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Similarities and differences between Thailand and Philippines

In late 2011I went to Thailand three times during my SE Asia visit and spent altogether around 5 weeks there. I also spent 3 weeks in the Philippines and just because of the visa it was not longer.

One would think that both being Asian countries, they should be very similar, right? But if you have been traveling for a long time, then you know it is not true. Our expectations about a place are usually wrong, or better, or worse than the reality itself.

 

I found many similarities and differences between Thailand and Philippines:

 

Similarities between Thailand and Philippines

Beaches – Both Thailand and the Philippines can be proud of their beaches. You know, all those beautiful secluded beaches with white sand, palm trees and transparent sea can be found in both countries. Yes, welcome to paradise! Even famous party Boracay island can be still proud of its beaches , such as less visited Puka beach :)

 

Puka beach on Boracay, Philippines

Puka beach on Boracay, Philippines

Islands – Both countries consist of many islands (Philippines of thousands more). There is a bunch of islands that very few people know about, the smaller islands, the better to visit.

Small grocery stalls – Very common in both which makes it very easy to eat at the street.

Rice – Trust me, after visiting these 2 countries I just could not eat rice again any more when I came back to Europe! They even eat it for breakfast! What? Where is my oat meal?! But I did enjoy visiting Batad rice terraces in the Philippines, such an incredible place!

Fruit – Easy to get tropical fruit and fresh coconuts almost anywhere. I loved it!

Weather – As you can imagine, weather is very alike. Hot and sunny, or monsoon months.

Religious life – people of both countries really live a religious life a lot even though the religion itself is very different.

Sea – many Thais and Filipinos cannot swim. I never understood this thing as mostly people from countries with no sea can swim and those that have coasts cannot. But those locals who can, in Thailand and Philippines, will jump into the sea not only in the bath suit, but in T-shirts or even jeans, especially women. It is more than obvious who is who, I mean if you want to distinguish foreign female tourists (all in bikini) from those local.

Alcohol – it seems that in these 2 countries people are just not alcohol fans. Personally, I almost never saw a Filipino (apart from that crazy night when we ended up at the swimming pool at 3.30 am) or a Thai person drinking alcohol, not even when we went out at night.   There are definitely less people drinking than somewhere in Europe, for example.

 

Differences

Prices – I was really surprised but life in the Philippines is not that cheap as you would expect. Some things were a lot more expensive than in Thailand, such as transport. You have to pay airport and terminal fees in the Philippines every time you travel and it is not included in the ticket price. Annoying!

Transport – I think using the transport in Thailand was way easier than in the Philippines. The buses and trains are not that overcrowded in Thailand … but in the Philippines? OMG! They put 20 people in a small van designed for 10 people together with all those hundreds of bags and backpacks. Tall people like me really suffer!

Long distance trips – If you are going to touristy places, in Thailand there are bus trips, or bus and boat trips organized that will take you there (such as a trip to Koh Phangan or Koh Lanta). To buy the second one directly tends to be cheaper than to buy a bus ticket and then the boat/ferry ticket separately. It really amazed me how well organized all those trips were. At each transfer point there was someone waiting for us to tell us where to go. But in the Philippines I haven’t really noticed such a thing. I don’t think it was because I was traveling there with my local friends, but because those organized bus/boat trips just don’t really exist there.

Spicy ­ –  Most of Thai food is spicy, but not the Filipino one. I am not a huge fan of spicy food, so I preferred the food in the Philippines.

Fish ­– In the Philippines, fish is extremely common to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Fish soup, grilled fish and many other ways of preparing fish kept me alive when there. I even tried catfish (they call it hito) for the first time there and it was really delicious!

catfish in Philippines

catfish in Philippines

Junk food – In the Philippines they eat a lot of junk food. They even have their local kind of McDonald’s junk food restaurant called Jollibee and believe me, it can be found everywhere! Thai people seem to be healthier and I didn’t really find many of them eating fast food.

Language – Obviously, Thai and Filipino languages have nothing to do with each other, but now I mean English language. In the Philippines, English is widely spoken and for them it is kind of a second language while in Thailand I found just poor English and only in touristy places (more on islands than in BKK, for example).

People – I have to say that I LOVE all the Filipinos. They are super helpful, nice, smiling all the time, hardly ever in bad mood (apart from bus drivers). The saying goes that Thailand is the land of smiles but comparing to Filipinos, I did not find that many nice people in there. Just to make an example, I have a lot of Filipino friends just after 3 weeks there, but not even one Thai friend after 5 weeks in Thailand.

