What I Wished I Hadn’t (and Had) Packed for Thailand

I’m a bit of an overplanner when it comes to preparing for a trip, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when I tell you that before packing my bags and heading out I read well over a dozen blogs just about what to bring the Thailand. From these lists I created my own super list.

(Keep in mind that my trip to Thailand lasted 3 weeks and I had a travelling partner whith whom I shared toiletries. We did laundry twice throughout the 3 weeks.)

  • 8 pairs of underwear
  • 1 bra
  • 1 sports bra
  • 3 t-shirtsIMG_7052
  • 3 tank tops
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 2 pair of pants
  • 1 maxi dress
  • 1 sweater
  • 2 bathing suits
  • 1 beach cover up
  • 1 rain coat
  • 1 waterproof mascara
  • 1 waterproof eyeliner
  • 2 SPF chapsticks
  • 900ml of sunscreen
  • 100ml of bug spray
  • 100ml of tooth paste
  • 1 toothbrush
  • 100ml of shaving cream
  • 1 shaving razor
  • 2 replacement cartridges
  • 1 hair brush
  • 3 hair elastics
  • 1 shampoo bar
  • 1 conditioner bar
  • 1 BodyGlide
  • 1 quick dry towel
  • 1 pair of closed toe waterproof shoes
  • 1 pair of dress sandals
  • 1 pair of flip flops
  • 1 zippered purse
  • 1 wallet

Wow! It seems like a lot more when you write it down. Believe it or not, all of this fit into a hiking backpack as well as a day bag (which got more full as the trip went on…just wait)!

I knew before we left that there were things that I wanted to buy while in Thailand. I didn’t know if I would feel comfortable in shorts (chub rub is a thing and +30ºC weather is not my friend) so I knew I was probably going to buy some pants. I packed BodyGlide for my thighs but it just didn’t cut it. The constant need to reapply made buying pants the best alternative.

Pants purchased – 2
Money spent – $12CAD ($9USD)
Pants ripped – 2

Although the pants I bought IMG_7211were cheap and I should have anticipated it, sweat (and that dreaded chub rub I mentioned earlier) wore through those pants in less than a week! The material that they use to make their flowy heaven sent pants is not meant to hold up under a lot of walking and extreme heat. I ended up throwing one pair away but brought the other home in hopes of repairing the giant rip in the crotch.

Would I do it again?

OF COURSE!

I loved these pants! Not only were they incredibly light but they were also easy to pack and squished down to the size of underwear.

Next time I would eliminate pants from my packing list all together and just invest in some cheap throw aways throughout my trip.

After a couple days of walking around Bangkok in flip flops I began to realize that they were an unrealistic trip-long walking shoe. Although I had owned them for well over 3 years, my flip flops started giving me blisters between the toes and on the balls of my feet.

It was time to invest in some running shoes.

Much like the pants, the shoes I bought were very cheap. $8CAD( $6USD) got me a pair of knock off Adidas that I still wear today. There is no arch support and the treads are starting to wear out BUT they got me through 2 more weeks in Thailand AND a hike through a rocky jungle. Unlike the running shoes I own for the gym, these shoes are lightweight and dry quickly.

IMG_8130Although running shoes wasn’t on my list to begin with, I would plan to buy some again next time and avoid the extra weight in my backpack on the way there.

Parts of Thailand can be muddy and dirty and it was nice to know that if I did destroy my shoes I could always buy another pair for the price of a Starbucks frappuccino.

IMG_7384.JPGAfter our time in Bangkok we took a flight down to Phuket where we planned to hop a ferry to Koh Lanta for a few days. The boat ride there was gorgeous but as soon as we stepped foot off of the ferry the sky opened up and it began to pour! We were smart enough to keep our rain coats in our day bag so that they were easily accessible but we soon discovered that they were incredibly hot to wear in the middle of a Thai rain storm. If I could do it again I would leave my rain coat at home. It was arguably one of the biggest things that I packed and it was too hot to wear when it rained.

Instead, invest in a couple cheap, disposable, ponchos that will fit in your purse or day bag. Hang them to dry and fold them back up or toss them. Your choice.

IMG_7424.JPG

Koh Lanta is where I realized that just because something is labeled waterproof does not mean that it is sweat proof. After a warm boat ride I felt like my face was melting as my mascara and eyeliner started leaking down my face. The Thai locals aren’t much of a makeup wearing people so I made the decision to throw out my makeup. No sense in carrying things you’re not going to use, especially if they don’t work for what you bought them for.

We should have spent more time on the islands (check out our itinerary here), but we wanted to do a lot of city exploring so our time in Koh Lanta was short. We visited the beach in between the random showers but had plenty of time to dry our suits before heading back to the beach. If you plan on spending more time in the city than at the beach I would ditch the back up bathing suit and stick with one.

Another thing I debated using in Koh Lanta before chickening out was my beach cover up. Had our accommodations been closer to the water I probably would have used my beach cover up waaaay more, but because we were a 15 minute walk away from the beach and Koh Lanta is a rather conservative island (the majority of the island communities are a mix of buddhist and muslim) I figured I would play it safe and save the cover up for the hotels we booked in which we had a pool. As it turns out, I was too uncomfortable to wear my cover up at our final hotel, an apartment with accommodations for long-term tourists. What I thought would be a pool filled with american tourists turned out to be a private sports club pool dedicated to lane swimming and children’s lessons.

