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Thailand -- Keeping the Experience Female-Friendly...

We're delighted to welcome Bangkok-based Nima Chandler to the Journeywoman Network. Nima is a single American woman in her early 30s who grew up in Thailand, and still calls it home. A former journalist, she now runs her mother's company, Nancy Chandler Graphics, which publishes maps of Bangkok and Chiang Mai. We asked Nima to offer some female-centered advice to those women travelling to her part of the world. She writes...

Bangkok is in fact much safer for western women than any western city I know. All the places I will mention in this article are safe for women -- even at night. As with elsewhere, however, it helps to look like you know where you are going, and to practice big-city vigilance.

Think about your safety...

It's important not to flash one's money or 'too much skin' in public. Make sure that the areas you choose to visit are considered safe by the locals and that you are extra careful after dark. From my experience, the most common (relatively harmless) crimes against tourists are the ones committed by touts. These men pretend to befriend you by offering you help on the street and then they talk you into going to a gem store where they get paid for bringing in a potential customer. More serious offenses are pickpocketing in some crowded markets; and, maybe, overcharging by taxi drivers, waiters and other people in services.

Dress appropriately ...

Female visitors to this part of the world must consider both the culture and the climate when deciding on their wardrobe. Thailand may be hot, hot, hot but wearing skimpy clothes is not acceptable to most Thais. Leave your tiny tank tops, midriff-baring T-shirts and short shorts at home. Ideally, tops should cover your shoulders (although times are slowly changing in this regard). Skirts and shorts should reach at least just above the knee. For the beach or poolside, swimwear is appropriate only by the water and topless sunbathing remains frowned upon. You will see people who break these 'rules' but that doesn't mean you should too!

Be a smart shopper...

Spend your money on items you will treasure forever. There is a lot of tourist kitsch out there and, at current exchange rates, you'll see a million and one bargains in the markets. Ask yourself if the item you are looking at will fit into your home decor or wardrobe. In Impact Publication's shopping guidebook, The Treasures & Pleasures of Thailand, the authors warn that many western women, for example, chose silks that look fantastic in Thai shops, but when they get home they realize the colors don't look so good in their own living rooms nor do they complement their skin color like they do for Thais. P.S. For those Journeywomen who are serious shoppers, pick up the above mentioned book which walks you through the local bargaining process, teaches you how to assess tailors and quality products, and gives you a crash course on buying gems, tips on shipping and customs issues and many other valuable insights on shopping in Thailand.

Pamper yourself with a visit to a salon or spa...

Have your hair shampooed at a local hairdresser. They give you terrific head massages at the same time and they are very cheap (e.g. US$ 2-3.00). For a more costly, luxurious and unique experience, try one of Thailand's top spas: In Bangkok, on the 51st-54th floors of the Westin Banyan Tree hotel, overlooking the city is the Banyan Tree Spa (; or take the free hotel ferry from the Taksin skytrain station to the Marriott Royal Garden Riverside hotel (a relaxing boat trip of about 20 minutes) and its Mandara Spa (, Tel: 426-0021; or in Chiang Mai, try The Spa at the Regent Resort Chiang Mai (Tel: 298-181-9).

Get a good Thai massage...

Larger hotels will have an in-room service, others can refer you to a good massage parlor nearby. In Bangkok, you can also go to Wat Po, a temple where massage is taught, but this site is usually full of tourists and less relaxing than being pampered in the privacy of your own room. Don't walk into just any massage parlor, however, as many are for men only and services are not exactly 'traditional'. In Chiang Mai and elsewhere, you will also see a lot of 'safe' small foot massage shops along shopping routes. You can also get a massage on the beaches for about B 200.00/hour (US$5.00), but ask for proof of some training when you do.

See a cabaret show with friends...

For a truly fun, truly Asian experience, the professional transvestite cabaret shows can't be beat. They are the closest you'll come to a comedy club in Thailand -- catering to international audiences with fantastic costumes and songs from the US, Europe, Japan, Korea and China, as well as slapstick comedy that leaves everyone laughing, even if they don't speak English or Thai! The performers are often mistaken for real women, and I've had many female friends walk out with a new perspective on what it means to be a woman -- a new gesture, posture, tilt of the head, etc. The most famous cabaret acts are in Pattaya at Alcatraz and Tiffany's. In Bangkok, try Calypso at the Asia Hotel or Mambo on Sukhumvit Road. In Chiang Mai, there are free shows at the Galare Food Center 2, although these are not quite as good.

Have clothes made just for you...

Bring your favourite outfits with you to the tailors. Most Thai tailors work better from originals than from pictures, sketches or sewing instructions. In other words, if you have a dress you'd love to have copied, pack it and bring it with you for best results!

More great advice...





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