He Said/She Said: Thailand vs. Philippines

He Said/She Said: Thailand vs. Philippines

Easily accessible from North America and Asia both Thailand and Philippines offer paradise on a budget.  Traveling on limited time though, which one is better?

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HE SAID…

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I’ll be the first to admit it, if you want beautiful beaches and frustration-free travel go to the Philippines.  A perfect vacation can be had by booking a package to Boracay or private islands off Palawan and relaxing.  The thing is though, for culture and activities Thailand offers so much more.  From ornate temples to unrestrained nightlife, Thailand has activities for those that need constant stimulation.  All the while you can enjoy delicious and cheap street food.  Offering a little bit of everything Asia including the seediest of the seedy, Thailand will fulfill everyone’s desires.
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Being in the middle of history’s power struggles, yet maintaining it’s sovereignty, Thailand is a special place.  Traders and migrants crossing Thailand over millennia have each left an impression, be it in the cuisine, religion or history.  From the Asian invaders to European colonists to the US soldiers seeking R and R from the battles Vietnam, Thailand is shaped by outsiders.  Currently it’s evolving into a golf and resort world for wealthy Asians seeking escapes from hectic cities such as Tokyo, Seoul and Singapore.  As Thailand has evolved it’s gained the best from each culture giving visitors easy access to anything and everything.

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Doi Suthep
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The variety in a small space also makes Thailand remarkable.  From trekking in the northern hills near Chiang Mai, from coastal towns to the islands and diving in the South, an overnight bus ride can deliver people to completely different surroundings.  Simply changing beaches can bring new sights, sounds and things to do.  When visitors have had enough of the ancient culture, undersea worlds, booming nightlife or riding elephants, the cosmopolitan delights of Bangkok are always accessible.   With five star restaurants, high-end shopping and plenty of entertainment, the Siam Paragon/CentralWorld area of Bangkok matches the gild of any modern Asian city.  With little travel time one explore the many worlds of Thailand.

The problem with Thailand is that it’s well rounded.  It’s not the best for anything, for any one thing there is better somewhere else, but it’s offering the mix that makes it special.  Without crossing borders and staying in the relative stability and safety of Thailand.  If you want to do a lot in a short time, Thailand is the place to go.

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SHE SAID…

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Few countries in Asia have a more built out tourist infrastructure than Thailand, making it an easy destination for everyone from 18 year old gap year travelers to 60+ retirees looking for a cheap beach destination.  However, due to this infrastructure you will inevitably spend your days fending off the constant flow of rickshaw drivers, tailors and massage therapists looking for a piece of the tourist dollar.  Instead plan your vacation time in the laid back Philippines, avoid the crowds and the touts.

While thinkCHUA argues that the variety of activities in Thailand is vast, it would be hard to be disappointed in the array of options in the Philippines.  It is an archipelago in South East Asia consisting of 7,107 islands. If you combine all its beaches it forms one of the world’s longest coastlines. The beaches are deserted, the crystal clear waters provided some of the best snorkeling we’ve done and inland you’ll find rice terraces, village life and adventure activities such as caving, climbing and cliff jumping.

The stunning rice terraces of Sagada, proof of the variety of options to tourists in the Philippines, which is more than just beaches.

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The only thing rivaling the range of activities is the diversity of the people and culture. Over a hundred different ethnic groups call the Philippines home and a mixture of foreign influences, specially 300 years of Spanish and 30 years of American occupation create a diverse cultural fusion.  The people, architecture and food is a unique blend of East and West.  There were times as if I felt I was in the middle of South America rather than Asia.  The Philippines is not only the largest christian country in Asia, but also it is the world’s third largest catholic nation.

Our trip to the Philippines was a break from Asia in many ways and a place we both decided we would love to return to.  From the big city life of Manila to the quiet rice terraces of Sagada and then the beautiful beaches of Palawan the Philippines has something for everyone and will provide a much more exotic experience than Thailand.

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Comments

» Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) :
May 30, 2012

Well, to be honest, both of you make compelling cases for both places, so I have to say that I’m glad our recent China visa woes have caused us to recalibrate our travel plans for getting out of Japan… We had always been planning to swing by Thailand, but now we’ll also be spending some time in the Philippines, so I can’t wait to find out which place we wind up liking best! Have to say, those rice fields in Sagada look stunning!
Read Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)’s awesome post Scanning the Skies for New Japan Exit Plans

thinkCHUA Reply:

Sorry to hear about your visa woes… We had to FedEX our passports to Chicago from Tokyo and have a friend do the visas for us. In person he had no problems, but sadly your story is more normal than it should be.

» BKA :
Jun 1, 2012

So many choices, so little time…..have only done Thailand as you know and would return tomorrow for all of Matt’s and more rationale….I remember Nicks first weeks observations well from Chiang Mai, “heck you can live here for a buck a day, 3 beers for 25 cents and a bowl of noodles for your last quarter”…,,,a bit of an overstatement, but Asian travel is not only a great adventure, but a great value as well!….Peace and love …..Dad

» Ayngelina :
Jun 1, 2012

I lived in the Philippines for 9 months and have also visited Thailand. I would argue that there’s tons of culture and activities in the Philippines but there is more to the country than Palawan or Borocay.

It would be like saying Thailand is just Koh Tao.
Read Ayngelina’s awesome post Food Friday: Where to eat in Hana?

thinkCHUA Reply:

There definitely is more to the Philippines than Palawan and Boracay… The reality though is that most people are traveling on limited vacation time, be it to the Philippines or Thailand and whether you go for a long or short trip I think the Philippines has more to offer.

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.
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