I’m a 46-year-old Danish man with spinal cord injury who lives in Thailand for about six months per year. I was in Thailand for the first time for one month in January 2009. I feel so comfortable in the tropic weather that I decided to stay as much as possible in Thailand. Because of my spinal cord damage, I have a lot of pain to deal with. I have neuropathic pain disturbance which causes pain in the face and arms, although these parts of the body aren’t paralyzed. Therefore, I take a lot of medicine if I am in Denmark in the cold winter months but while I am in Thailand, I only need about half the medication and one kind of medicine I stop completely upon arrival in Bangkok. For me, the weather has a very big impact on my well-being.
Thailand is so different from what I ever have seen on my many travels around Europe, North Africa, and the USA. I love the Thai culture and the people. And I miss Thailand every moment when I’m home in Denmark. The culture is something special; I think it’s because of Buddhism. Most people have an attitude of kindness and love I never have seen in Europe. Sometimes when I go around and meet Thai people, I still can be amazed by the smiling and positive attitude they have although many have a difficult and very poor life.
All the tourist cities have restaurants and food from all areas of the world. I am very pleased with Thailand’s cuisine, especially some of the fantastic fish and seafood dishes. But also traditional wok dishes with vegetables and chicken, pork or seafood and plenty of chilies. If people can eat on the street kitchens or in Thai restaurants you can eat really cheap. One dinner with a coke costs from to 2-3 U.S. dollars. Also, Thailand has a lot of Burger King, Mac Donald’s, Subway, Sizzler, and KFC restaurants.
Accessibility is not 100% okay in Thailand. But it’s possible to travel there if people are willing to accept small problems sometime. The sidewalk is nearly never accessible for wheelchair users, so we have to drive on the road. I have done that without any big problems for 3 years now ( I have driven about 9000 km on my hand bike and electric scooter). I’m always very careful, and never take risky chances when I cross a road. I have a lot of bicycle lights (battery) on my wheelchair when I go out in the evening. If someplace is not 100% accessible, you can always be sure that there are some friendly Thai people there who would like to give a helping hand. So don’t mind asking them, if you want to go on a boat or a train trip or something similar.
To get around I have a “Rio Dragonfly” and a “Rio Firefly” from California, to connect to my wheelchair. This product is very small and easy to travel with. And most airplane companies let you take handicapped equipment with you for free. It gives me a lot of freedom to have this product, and some days I drive 25-30 km around Hua Hin. It’s also possible to have it with me in a small taxi (Honda Jazz or similar). If people are on a shorter holiday, it’s not necessary with a scooter or hand bike. Because there are so many taxis in tourist areas and it’s also very cheap.
Good advice is to respect the culture of Thailand. Always talk nice even if you are frustrated by language problems, etc., and never show anger in public. In Thai, it’s called JAI YEN YEN, and means “cool down/slow down your heart.” In public people need to be decently dressed. Decent swimwear is accepted on the beach, but not around the city. Decent swimwear is for women is not topless, and for men not small speedo. Some tourists do exactly what they want and don’t care about the cultural difference. But I always respect how it is in Thailand, and because of that, I have more respect from the local people. Also, respect that the people of Thailand love their Kingdom very much, so don’t ever talk negatively about the King or his family in public or when Thai people are around. It can cause a lot of problems, and it’s even possible to end up in jail if people do something bad about the king. That’s including if someone burns or damages money because they always have pictures of the king. But for me, all this is just common sense and good parenting.
I have stayed in six months per year in Thailand for the last three years, and I have never had diarrhea or other problems because of bad food. I’m only drinking clean bottled water, and am careful not to get water in my mouth when I shower. I even clean my toothbrush in the bottled water. But if it should happen to anyone, it’s good advice to use Active Carbon. You can buy it in all pharmacies in Thailand. Take at least five pills the first time, and take more if it’s not stopped within 3 hours. There are many private hospitals in Thailand with good standards. In Hua Hin, there are 2 private hospitals and one public hospital. I have used the cheap public hospital about fifteen times in one month because I had an accident with a foot. So it needed to be cleaned and covered with a new bandage every second day of the month. They did a very professional job and for only about sixty-five dollars for fifteen treatments including medicine. Thailand has many good and cheap clinics for tooth rebuilding, optics, and plastic surgery. Many tourists use their holiday to get new teeth, glasses, or a new pair of breasts.
