I know that no country is perfect, and Thailand is not immune to the problems that plague modern life. Yes, there are minor irritations, such as cab drivers who try to overcharge tourists, and the occasional robbery or more serious crime.
But the person who came up with the “land of smiles” slogan was really on the money. I’ve never felt this welcome anywhere in the world. Children and adults alike are always equipped with a friendly grin, and many Thai people go out of their way to help foreigners or at least to take an interest in them.
This attention can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, and occasionally unwelcome, but for the most part I am convinced it is genuine and well intentioned. You simply don’t get that in many other places, including my home country, where people keep to themselves and, increasingly, treat everybody else with suspicion.
When I read of foreigners getting into trouble in Thailand, it often seems that cultural misunderstanding is at the core of the problem. When you travel, it’s your responsibility to understand the laws and sensibilities of the country that is welcoming you.
With tourism one of the big drivers of the economy, Thailand has three big advantages: its natural wonders, its cultural heritage and its friendly people.