But, before I set my foot on the Thai land, I had a few opinions of the country, created by the stories and stereotypical picture people draw of the country on the internet - and gosh, I was so wrong! And this is what I thought:
1. Thai people smile at you all the time
'The country of smiles', 'the most friendly nation in the whole world' - you read in the guides and on the internet I imagined that everyone in Thailand will be happy, welcoming and smiling at me wherever I go. In Bangkok I was shouted at by: a security guard at the airport (for not filling in the visa slip - well, I was sleeping when the stewardess was giving them out on the plane, not my fault), a taxi driver (for not packing my backpack in their car fast enough), a boat ticket seller (for trying to board a wrong boat), a bus driver (again, for the backpack). I didn't really care about the shouting, as it was quite funny when they shouted at me in half Thai, half English, but I was surprised that they were not that pleasant, as the Lonely Planet said they would.
Things changed to better when we got to the islands. Had Salad was the friendliest place I've ever been to. Had Rin was less so. I got an impression that tourist were treated a bit like a necessary evil (on the other hand, no surprise here. You see signs like 'do not pee on beds' in hostels, indicating what kind of travelers visit the place).
2. The country is dirty, there's rubbish everywhere, and it's really easy to catch a virus, or something equally unpleasant
I imagined that it would be so dirty, I will have to disinfect my whole body after each time I'd go out. I imagined filthy hostels, with no running water and falling apart beds. Yes, I even considered sewing together two sheets, so I can put that on the blankets I would sleep under.
To my great relief Thailand turned out to be nothing like it. Of course, you can still sleep in some really bad places (like the Coral bungalows in Had Rin), but in general, it is a country like many others. Yes, Bangkok is stinky and dirty (very dirty in some places), but it's a big city, and most big cities are like that.
I saw some really dirty toilets, but they weren't that much different from the ones I saw in Bulgaria, or Poland (or at Glastonbury).
And you don't catch diseases there that easily. It's a different climate, and your body is not immune to some of the viruses and bacteria. Just wash your hands and maintain a good standard of hygiene and you'll be fine.
3. The transport is bad and it's hard to get from one place to another
Yes, unless you're in the middle of a jungle.
The roads are better than in Eastern Europe and you can catch a flight to anywhere in Asia from Bangkok. It's really easy to catch a taxi, or a tuk tuk, which will take you wherever you like. It's really a backpacker's paradise.
4. Squat toilets are everywhere
During my stay in Thailand I've seen only one squat toilet. They are not that common in tourist places. You still need to throw the toilet paper to a bin, but except that the toilets are the same as the ones in Europe.
5. Everyone, everywhere want to steal your wallet and your passport
Before I boarded the plane, I put my money belt under my t-shirt and spent the entire flight, wearing it.
I was paranoid by leaving my possessions in a locker, in a hostel.
A few Changs, a little bit of sunburn, and a couple of good beach parties later, I forgot to worry about my money and my passport. I still put it in a secure place, but I just thought that I'd done what I could and if someone steals something from me, I will worry then.
Yes, I was that naive...And there are quite a few more, but I better not to publish it, so I don't get expelled by the travel blogging community.
When I think of how naive I was and what I was worried about, I just want to laugh! After my post about Burma, I've decided to stop worrying about things I can't change, stop researching all the time, and stop imagining how it would be when I get there. Everything will come with time...