Comparo: Thailand v the Philippines (II)

In a previous post I began the silly exercise of comparing two indie travel destinations that I totally love. The battle of the paradises resumes below:

4. Budget

I found travel costs to be quite similar in the two countries. Accommodation is cheap in both, marginally better value in Thailand, especially in the country. Boats and snorkeling tours are perhaps cheaper in the Phils – I’m thinking Palawan. Food is roughly the same price, that is, if you manage to stick to adobo and other basic staples when in the Phils – something that is easier said than done.  

Phils-5; Thailand-5

5. Culture – in the broadest sense

I’ve written lots about local culture in this blog. Thailand is different – it’s sanuk makand jai yen. Fun yet polite, the people I wanna hang out with if I ever get to learn their beautiful yet impossible language.  Pinoys and Pinays are fun, ironic, musical.  The it’s more fun in the Philippines motto is definitely not unwarranted.

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Tanduay and coke  in a rainy island hopping in El Nido, Palawan
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These folk sure are musical!

Plus, it’s crazy to have so much Spain so far away from Spain.

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Catching a fiestas procession from the bus. So Spanish yet so far away from Spain!

Thailand – 4; Phils – 4

6. Ease of independent travel

An important category, for sure. Is the country easy to navigate? Is it safe for solo travelers? What about women travelers? Let me start by saying that I found the two countries to be very easy to travel in. It’s true that Thailand is generally more developed, but the Phils compensates with with the possibility of communicating in English. 

As to safety, Thailand is probably safer, road travel notwithstanding. I have walked at all hours of the day and night in cities such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Korat, and the biggest threat I felt was rats and packs of stray dogs. I haven’t felt unsafe in the Phils, but the locals I met kept warning me about Cebu’s old city at night. 

Thailand – 5; Phils – 4,5

7. Food

Oh food….Thailand wins by landslide here. It’s good, it’s cheap and it’s varied. Suffice it to say that it turned me into a foodie of sorts – me, coming from Spain.  Learn the phrases mai pet (not spicy) and mai pet maak (not too spicy) and you’ll be saying aroi mak (delicious!) many times a day. 

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Ridiculously good thick noodle pad Thai in Surat Thani’s night market
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When in doubt, order Isan fare
som tam thai

I was excited about trying Filipino food, but besides lechón I found nothing to write home about. On the plus side, international restaurants are easy to be found on the tourist trail, and at affordable prices. (Unlike in Bangkok!)

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My reign for a plate of lechon!

Thailand – 5; Phils – 2

8. Overall travel experience

I won’t bother tallying up the scores. To be honest, I’d have to toss a coin to decide which one of the two destinations to pick for my next vacation.

I’ll be honest. I dream of  returning to the Phils: touring Palawan in public transport in relatively dry season. I’d also love to visit Romblon, Camiguin, Siargao and off the beaten track Dinagat. The Batanes islands in the North, too.

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I want more of this somewhere down the road. White Beach, Port Barton, Palawan.

I loved it – riding my bike, passing barangay after barangay, to discover some crazily loud sound system playing reggae, or death metal, or whatever.

But here’s the thing. Any destination in Thailand (save for Phuket) will speed up my heart rate. I want more Kanchanaburi, more Samet. Deep Isan close to the Mekong river. Off the beaten path North, who cares about Chiang Mai. And that’s not even mentioning sea paradises like Ko Surin.

Perhaps it’s the som tam with a cold Chang, nature and smiles that got me hooked on Thailand. But, overall, I’d say that Thailand is a more balanced destination: an amazing combination of natural sights, a world-class metropolis, archaeological sites and delicious food to be enjoyed just about anywhere.

Which is probably why a 6th trip to the Land of Smiles feels in order.

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A big smile in honor of the Land of Smiles

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