Similarities and differences between Thailand and Philippines
In late 2011 I 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 3-week tourist visa at that time.
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 destinations are usually wrong – or better, or worse than the reality itself.
I found both 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 stunning beaches, such as the less visited Puka beach 🙂
Islands – Both countries consist of many islands (Philippines of thousands more than Thailand). There is a bunch of islands that very few people know about, the smaller the islands, the better to visit (at least I do prefer quiet empty beach.)
Small grocery stalls and street vendors – Very common in both countries which makes it very easy to munch at the street.
Rice – Trust me, after visiting these 2 countries I just could not eat rice again any more when I came back home to Slovakia! They even eat loads of rice for breakfast! What? Where is my fresh fruit?! But to be honest, I did enjoy visiting Batad rice terraces in the Philippines, such an incredible place! However, since my first SE Asia trip I don’t like eating rice any more.
Fruit – Easy to get tropical fruit and fresh coconuts almost anywhere. That’s all I need to be happy!
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 Thai 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 ones. I understand, different culture and priorities.
Alcohol – it seems that in these 2 countries people are just not big alcohol fans. Personally, I almost saw very few Filipinos (apart from that crazy night when we ended up at the swimming pool at 3.30 am) and also just a couple of Thai persons drinking alcohol, not even when we went out at night. There are definitely less people drinking alcohol in these 2 countries than somewhere in Europe, for example (at least when I compare it to Eastern Slovakia where I was born.)
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 transportation. You have to pay airport and terminal fees separately in the Philippines every time you travel and they were not included in the ticket price when I was there in 2011. Annoying!
Transport – I think using the public transportation 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 only 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 existed there.
Spicy food– Most of Thai food is spicy, but not the Filipino cuisine. 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 as that was before I became vegan (they call it hito) for the first time there and it was really delicious! (Now I am vegan so I wouldn’t eat any fish any more).
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 notice 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 Bangkok, 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 some 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 real Thai friend after visiting Thailand more than 5 times. Could be also because of the language barrier, I guess.
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 other countries where you see so many smokers).
Massage – Thailand is one of the best countries in the world to get pampered with a massage. You can choose from many different massages and they can be very cheap. I had one almost every day. Unfortunately, in the Philippines it is not so common.
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 a 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 tourists visiting Thailand; you will see that happening everywhere around you. This is way less common in the Philippines and during 3 weeks there I did not see much of it, even though I heard young Filipinas + old foreigners issue does exist there, too. And I only saw one ladyboy in the Philippines and it was during a show anyway (personally I don’t mind this).
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?