There are also sex tourists in Thailand, BUT Thailand is a lot more than dirty old men who want to find a beautiful young woman. In Hua Hin, it’s only three or four small streets where there a many beer/girl bars. If this is not your interest then it’s very easy to avoid. Just stay away from these streets. But it can be a good experience to go and see it for an evening. Most of the women who work in these streets are doing so because they dream about the “prince on a white horse” that will provide a happy life and will also take care of her family for the rest of her life (give her money). Most of these women are lazy and don’t want to do work on a rice farm in northeast Thailand. Some of the women are happy with the bar life and enjoy living the party style and can sleep till 3 in the afternoon. But there are also many who have a very sad life. If someone, man or woman, feels the desire to go with one of these ladies (women/gay/transvestite) then please use PROTECTION because in Thailand about 1% of the population has HIV/AIDS. It is not only a problem in bar areas but everywhere in Thailand because Thai people are mostly very shy and often afraid/shy to buy/use condoms.
Wheelchair Friendly Attractions in Bangkok
1. Grand Palace, King Palace, with a very nice big temple area
3. Chatuchak Market (CJ marked) is possibly the world’s largest weekend market. It has thousands (estimates run between 9,000 and 15,000) of booths featuring a wide array of items for sale. It is a must-see stop for anyone in Bangkok.
4. Chao Phraya River boats – Boat sightseeing around rivers in Bangkok. Only a few boats are okay for a wheelchair.
5. Ayutthaya – City about 60 km from Bangkok where the kings live from 1350 to 1767 where it was burned down by the Burma people. It’s an amazing place, with many cultural things to look at.
6. River Kwai (the bridge over River Kwai) Kanchanaburi city is the place for the museum for building the train tracks under 2 world wars. I have been on the train, it’s very difficult, but a good trip.
7. Khao Takiap… a mountain near Hua Hin, where there are a lot of monkeys. It’s possible to try to give them food, and here you will be surrounded by hundreds of monkeys.
8. Elephant show. in Hua hin, there is a daily elephant show. See how elephants are trained. and watch them play bowling, football, cycling, nature painting, and much more.
9. Sam Roi Yot is Thailand’s largest national park 70 km south of Hua Hin. Very nice area with nice beaches and plenty of shrimp farms.
10. There are a lot more attractions on my website.
Accommodations in Hua Hin, Thailand
Care Resorts – Everything inside and outside of the building is accessible for wheelchair users and elderly people. They offer Transport from/to Bangkok in a minivan with a wheelchair ramp and seatbelts. The ramp is about 90 cm wide, 240 cm long, and 300 kg.
Akamai Village – Everything inside and outside of the building is accessible for a wheelchair user and elder people. They offer Transport from/to Bangkok in a minivan with a wheelchair ramp and wheelchair seatbelts.
Prinz-Garden-Villa – The outside is very accessible because the owner is from Germany and has a daughter in a wheelchair. There are 2 small apartments on the ground floor with only a little step (about 7 cm). It has a king-size bed and a small sofa area, big bathroom, but no accessible equipment. So people need to bring their own equipment. It’s close to the city center and the biggest shopping mall.
Peony Hotel is in the center of Hua Hin. It’s a very nice and cozy little hotel near many restaurants and nightlife. Everything on the ground floor is accessible; they have concrete ramps. There are rooms on the ground floor (be aware that some of the rooms have toilets separate from the shower room).
Anantasila is a Hotel situated directly on the beach in Khao Takiap, 7km from Hua Hin center, in beautiful surroundings. This is Hua Hin’s best beach for wheelchair users. They have spacious rooms but it is not designed specifically for the disabled. So you must bring your own equipment, like an elevated toilet seat with supporting handles.
Baan Khao Lak Resort – I have not been here yet, so don’t know more than I can find on the internet. But I think I will visit this place next time I’m in Thailand.
Transportation from Bangkok to Hua Hin (about 200km) can be done with a normal taxi if the disabled person can transfer to the front seat in the car. You can find a lot of taxis outside the airport in Bangkok, but always confirm the price of the ride before getting into the car because many drivers will take advantage and overcharge at a really high rate. The normal price from Bangkok to Hua Hin is from 1500-4000 baht (50-170 US dollars) and will depend on the type of car. I have taken many taxi rides and never pay more than 60 dollars for a VIP car (Toyota Camry or the same standard) from Bangkok to Hua Hin. Again, always be 100% sure about the price before you get in a taxi in Thailand.
There are many mini-buses in Hua Hin, and some of them are willing to take seats out, so they can be used by a person in a wheelchair.
The train is NEVER accessible in Thailand, so it’s only for people with some kind of function in the legs. I tried a train 1 time, but it will never happen again.
If you want to know even more about traveling to Thailand in a wheelchair then visit my website.