It might seem like a strange piece of advice, but if you’re visiting Thailand a set of foam earplugs can be one of the best things you have in your bag. Thailand is a wonderful country for all number of reasons, but as I’ve said before it’s also a country of contradictions and what you might experience in the daytime can be the exact opposite at night-time.
If you’re staying close to bars or entertainment venues you won’t be too surprised if it’s noisy at night. But it isn’t just the sound of loud music or wailing karaoke that can keep you up at night. Locations that can be a tranquil oasis during the day can be transformed at night. The quiet guest-house opposite the temple in Chiang Mai might be a place where earlier in the evening you heard the soothing chanting of monks. Then, at 4 o’clock in the morning, a dog starts barking. As soon as one starts others will join in and it won’t just be for a few minutes. The dog chorus can go on for ages as other strays in the neighbourhood slowly converge to find out what’s going on.
The idyllic beach hut on Ko Samui, Phuket or any other Thai island can also spring a few surprises. Earlier in the day you were swinging lazily on a hammock, reading your book and gently been lulled to sleep by the sound of the lapping waves and breeze rustling through the palm trees. At night, you find that your beach hut is now in the middle of what has become ‘party central’. Even once the sound system is turned off at 2 a.m. and you think you’ve heard the last of ‘No Woman No Cry’ for the night, somebody gets out a guitar and starts welcoming you to the ‘Hotel California’. You might be the life and soul of any party, but there’s going to be some occasions when ‘Hotel California’ isn’t ‘such a lovely place’ (usually when you’ve got to be on a ferry or bus at 7 a.m.)
And it isn’t just the backpackers and budget travellers who are most prone to noisy nights and sleep deprivation. Anybody who has travelled in Thailand for any length of time will probably tell you that at various times they’ve been kept awake by noisy air-conditioning units, barking dogs, wailing cats, back-firing tuk-tuks, revved-up motorbikes or the sound of drunken arguments and loud telephone conversations. I’m not complaining because I soon learned it goes with the territory and you gradually become used to the noise. I also learned that a set of foam earplugs ensures I get a good night’s sleep especially when I’ve got an early start the following day. If you forget to pack them, many chemists in Thailand will sell them. I get mine from Boots (cost approximately 100 Baht for 3 pairs).