Last year when I traveled to Thailand, there was something that I noticed right away that was very different there. No, not the obvious things like the language or the way people looked. The thing that I noticed was their love for soccer (or if you’re not from the U.S., football — to call it properly).
Now, being that I am super-competitive, I wanted to get out and play “football” or soccer with them — that way I could show them what kind of skills I had. Well, the problem with this is that I’m a 275-pound powerlifter. Trying to run with these quick and athletic Thai kids was a big mistake on my part. It was a funny scene to see. I had no idea what they were saying, but they kept getting a good laugh at my expense. So they banished me to goalie.
This experience opened me up to a culture that otherwise may have not been fully experienced. Sports have a great way of bonding people cross-culturally. I like the fact that when you’re traveling abroad, whether you’re a backpacker, business traveler, or an adventure traveler, you can always find a common bond with someone when it comes to sports.
So maybe you’re not a sports enthusiast. What are some other things you can do in Thailand? There are so many other fun things to do.
Here are 10 things that you can do in another culture that could be an enjoyable bonding and learning experience:
Take a cooking class | Thailand has some of the best cooking classes around the world. As a matter of fact, this is something that I plan on doing in Thailand, simply because it will reduce the amount of money I spend on ordering Thai food from delivery services. Also, cooking classes are a great way to learn more about a new culture.
Be a monkey for a day | Go zip lining in Chiang Mai. There are some beautiful landscapes in Chiang Mai and plenty to see. This adds an adrenaline rush and great sightseeing. Plus, this fulfills the inner monkey in all of us.
Learn the language | Depending on how long you plan on staying in Thailand, take some Thai language classes. Don’t get caught saying “soda pop” for “hello” instead of “sawadee krap.” No wonder I was getting funny looks.
Take a tuk tuk | They are everywhere — kind of the Thai version of Uber. But it’s a way to get around the cities and explore different sites.
Try the local grub | If you’re daring, like my son, eat an insect. These are considered delicacies in Thailand. You know, things like locusts or grasshoppers. Supposedly they taste sweet. I’ll defer that opinion to my friends who are daring with their foods.
Go with the flow | Take a bamboo ride in the jungle. My kids loved this. It was one of my family’s highlights of our time in Thailand.
Pamper yourself | Get a pedicure — but only with fish. These little tiny fish eat all the dead skin off your feet. It was actually not too bad. I didn’t know if it would tickle, hurt, or be annoying. But it turned out to be pretty pleasant.
Get a “safe” message | I say “safe” because there are a lot of sketchy places to get a massage. But there are plenty of places to get a legit Thai massage. These massages can cost anywhere from $10-$30 depending on how long you go. I had a funny experience. I am pretty big and I couldn’t get the paper shirt on that they give you, so I had to rip it and the lady started to laugh at me and kept hitting me in the chest saying (what I assume to be in Thai), “Your chest is big.” Funny, to say the least. Good thing I don’t have a complex.
Make a big splash | There are elephant rescues that you can visit in Chiang Mai, where you can even bathe the elephants. I conquered my fear of elephants and visited one of these places. Seriously, I was extremely afraid of these giant animals. My 7-year-old daughter told me not to be afraid because she believed in me. What was I to say?
Make an impact | Last but not least, and my favorite: visit an orphanage. Life is fulfilled when you can say that you made efforts to help enrich others’ lives. But I’ll tell you this — when you think you’re visiting an orphanage to help them, 9 times out of 10, you will leave being impacted.