Smoking – for non-smokers like me, Philippines and Thailand is a true paradise! Very few locals smoke there (at least comparing to for example Italy, Spain or some more countries where you see so many smokers).

Massage – Thailand is one of the best countries in the world to pamper yourself getting a massage. They are very cheap and you can choose from many different massages. I had one almost every day. Unfortunately, in the Philippines it is not so common.

a Thai foot massage in Bangkok

a Thai foot massage in Bangkok

Sex industry – sex change surgery is so popular in Thailand that you have to be careful when you meet a perfect sexy Thai woman unless you don’t care she was he before. (Disgusting to me) ping pong shows in Bangkok and prostitutes in Pattaya are just one of the hundreds things many Thai women do for living (obviously some of them are tricked to that). And that famous thing of Thai girls making their living by ‘’spending time’’ with old foreigners is really present in everyday life of a tourist visiting Thailand; you will see them everywhere around you. This is way less common in the Philippines and during 3 weeks there I did not see any of it at all, even though I heard young Filipinas + old foreigners issue does exist there too. And I only saw one ladyboy and it was during a show anyway.

 

The opinion and thoughts in this article are based on my personal experience, observing and speaking to the locals and travelers who visited Thailand and Philippines.

Check out more posts of this kind: Similarities and differences between Mexico and Thailand and also Similarities and differences between Chile and Argentina.

 

Have you found more similarities and differences between Thailand and Philippines?

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  65. There are many people who practice Filipino Massage. It is just not that easy to spot compared to those who practice Thai massage in Thailand. Filipino massage is more common and much practiced on households than resorts and spas :)

  66. Of course there are, but I was comparing to other countries so it is not that bad ;)

  67. You said you “don’t see many Filipinos drinking alcohol” – not true! There are many places where Filipinos drink – in public. You just haven’t gone to the right places!

    Sincerely,
    A Philippine native/resident

  68. Thanks, Jon :) Yes, I do find Filipinos friendlier than the Thai people in general, maybe because of the language, too.

  69. I am a Filipino and I’ve been to Thailand just a few months ago, and ALL your observations are true for both countries. SPot on!

    But what I like the most is you find us friendlier (shy face) LOL! :)

  70. Thanks Carina for your comparisons, too. Very helpful for many travelers ;)

  71. Hi Alex, love your post.
    I also compare everything about Thailand and the Philippines on my site http://aroundtheworldinaday.com/philippines_thailand_comparison/
    The differences in costs, food, weather, culture and internet speed are huge! Check it out and let me know what you think about it. All the best, Carina

  72. Thanks, Achi, will keep it in mind when I revisit Thailand ;)

  73. it is so sad that you can’t make any friend in Thailand ….if you come to Bangkok i can be your friend and be your tour guide for free in Phuket and Bangkok ;)

  74. Many people do ;)

  75. Good breakdown and I agree with most. I prefer Indonesia, Philippines and Taiwan over Thailand these days.

  76. There are but way less than in Thailand.

  77. Old White men with Young Filipinas are everywhere in the Philippines, just look at ANY mall or Hotel.

  78. Czarina, I know you do. Saw the rice everywhere all my time in the Philippines :D

  79. valid points..and yes we eat rice for breakfast ;-) comeback to the Philippines soon.

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  82. Comment@ Rico:
    No one is judging here, Rico! This is a fact. Plus, I am not a Westener anyway. I just don’t think personally someone 50 years older than you, of the same age like your grandparents, can be really so attractive in your eyes. That’s all.

  83. Why do people always say it’s sad to see young girls with older Western guys? Jesus, they’re human beings, they have free will. The older Western guys are much more interesting for them then their countrymen. Plus a lot of times what tourists think are young girls are single moms who have screwed up already and are looking for a way out. The problem with you Westerners is that you always judge other people’s lives instead of just enjoying life, and letting others live. You should learn from Asians in that and stop judging when you don’t even have information most of the time !

  84. Comment@ GRRRLTRAVELER | Christine:
    Right, transportation in the Philippines was a PITA I have to admit. But on the other hand the beauty of its beaches, people and nature made up for it!

  85. Interesting. I love Thailand and havne’t been to the Philippines yet. I’ve been wondering if I”m missing out. The fact they’re much more expensive than Thailand but have less of an infrastructure or organization is a little off-putting. But I do hear it’s beautiful there.

