'know, to ensure locals know you're a tourist.
4) Don't bother learning any of the local language. If they want your business, they'll learn your language.
5) Wheaton's Law only applies in North America. So be a dick.

Finally, MUAH HAH HAH!

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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby gcninja » 03 Apr 2012, 21:42

Alja-Markir wrote:Oh, one more thing.

BE NICE TO THE MONKS.

~Alja~

I've heard that quite often. So if you see some monks receiving food from locals, be nice. They're not beggars, its how they work
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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby Alja-Markir » 03 Apr 2012, 23:20

Oh, brush up on bowing etiquette too.

Remember, biggest thing is to keep your eyes to the ground. Making eye contact is a form of challenge.

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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby Psyclone » 03 Apr 2012, 23:27

Where in Thailand are you going? It's pretty universal that the farther you get from the big cities, the less people speak English. As a general rule, if there are free-roaming elephants, you're probably going to have to communicate in Thai.
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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby gcninja » 03 Apr 2012, 23:34

Tip of the day: if there are free-roaming elephants, you're probably going to far.
That for some reason is really funny.
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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby Elomin Sha » 03 Apr 2012, 23:37

Get a dark blue covered book, paint three dots, a circle and a triangle on the cover. Preach the word of the LRRd.
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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby Alja-Markir » 03 Apr 2012, 23:46

Damnit, Elomin. A month from now I'm gonna have to translate for all the new forumites because of you. And I SUCK with the Thai abugida.

*grumbles and digs up some reference charts and glossaries*

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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby gcninja » 03 Apr 2012, 23:54

sabaideemai kap! .... crap its been years since I've spoken thai with my coworkers. Tagalog keeps popping up instead. :|
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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby Cutlesnap » 04 Apr 2012, 00:57

Thailand is a beautiful country :D

I've been there, both in Bangkok and in the less touristy areas, and it's a great country. Bangkok is very smoggy though, and in the touristy part you get harassed by pimps and frauds and trinket-sellers. I strongly suggest you stay there as little as possible.

In my experience the Thai's English varies from fluent to rudimentary, but you can always speak English anyone who deals with customers, so don't worry about speaking the language. On the other hand, the Thai very much appreciate it if you learn a few Thai sentences. Saying 'hello' in Thai will immediately set you apart from the loud, obnoxious kind of tourist. If you can haggle in Thai it'll cut most prices in half :wink:

For the plane: Those silly-looking masks work so well I've started using them at home. Also take one of those U-shaped neck-pillows, so you can relax your neck. I strongly prefer isle-seats, because then I have a place to put my legs and don't have to bother anyone if I want to stand up for a few seconds. Drink plenty of water, the air in planes is terrible. I wear contacts, and when I fly I wear one-day-contacts I can throw out after a few hours of flying, and then I put on my glasses.

The food is amazing. Those little roadside stands where they cook food in a little cart and serve it to you on plastic tables are often the best place to eat. As usual outside the west, you shouldn't drink water from the tap or eat things that have not been cooked, but Thailand is great when it comes to that: The locals don't drink water from the tap either, so if you order water you will get bottled water, and the ice they put in drinks isn't made from tapwater either, which you can recognize by their funny shapes. Nearly all food is fried or cooked, so you'll be able to eat almost anything. They do usually put a little bit of fresh cucumber or salad on the side, which you shouldn't eat. For the best food, check where the Thai are eating. NEVER forget to tell the waiter you don't want your food too spicy.

If you travel by road through Thailand, you will come across roadstops where the police check everyone's passport. Those are to keep out the regional foreigners (refugees from neighbouring states), so don't worry, they're not really checking you.

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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby Tally » 04 Apr 2012, 11:15

I have not been to Thailand or anywhere in Asia, but I have travelled abroad on multiple occasions, both alone and with friends/family, and from those experiences I offer this general travel advice:

- Pack light. You can always buy things like more clothes on your travels, and dealing with lots of heavy luggage is a major hassle. Also, try to pack

- Keep your wallet and passport and travel documents in a safe place on your person at all times, like in one of those special safety pouches worn under your shirt or some such. Somewhere, someone will try to pickpocket you, I almost guarantee it, and losing that stuff really puts you in the shit. And ruins the rest of your trip while you run around to consulates and such trying to sort it all out and get new documents.

- Expect things to be strange and different and possibly even scary. Expect to feel lonely and homesick at some point in time. It's all part of the adventure.

- Take advantage of the knowledge and experiences of other travellers you may encounter. Especially if you're staying in hostels and such, you will certainly have chances to make friends from all over the world, and probably have some crazy fun times with them.

- See all the obvious famous tourist stuff, but try to leave the beaten path now and then and get away from the tourist areas. You can discover some wonderful places, people and things that way, or just learn more about the "real" place you're visiting, and not just the shiny, polished, made-for-tourists bits.

- If you're waffling on whether or not to do or see a particular thing, just do it, as Nike says (within the reasonable limits of personal safety). Who knows when you'll have the chance again?

- You can't learn the whole language of places you go, and it's likely that many of the people you encounter will speak at least some English. However, learn a few basic words and phrases in the language(s) of the country or countries you'll be visiting. It's polite, it shows respect for them, and it might really help you out. My dad once got given a drink on the house at an Italian restaurant just because his 15-year old daughter knew how to ask for the washroom in Italian. "Yes," "No," "Please," "Thank you," and "Where is the bathroom?" are my top recommended words/phrases to learn.

- Take tons of pictures! Especially now, in the era of digital photography, there's really no excuse not to. It's amazing what those pictures can remind you of, and the wonderful feelings and memories they can evoke years down the road. Plus you can make everyone hate you in the meantime by seeing what incredible adventures you're having. :D

- Always try out the local cuisine. That said, don't be afraid or ashamed to duck into a McDonald's or something once or twice in your travels, when you really just need a familiar taste or a little homesickness cure.

