Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world – especially among young backpackers. In today’s day and age, traveling has become incomparably easier than it was 30 years ago. Apps, budget flights and tour packages all assist tourists so they do not have to worry about much.

But 30 years ago, only the most adventurous individuals set out to visit Thailand. The country then was not so easy to navigate and traveling in general was not something that everyone could do or afford. But on the other hand, those vagabonds saw a country before it became saturated with tourism and full of curated experiences that lack authenticity. Check the photos below to see what traveling in Thailand was like in 1990.

20 The Beaches Used To Belong To The Locals

Tourists flock to Thailand’s world-famous beaches all year round. It is hard to imagine that 30 years ago, these beaches barely saw any tourists. They belonged to the locals instead. Children played in the shallow waters and men went fishing. Unfortunately, the beach belongs only to tourists these days.

19 Just Like Most Cities 30 Years Ago, Bangkok Also Seemed More Chill

Thailand’s capital was and still is the first contact with the country for most of the tourists. Bangkok’s population in 1990 was almost 6 million people. The photo shows that the traffic was not as dense and that crowds dispersed more evenly in this huge city.

18 Bangkok Today Is Bursting With Energy

How big is Bangkok today? There are over 10 million people living in Bangkok and an additional 23 million tourists visit every year. It is the most visited city in the world. The streets are packed day and night. The number of people moving to Bangkok is still steadily rising.

17 The Once Pristine Beaches Are Now Overpopulated

Palm trees used to form vast forests and the few travelers to Thailand did not have a wide selection of accommodation options available. The most popular destinations changed profusely. The forests were cut down to make room for the developing infrastructure and more boats started showing up on the beach.

16 Beach Activities Of The Past Are In Decline

This photo from the 1990s portrays a group of people, putting away a fishing boat before the storm hits the shore. Nowadays, many tourists actually come for a fishing vacation, as Thailand is one of the best spots for fishing for both rookies and experts.

15 Hua Hin's Transformation From A Small Town To A Resort City

Hua Hin is a city that gained its popularity due to its proximity to Bangkok. Residents of the big city have been vacationing in Hua Hin for decades. It has both amazing beaches and an exciting metropolitan vibe. Even the royal family decided to stay and reside here!

14 Once A Luxury, Flying Is A Normal Means Of Transportation For Tourists

Thailand has numerous active airlines that offer domestic and international flights at amazing prices. Back in the 90s however, when the beaches were less crowded and Thailand was a destination accessible to only the select few, private jets dropped people off right at the beach. Hard to say what’s better!

13 Thailand Used To Have Tin Mines

When we think of Phuket, we envision the ultimate beach getaway. But before Phuket became what it is today, the town relied on production of tin which attracted mostly Chinese workforce. It was the sole economic reason for the town’s existence. The last mine in Phuket closed in 1992.

12 Today, The Historic Mining Towns Attract Tourists

Near the Myanmar border, the small town called Pilok welcomes tourists, interested in the town’s unique mining history. In Pilok’s heyday, the whole town relied on the tin business. In 1985, however, the tin industry fell into a crisis. But no harm done; the tourists keep the town alive nowadays.

11 The 1992 Protests Shook Bangkok To The Core

In 1992, approximately 200,000 people gathered to protest against General Suchinda Kraprayoon who illegitimately seized power. The outcome was tragic and thus the days between May 17th and 20th are now called Black May or Bloody May. Many people died or disappeared and thousands were arrested.

10 History Repeats Itself: The 2019 Protests

In December 2019, Bangkok protested in huge numbers. The reason why people came out on the streets is (again) political. The opposition encouraged masses to show their dissatisfaction with the government. Hopefully, there won’t be another military intervention stymieing the over-all development of the whole country.

9 Windsurfing Has Always Been A Big Reason For Visiting Thailand

For those hungry for some adrenaline rush, windsurfing might be something worth trying while in Thailand. Even 30 years ago, Thailand proved itself to be a decent destination for lovers of water sports. Be mindful of the changing weather in order to catch the best waves for windsurfing.

8 The Grand Palace Was Tranquil And Slow ...

Just looking at the above photo of the Grand Palace should make you extremely jealous. A tourist in 1990 could take their sweet time and enjoy some peace and quiet while observing the architectural details of the palace. And how exactly did the tourist experience of this magical place change?

7 ... But Now, It is Swarmed With Tourists

Don’t get us wrong. The Grand Palace is still and always will be one of the highlights while in Thailand and no amount of tourists will change that. But you can sadly forget about the stillness that gave this amazing place its special charm. You can take great pics though!

6 Imagine Eating On This Floating Restaurant 30 Years Ago

In 1990, backpacking was way more adventurous when it came to authentic local cuisine. Travelers could not afford to be too picky about what to eat and where. This floating restaurant in Krabi is said to still be serving food today, but it definitely isn’t the only restaurant around anymore.

5 Today, You Can Choose From Sooo Many Restaurants

You won’t go starving in Thailand. The most popular beach destinations, such as Krabi or Phuket, offer more options than you can count. Do not miss out on Pad Thai, Tom Yum and green curry while you’re there. You can eat on the street or in fancy restaurants.

4 Markets Were Always A Busy Place

The hustle and bustle of markets in Asia can be overwhelming, but true backpackers know they are worth diving in. 30 years ago, markets didn’t host as many tourists as today. It is still possible to get the authentic experience these days, just don’t go to the most touristy ones.

3 Wat Arun Is A Place Of Contemplation And Sightseeing

Bangkok is perpetually loud and crowded – where can you hear your thoughts in a city that exciting? The Buddhist temple Wat Arun that has stood by the river since at least the 17th century and the entrance is free for Thai people. It is especially worth visiting at sunset.

2 Boats In Thailand Carry Different Kinds Of Passengers

The photos above both show passengers on a boat, probably on the Chao Phraya River that floats through Bangkok. Many of the city’s sightseeing gems can be seen from the river, so consider doing a cruise on this magnificent waterway. As you can see, even the locals do it.

1 Thailand Hasn't Changed Much, It Is Just Much More Touristy

The left photo shows Bangkok as it was in 1990. Already then it boasted modern skyscrapers and welcomed tourists on its beaches. However, the 1990 Thailand did not rely on its tourism as much as it does today. The tourism sector amounts to a staggering 20% of the country’s GDP.