I have so much to tell you all about our TaiThai adventure. It was all kinds of delicious and wonderful (and sweaty – damn, that place is hot). It’s a different world. And, the more I saw of it, the more those differences taught me to appreciate South Africa and what travelling here means. Not that I didn’t appreciate it before. I love this country. I love the mountains of the Drakensberg, the beaches of my hometown (Port Elizabeth), the sprawling vineyards in the Winelands. And I believe everyone should visit South Africa at least once. But, I feel like I have a new perspective and renewed love.
So, here are a few things that I think make South Africa so special for tourists:
Wow, this country is beautiful. As we explored the stunning islands of Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Phuket, I was kind of overwhelmed by the tropical prettiness. But, then, South Africa has that and more. KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga have a tropical vibe. Then, we also have gorgeous CLEAN beaches, breath-taking semi-desert, the dense forests of the Garden Route, rivers, lakes, lagoons, valleys…
I sometimes wonder if I don’t take this a little for granted. Wherever we go, there are people of different colours speaking different languages. Ethnic prints, African beats, and colourful arts and crafts are pretty much around every corner. As South Africans, we might be used to this; but it is such a fantastically vibrant place for visitors to see. And I realised that when I was shopping for the bohemian curios of Thailand. I was getting caught up in their culture, appreciating things I wouldn’t look at twice at home. A coconut lamp was irresistible. Colourful stones on bracelets? I must have them all! But, at home, there is just as much (and more, since we have so many different cultures here) variety.
Ok, I’m particularly averse to heat and humidity, I realise. But, yoh, that place is crazy. And I know that because everyone else is also sweating, not just me. It’s always just me. And maybe some of my menopausal friends, although I like to think that that’s their way of showing solidarity. But, South Africa has an amazing climate. It’s generally fairly hot in summer (but nothing like the equatorial places) and cool in winter in most places, particularly along the coast. Inland, we get a bit of snow in the winter, which is awesome. And, some places, like Durban, stay warm and humid for almost the entire year. People have options. There are no options in the East. You’re just very hot.
Dubbed the Land of Smiles, Thailand really is a happy place to visit, generally speaking. The people believe that being a good person is more important than wealth, education, etc… So, their focus is on being a good person so that karma will be kind. And it shows. They are really sweet, kind people. But, South Africa is also known for its warm, hospitable, friendly, helpful people. We smile a lot and we don’t think it’s weird to talk to strangers. It’s only when you’ve gone to a place where talking to strangers is unusual that you truly appreciate how cool it is to strike up a conversation with someone in a queue and not get that look.
Flip, I thought I loved Thai food before, but actually going there and eating from street vendors and markets has renewed my love for it. But, then, we came back to South Africa and were faced with fresh fruit and vegetables, incredible cuts of meat, and a real love for and insight into flavours. Nothing beats char-grilled lamb chops and some gingery sweet potatoes.
This is a tricky one. Thailand is really reasonable for most international travellers as far as the costs of accommodation, food and transport go. And South Africa can be a budget-friendly destination for those with dollars, pounds and euros too. There’s also variety here. So, someone may not be able to afford the swankiest hotels in SA, but they can choose from stunning glamping spots, backpackers and quaint B & B’s too. There are so many choices.
Wrapping It Up
We loved our Thailand experience, we really did. But, we were also happy to be reminded of how wonderful South Africa is as a home and as a holiday destination. I’ve still got loads to share about our Thailand and Taiwan experience but, if you’re thinking of going, I’d be happy to share some advice in the comments.