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Fat, Tall, Tanned and…Beautiful? My Surprising Experience as a Curvy Girl in Thailand

Curvy Girl in Thailand

I was afraid to go to Thailand.

Maybe afraid isn’t the right word, more like intimidated.

When I think ‘Thailand’ I think beaches, snorkelling, and scuba diving. Which, let’s be honest, basically equates to boys with toned abs in board shorts and girls in teeny string bikinis.

In case you haven’t guessed yet, I have never, and probably never will, wear a string bikini. I may love being in and by the water, but there’s nothing I hate more than wearing a swim suit. And don’t even get me started about shopping for one. It’s my literal hell.

Picture of me in a bathing suit? This is as good as it gets.

Picture of me in a bathing suit? This is (usually) as good as it gets.

So when I finally decided to go to SE Asia I came to terms with the fact that I would be the fat girl and, after reading some curvy-sized girl’s posts about their experiences, I knew I would probably hear about it too.

Of course I took this into consideration as I packed for my four months abroad. My mom questioned why I needed so many tops, telling me to ‘just buy some when you are there, it will be nice to shop and get some new things by then.’ I looked at her and rolled my eyes, asking how she thought clothing made in Thailand would ever fit over my boobs.

Her response? “oh”.

Yeah, oh.

So I packed my extra shirts and mentally prepared myself for an onslaught of negative comments. I got one my very first day in Bangkok.

“Noooooo! You too big for those!” the Thai man at one of the stalls in Bangkok’s Chattachuck market said to me as I held up a pair of elephant pants. “You need these- much bigger.” he waved me over to a separate section full of elephant pants that, indeed, were much bigger. Except I wasn’t looking for me. I was looking for my best friend who is 6 feet tall and rail thin and definitely would fit in the pants I was holding up. I tried to explain but he just shook his head and eyed me warily. I sighed, frustrated, and put the pants back then thanked him (seriously? Did I actually thank him for offending me?!) and left. How deluded did he think I was? I dressed myself every day didn’t I? I’m pretty sure I have a fairly good idea of what I do and don’t fit into. I tried to shove my embarrassment aside, telling myself to get over it because although it was the first, it wasn’t going to be the last comment of this sort.

Chattachuk market...the skinny shopaholics dream. The curvy girl's nightmare.

Chattachuk market…the skinny shopaholic’s dream. The curvy girl’s nightmare.

Back at my hostel I met my new dorm mate; a tiny, wisp of a girl from South Korea. We got talking as we got ready for bed. Being just girls in the room, I peeled my shirt off in front of her to change into my pjs.

“WOWWWWW! Your skin! It’s so WHITE!” I looked down at myself and my ridiculous tan lines. After summer in Canada, and a couple months in the Balkans I had a pretty good tan going on, but since I don’t wear bikinis my torso was it’s normal, super-white-Canadian-girl tone.
“Why do you let it get so dark?” she questioned. I tried to explain to her that I felt prettier and healthier with a tan. During the winter, when my tan faded, I always felt I looked too pale and sickly. She listened to me but it didn’t click. She clearly though I was crazy and ended the conversation asking if she could have my white skin if I didn’t want it. Awkward.

And so I ended my first day in Thailand as the fat girl with ugly skin.

The next few days I avoided malls, stalls, and anything to do with clothing. I felt like a giant riding the skytrain or walking the streets, but I could deal with that. But as the start date for the conference I was in Bangkok for came closer, I realized that my clothes didn’t quite cut it. Reluctantly I went to the mall in an attempt for find something pretty that fit.

I went to Terminal 21 since it was closest, and when I walked through the main doors I discovered that the entire mall was having a massive shoe blow-out. From flip-flops to stilettos, there were shoes everywhere. I brightened up a bit since a few weeks ago I had destroyed my one pair of pretty sandals. Shoes were shoes, right?

Wrong. I asked to try three separate pairs and when I told them I was a size 9 they all shook their head, answering they had nothing that big. Great, now I could add bigfoot to the list.

C'mon, they aren't THAT big!

C’mon, they aren’t THAT big!

I wandered the mall aimlessly, window shopping more than anything else when I saw an average sized looking mannequin in the window. Figuring I had nothing to lose I went inside and started browsing the racks until I came to a shirt I liked that looked like it might fit.

“Would you like to try that on?” The Thai sales girl asked me. I nodded, relaxing when she smiled and took me to the fitting room rather than telling me I was ‘too big’. Amazingly the top fit, but there was no mirror in the change room so I wasn’t sure it looked good. So, moment of truth, I left my cubicle to find the mirror.

“That’s beautiful on you. The colour looks great with your skin tone” the sales girl told me as I stood in front of the mirror. And she was right- the pink and gold top did look good with my tan. But as surprised as I was that I actually found a shirt in Thailand that fit, I was more shocked with the compliment. I had been so set on constantly feeling like a big, fat, giant that I never for a minute thought someone would tell me I looked pretty.

