There are several reasons why Thailand is also known as “The Land of Smiles.” Apart from the fact that the Thai are a fun-loving people, it’s hard not to smile when you’re living in a tropical paradise. Living like a local in Thailand means being in touch with this fun-loving and optimistic culture, having an adventurous palate, and never being afraid of trying something new.
To say that durian is not for the faint of heart would be an understatement. Known for its spiky appearance and its distinctly strong smell, the meaty fruit is an acquired taste that will leave you either loving or hating it. As strong and offensive as its smell is to some people, durian is actually a ‘super fruit’ – one that’s filled with potassium and vitamin C and may even lower blood pressure and improve the health of your skin. In Thailand, there are several varieties of durian you can sample, including Monthong, Kop Med Tao, and Kanyao – a single piece of which once sold for 1.5 million baht (₹ 3.5 million) via auction at the King Of Durian 2019 festival. If you want to experience living like a local, you should at least try durian. Whatever face you make after taking your first bite, the locals supplying you the durian will surely be amused.
Visit a Temple
The main religion in Thailand is Buddhism, with cultural undercurrents of Hinduism due to the history of the area. This fact is reflected in the beautiful temples that can be found all over the country. If you’re going to visit just one temple during your stay, make it Wat Arun. Named after Aruna, the Hindu sun god, Wat Arun is also known a the Buddhist temple of dawn. Surrounded by lush gardens and situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun’s 70-meter high spire and intricate facade are a sight to behold. Even if you’re not a religious person, the sights and sounds at this temple is a good setting if you want to get in touch with your own spirituality. Make sure that you follow cultural protocols in terms of dressing and behaving conservatively while visiting Wat Arun and any other Thai Buddhist temples.
Try Some Local Wagering
Thailand is home to a very strong and deeply-rooted betting culture. You can catch a lot of the betting action in Muay Thai stadiums, like the Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Stadiums, where the majority of the audience are “punters” – locals who are there for both the boxing as well as the betting. Meanwhile, even though casinos are not allowed, places like the Aranyaprathet District still offer wagering options for locals and foreigners alike. ExpatBets notes how a dice game called Hi-Lo is a very popular Thai past time, particularly because it’s a game that doesn’t require any skill nor offers any advantage to any players – everyone’s on a level playing field. Whether you are wagering in a sports stadium or out on the streets, both are a great way to really know the locals and better understand Thai culture.
Spend a Morning at a Floating Market
In pre-modern times, Thailand’s waterways functioned as the main roads for locals trading goods between settlements. Today, this culture is very much alive in the floating markets where you can buy local fruits, cooked food, coffee, veggies, and other fresh goods. Although the Culture Trip warns that tourist-filled floating markets today tend to be tourist traps, the site also rightly points out that these markets still deserve a spot on your itinerary. The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market remains to be the most well-supplied and most popular one, followed by the Amphawa Floating Market which is known for great seafood, and Bang Kachao which is where you can buy goods under the shade of papaya groves. Haggling is welcome, and you get extra points from locals if you have the guts to do it in Thai.