Why is it every time I visit South East Asia, I think there will be a moment which sweat will not be oozing from my pores? Truly the question of the day. YET even with this moist assertion, folks from all over the world embrace places like Thailand. They put up with the high density humidity, afternoon rain and potential for jungle rot, because .....the food, the people, the sights, sounds and smells are spectacular! And CHEAP! If you haven't been, because you either balk at the round trip airfare, or simply because it seems far too exotic, with a complex language and writing, that just puts you outside your comfort zone, set those worries aside. I am here to assure you, third world conditions or not.....YOU TOO can do SE Asia. For the here and now, Thailand is on the horizon. Don't let that put you off to Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, or any of the other spectacular locations. Logistics will be close to the same.
For the first portion of my two weeks, I stayed at a resort a few hours North of Phuket, which is located in the southern portion of Thailand, pretty much the opposite end from Bangkok, if this helps you visualize the geography. Living in Perth, Australia, gets me to Thailand in about 5 hours, making this exotic country easily accessible even for a long weekend getaway. Knowing a few words in Thai will get you far, even as you make your way out of the airport. I advise having your transportation already sorted with the accommodation of your choice, prior to landing. This will make for ease of transition after customs and immigration, as someone will have a sign with your name on it, waiting for you outside of arrivals. Be prepared for a ton of people, what seems like chaos, and a wall of heat. "Sawasdee" as a general greeting, rather like Ciao, can be practiced ahead of time, and can be said upon pick up. Another useful term is "Aroi", meaning delicious. I can guarantee, you will want to use this one a lot!
There are a plethora of beautiful resorts which you can find with all inclusive pricing between $600 - $1000 US, for 10 days/ two people, depending on how far out from town they are, if they are on private beach, or with amenities like spa's and pools. Though this is a great deal, I recommend getting off the property and seeing some of the countryside around your accommodation. Take a tour or two; go fishing, wash an elephant, trek to a temple, visit one of the incredible islands, go snorkeling.....your options are endless. Don't pick the first tour operator you find, shop around and be sure to negotiate the price. They are all prepared to fetch you from your hotel, feed you and return you later that day. Be sure most will only take cash, Bahts are best...most hotels will exchange, but you can also find locations in most villages too. I stayed at a resort in an area called Khao Lak with a handful of villages located a few kilometers away, to wander and enjoy the local culture. With the Andaman Sea to the west and hundreds of kilometers of National Forest to the East, it was certainly an incredible place to hang your hat for a week or so. This is also the area devastated by the Tsunami around Christmas of 2004. Even today, you can see lasting results of mother natures fury. Reminders of the humanity and perseverance the Thai culture embraces.
Remember you are not in the US or Europe or any other "first world" country, many of your services will be off in some capacity or other. English will be extremely limited and it is customary for the locals to smile and say yes, though they may have no idea what you have asked. Sidewalks may be missing, toilets may be difficult to find, or may even have a fee associated. Everything will take a bit longer, there will be rubbish and open sewers potentially....the disorder you see is common place to most, in a country where 6500 Baht per month, is the norm and must feed, shelter and cloth your family ($191 US). Teach, guide, learn, explore....and everyone will be the better for it. From Khao Lak I moved on to Phuket and a Marriott owned property. A vastly different experience. This resort did not advise "mingling with the locals", setting itself far apart from anywhere easily transported to, having much higher rates for room, food, spa, etc. Everyone spoke English and that feeling of being in a remote, cultural setting, was not as strong. Though the property was lovely, I am a firm believer in the idea of embracing something new; pushing the envelope is part of the adventure, which is what makes traveling such a heart warming endeavor.
If you are interested in SE Asia and have questions about logistics or more details on the above, I would be delighted to chat!