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
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.
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
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
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?