  86. Comment@ Smither Reens:
    I really miss people laughing like they do in he Philippines and Mexico! Not sure if Mexico City is so organized though :D

  87. very interesting post and impressive observation about the differences! im from the philippines, based in australia and its true, we always find a reason to laugh–even laughing about a punchline or a joke delivered 1 week ago!, its a way of life i guess! i went to Mexico City and found it quite similar to Manila (except Mexico City is more organised and spacious) , the cultures are very similar too.

  88. Comment@ Marx:
    Haha I saw that when friends were eating rice so late!

  89. Filipino people loves rice! We even have it during midnight snack like Tapsilog. :D

  90. but if you compare it, it is still way more common in Thailand

  91. sex tourism is the famous similarity between these countries!!!

  92. Comment@ TinTin:
    Thanks TinTin :) I’m happy I made you laugh! And yes, I still remember my only meal options in the Philippines, all of them included rice and chicken :D

  93. Cheers for this post Alex! :) Haha about rice, yes WE LOVE RICE! lol There are rice meals at McDonalds and Jollibee in the Philippines as well. Rice + Chicken!! Oh and there’s a Spaghetti + chicken as well. Hahaha I really enjoyed reading your observations. x

  94. Comment@ Scott Mallon:
    Scott, thanks for your opinion. I have visited more places around both Thailand and Philippines so guessed on all the experiences.

  95. Although Thailand and the PI share some similarities, the people and the food are as different as Mangos and Watermelons. The food in the PI is generally very greasy and unappetizing IMO, with a couple of exceptions.

    I often have rice porridge here in Thailand (Jok) and love it. In fact, we have packets of the stuff here at home and there’s always rice in the rice cooker. and when I want oatmeal, I have a can at home. Oatmeal is in all the Thai grocery stores. Then again, I always have potato’s in my cupboard so I think it’s a matter of choosing to buy and eat what you want.

    The Thai sex industry is more in your face but it depends on what part of the PI you are in. The same goes for Thailand. You can hang out or live in an area that is predominately full of foreigners and prostitution or you can live in an area that the prostitution is more discreet. In either case, there are working women all over both countries.

  96. Comment@ Noelfy:
    Thanks for your opinion, Noelfy! Like I said, it does exist in the Philippines but if u go to Thailand, u will see what I meant that there it is everywhere so seeing it scarcely in the Philippines is really nothing then :) And the massages … in the Philippines u can find them only at the touristy places and big cities (like in any othe country in the world), but in Thailand they are every 5 metres, and at the street and at the beach as well :)

  97. Very nice article but I disagree in 2 points. Though I havent been yet in Thailand,I have been in Philippines 2 months and I am coming back in 2 weeks for at least another 2. (too many 2s, ne?;)
    Massage are everywhere in Phils and really cheap, you can expect to pay from 200PHP(some of the spa’s in Cebu city, like mushrooms) to 700PHP(In Boracay, especially overpriced for tourists)I also had it at least 1 hour a day;)
    Again, not being in Thailand, but in Philippies ladyboys are everywhere, and also very well done. And it’s very sad as well, due to the poberty, to see young girls together with bold old Western Guys….saw this unfortunately everywhere…
    Anyway this is only my opinion! Looking forward to go back to Phils and visit Thailand next year!

  98. Comment@ Micamyx|Senyorita:
    haha you probably will :D

  99. And when I get to Europe, I’ll keep on asking ‘Where is my rice?!?!’ =))

  100. Comment@ Stephen S.:
    Yeah, I was buying oats each time I saw it somewhere, not easy, and not cheap :D

  101. Great compare and contrast Alex. I am visiting Thailand next year and it was helpful to get some more information. I can’t wait! Rice for breakfast! I better get ready for oatmeal withdraws

  102. Comment@ The Guy:
    Yeah, Thai massage hurts me all the time!

  103. Thanks for this Alex, I’ve never been to the Philippines so it was good to get a view compared to Thailand which I’ve visited a couple of times.

    The Thais that I met tend to be smokers but maybe that was by chance. I think in general the level of smoking is higher in Asia than Europe.

    Thai massage is something to be approached with caution if you’ve never had one before. Foot massage is okay. I once asked for a gentle one hour massage of my head and shoulders, I swear every time she touched me it was agony!

    I love Catfish too, I often have it when in Shanghai.

    Thanks for writing such an interesting and independent article.

  104. Comment@ Bassanio broke:
    many thanks :)

  105. Like your reflections over the two countries.

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