Lesson learned; ditch the extra weight. Be respectful of other cultures and keep the bikinis on the beach.IMG_7432.JPG

After our time in Koh Lanta we took a flight to Chiang Mai. I thought it would be smart to fly comfortably in my sports bra. THAT was a horrible idea. Not only was my sports bra less breathable than my regular underwire and mesh bra but it stayed damp throughout my entire travel day. It probably wouldn’t have been so bad if the airport and airplane weren’t so cold that the sweaty mess of a bra gave me the chills. That was the one and only time I wore the thing. Cross that off the packing list for sure!

We scheduled a whole week in Chiang Mai because we knew we wanted to do a little bit more exploring. What we didn’t anticipate was how hot it would be! I don’t consider myself a sweaty person (cardio workouts and weight lifting aside) but it seemed as if 20 minutes of walking turned me into a puddle there. It didn’t take long for my “angel wings” (as my partner politely called them) to start showing through my lightly coloured shirts. I understood right away why all of the Thai locals were always wearing black.

If I could go back and re-pack my bag I would choose tops that didn’t show sweat.

I avoided black because of its sun attracting properties but it’s so hot there that it doesn’t make a difference. Ditch the grey and blue and stick to white or black to avoid embarrassing sweat marks.

After feeling that hot Chiang Mai sun on my back during our first day of adventuring I knew when we visited the temples I would not be able to handle wearing my sweater (temple attire: no shoulders, no cleavage, no knees) so my partner and I set out on a hunt for a cover up that I wouldn’t mind wearing as we traipsed around the city. We must have visited a dozen little stores before I finally found one (I thought it would be much easier to find). I spent $12CAD for a cute elephant clad shawl that I will continue to wear here at home. It was a bit warm and got caught on things easily, creating a few runs in the fabric, so I would probably opt for something a little more silky if I had to do it again.

IMG_9195

By the end of our time in Chiang Mai we had spent 2 weeks in the hot Thai sun. My skin was a mix of oily sunscreen and sweat during the days and cold and cracked in the air-conditioned hostels at night.

It wasn’t until then that I had forgotten the most important thing: body lotion.

Body lotion probably seems like a pretty easy thing to come by in a foreign country. I mean, everyone has a body so it should be readily available, right? Wrong! The problem with buying any type of cream in Thailand is the fact that:

  1. All of the labels are in Thai and unless you know the language it’s hard to read the ingredient list.
  2. In Thai culture White skin is incredibly attractive, which means almost all facial creams and gels contain some sort of whitening ingredient.

Thank goodness my partner was able to find me a great anti wrinkle cream (the same one that I use in Canada) at the 7-11 down the street from our hostel to clear up the dry skin that was beginning to sneak its way across my face! It’s not just body lotion that’s hard to buy either, sunscreen could also pose a problem. On top of reasons number 1 and 2 above, sunscreen is incredibly expensive in Thailand. For this reason we packed the equivalent of 900ml in small reusable bottles (to find this number we took the average amount used for each application, multiplied that by the number of times we planned on re-applying every day, and then multiplied that by the number of days we planned on spending time outside). As it turned out, we didn’t use nearly as much as we thought we would.

Sunscreen is another one of those things that will depend on how you’re spending your days.

If you’re spending most of your time on a beach showing all sorts of skin, bring a lot. If you are visiting temples in your modest clothing with only your face, arms, and ankles uncovered, you probably don’t need to pack a whole lot.

I learned a lot about the way that I pack during this trip to Thailand. The funny thing is that if I were to go back again I might find myself in a completely different situation needing a bunch of different things. The good thing to remember is that there are items that you’re better off buying there and some that you’re better off bringing from home.


TL:DR

If I went back to Thailand tomorrow this would be my new packing list.


What I would pack:

  • 8 pairs of underwear
  • 1 bra
  • 1 sports bra
  • 3 t-shirts (black or white)
  • 3 tank tops (black or white)
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 2 pair of pants
  • 1 maxi dress
  • 1 sweater
  • 2 bathing suits  1 bathing suit
  • 1 beach cover up
  • 1 rain coat
  • 1 waterproof mascara
  • 1 waterproof eyeliner
  • 2 SPF chapsticks
  • 900ml of sunscreen 300ml of sunscreen
  • 100ml of bug spray
  • 100ml of tooth paste (we ended up buying more as needed – easy to find)
  • 1 toothbrush
  • 100ml of shaving cream (I used the whole thing, shaved 4 times)
  • 1 shaving razor
  • 2 replacement cartridges (I used one and my partner used one)
  • 1 hair brush
  • 3 hair elastics
  • 1 shampoo bar
  • 1 conditioner bar
  • 1 BodyGlide
  • 1 quick dry towel
  • 1 pair of closed toe waterproof shoes  (mine gave me blisters)
  • 1 pair of dress sandals (I wore them ONCE)
  • 1 pair of flip flops
  • 1 zippered purse
  • 1 wallet
  • socks
  • body lotion

What I would buy:

  • 3 pairs of pants
  • 1 pair of “running” shoes
  • silk shawl
  • more toothpaste as needed
  • more shaving cream as needed

Share your packing list with me! Is there something you think I missed?

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