- Always know where your towel is (obviously)
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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby Merrymaker_Mortalis » 04 Apr 2012, 11:58

McDonalds is a good place to eat if you're that hungry you don't have the energy to bashfully lumber over the language they speak or are feeling especially more self-conscious.
I hate McDonalds but when I've been abroad I've welcomed it when my guilt at not speaking their language is high enough.
I personally prefer getting Picnic type foods from their supermarkets. I enjoy it at home, I enjoy it even more abroad. It's exciting not knowing what to expect to eat. When I went to Rome, they had little foil capped capsules (like dipping cheese spread) at the check outs. It was filled with room temperature lemon ice cream which you simply took home and froze and ate or drank at room temperature. I also got a 1.5ltr of green-yellow coloured carbonated drink that was later decided upon to be lemon in origin.
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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby matthewm » 04 Apr 2012, 17:27

I spent about four months in Thailand a few years ago, mostly in Bangkok and the north of the country. It's not my favourite SE Asian country, but there's some neat stuff there.

It was actually pretty funny for me the first time I got to Khao San Road in Bangkok (the backpacker area which you'll be staying in unless you want to stay in fancy hotels). Since I had been in Asia for over a year at that point I was shocked by how many white people there were hanging around. Not really the type of culture shock I expected. I found Bangkok in general to be kind of horrible, but it depends who you meet, and what you're into.

What are you interested in seeing? Do you want to go trekking in the forests (go North)? Do you want to go to the beaches (go South)? Do you want to see temples? Do you want to drink a lot? If it's the last one I recommend you save your airfare and just buy some alcohol at home, at least then if you wake up in a ditch you'll be able to get medical attention more easily. : )

Just look through a guide book or wikitravel, pick some stuff that seems neat and buy a bus ticket to go there.

Pretty much everyone on the tourist trail speaks English, and you won't really have much of a problem communicating with people. Even if they don't speak English be patient with communicating with others and things will probably be okay.

The local food is really awesome and cheap, and if you're eating in tourist places there will always be English menus and stuff. You might still get food poisoning though, just try to be calm about throwing up all day and drink lots of water. And don't avoid street food, the times I got food poisoning was when I ate in restaurants. I never found the food to be overly spicy, though I like spicy food.

There are loads of monks, but half their time they're just tourists too. A lot of Thais spend about a year as a monk, and you'll see them at temples taking pictures with their cellphone cameras and stuff. If they invite you to eat with them go for it. I can't remember the name of the town a monk asked me to go visit his temple, but he offered me cigarettes and whiskey (really!), and gave me food when I went back the next day (though he gave me pork,which I don't eat as I'm a vegetarian). We just talked about Canada and stuff.

Depending on where you are people might be curious about you, don't get offended if people ask if you're married, where your girlfriend/wife is, or how much you earn. These aren't really questions that are considered rude in a lot of Asian countries.

This is really important DO NOT TALK SHIT ABOUT THE ROYAL FAMILY. The Thais love their royal family, and it's actually illegal to say anything negative about them. "Negative" is also pretty broad and when I was there all of Youtube was blocked because someone posted a video with a picture of the king upside down. OMG.

It's super easy to renew your visa, just cross a land border to another country and come back. You can do this with Burma, Laos, Cambodia, or Malaysia.

I'll recommend going to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, as it's incredible. The road from the Thai border is super terrible (or at least was when I went), it took us like 12 hours to go ~150 km or something, though it was rainy season. This was pretty much the worst travel experience I had, but if something like this happens just relax, you'll get there in the end.

The people on the bus with me seemed to be in two camps, the people who were freaking out, and the people who were a lot more chill despite sometimes having to get out of the bus and stand in knee deep water while the bus was pulled out of a hole or whatever. The guys driving the bus aren't driving you into a hole on purpose, and they want to go to sleep as badly as you do, so freaking out won't get you there any sooner. On the positive, when you're out in the countryside in the middle of the night with no artificial light anywhere within sight, the stars are amazing!

Within Thailand transport is usually pretty reliable, thought I remember some train delays. Since I had no end date or schedule I was cool to just take my time with traveling though. It's best not to get worked up about that stuff. Have a book to read.

Don't haggle too much. I feel bad for the times when I argued about prices and then realized later that it was the difference between $2 and $2.50. No matter how little you earn, you're richer than most people that live in SE Asia.

Um, it's hot. It might rain a bunch depending on the season, I dunno, it's been a while since I was there.
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Re: A query to seasoned LRR travelers

Postby Lord Hosk » 04 Apr 2012, 23:35

I have a very different Thailand experience so I dont think my advice will be that helpful but use what you can as you will.

As soon as the plane gets airborne and the crew chief says you can stand up, find a spot out as far back and in the middle of the aircraft as possible to lay out your sleeping mat, between cargo pallets is a good option because then people wont be stepping over you all the time. When it comes time to rig up, try to be one of the last guys, it takes extra time to get chutes on and checked by the jump masters in flight and the harness gets really uncomfortable. I made the mistake of being one of the first ones rigged then I had to sit there for two hours as we circled the drop zone.

In the air do you checks fast, then look around its really a nice drop zone and you can see most of the country if they drop you at 1200 ft.

Once you are on the ground secure your gear fast and get together with a couple other soldiers near by then instead of lugging your gear to a turn in point, you become a turn in point.

Once you get released to the city just remember, that girl you are looking at, has the same equipment you do, if you follow my meaning. I know, (s)he doesnt look like a guy it but thats not a travel story you want to tell. On a similar note, buy a plain gold band that way you can say "Im sorry im married" and get away, they can be VERY VERY pushy.

Lastly have fun, very few people get to make that trip.
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