From that moment on I relaxed. Yes, I was bigger than Thai people, no most of the clothing in the market stalls would never cover my boobs or ass, but that was ok. I loosened up and put a smile on my face as I explored. Maybe it was the smile, maybe it was just pure luck, but after my first couple days in Bangkok I never heard anything more about my size. Instead, I recieved a whole lot of compliments.

From Bangkok to beaches I seemed to attract some sort of attention nearly everywhere I went. At first it was my hair; sun streaked from so much time outside. Then my skin; not the colour of it but how clear it was, and my blue eyes. I received the most compliments for my smile; I actually got a little embarrassed on a day trip in Krabi when one of the guides told everyone I had the prettiest smile she had ever seen. Sure, they were just little things, but they were still compliments. Something I never expected to hear on this side of the world.

yeah, I smile a lot

yeah, I smile a lot

Things got even stranger when I went to Koh Tao and, after a few days of diving in Chalok Bay, I headed to Sairee Beach to meet with some friends. One of them gushed to me that she had a crush on one of the fire dancers at the beach bar, but she couldn’t get him to talk to her at all. Imagine my surprise when Mr. Six-Pack himself struck up a conversation with me as I passed by that night; ignoring my skinny, bikini-wearing friends. For the rest of the night he only paid attention to me, calling me his ‘hunny’ and bringing me up front to take part in the show. I don’t know how it happened, but somehow on a beach full of girls in tiny short-shorts and bikini tops, the curvy girl was the one that got the attention.

And then it hit me. Why did I find it strange that I was getting attention? Sure I don’t have a “bikini body” but that doesn’t mean that I’m a troll either. Like some locals had said, I have pretty coloured hair, nice blue eyes, and clear skin (how that happened when I sweat so much I will never know). And yes, I have a great smile. I was never this self-conscious at home, or in Europe. I look how I look and I do my best to rock it. So why the hell did I let Thailand get under my skin and let it make me feel so self-conscious?

It was a bit of a defining moment, and brought me back to, well, me. From then on I walked around with my head held high and a smile on my face. I danced under the stars at night, and lounged on the beach with all my string bikini-wearing friends during the day. Guys flirted with me, I still received some compliments, and I even managed to find a couple more tops that fit over my boobs. Was I Thai sized? No. Was my ass ever going to fit into the majority of elephant pants sold at the market stalls? Definitely not. But it didn’t matter because size doesn’t determine beauty. Who would have thought that Thailand would be the place to remind me of that?

Pin me for later!

Pin me for later!

83 thoughts on “Fat, Tall, Tanned and…Beautiful? My Surprising Experience as a Curvy Girl in Thailand

  1. Jenny

    Hi, good on you! I actually found that the tailors in Bangkok were great. As a curvy girl I got some dresses made for a snip that fit me like a glove, better than things in the UK!

  2. Annika

    From one curvy girl to another – I absolutely loved this post! And you are a lot braver than me because I actually never attempted to try to buy any clothes in Thailand. Thanks so much sharing this 🙂

  3. Alice Teacake

    Loving this post! Ties in perfectly with a message I was trying to send out today on my Facebook to all the girls out there who are ‘dieting’, because it’s January and they want to be something else. Show the world what you got and screw those stringy bikinis!

  4. Jessica Elliott

    I met a new friend in Laos when I was walking around in shorts and she blurted out, “your skin’s SOOooooOOOo white!” then started laughing. And then we had a kebab. SE Asia 🙂

  5. Japnit

    Loved ur post girl. Just dropped by after seeing it on girls who travel. And this is such an honest post. This was how i felt when i first when to Bangkok back in 2008 and all the sellers on the streets would keep saying “no have no have” but then you get past that and have a great time. And personally i shopped crazy accessories and what not. Cause i realised the clothes they sell are shit quality. I rather not feel bad about not getting my size cause I would wanna throw those clothes once I’m home. But I genuinely love thailand. Like obviously not Bangkok but the beachy places like krabi, samui and phangan.
    Cheers to being girls with curves. We know we make them look good 🙂

  6. Jessica

    Nice post. It reminded me of my trip to Thailand when my Mom and I went into a shoe store and the sales people wouldn’t even look in our direction because they were horrified by our giant feet haha! I’m not curvy, but I had a very similar experience in the stores because I am tall and Asian. People kept coming up to me asking me how an Asian person could be so large…It’s important to have a sense of humour when travelling.

  7. Gloria Atanmo

    Oh Hannah, leave it to you to turn this into such a beautiful piece. My head boils thinking of how [inadvertently] rude people can be. You’re a gem and your beauty transcends both inwardly and out XOXO

  8. Amelia Easten

    Asia always seems to be a challenge, they just don’t have a filter! I was on birth control when I lived in Taiwan and it gave me awful acne. It was commented on CONSTANTLY in ways that I found rude and hurtful, but which I realised later were actually from a place of caring. “Your face is covered in pimples, are you on your period or just tired?” And a sales girl’s selling point to me on a playsuit in Vietnam was “you’re not fat, so it fits and you should but it” errrr, great!

    So wonderful your experience in Thailand turned out to be a positive one! They were right, you do have the prettiest smile 🙂 beautiful spirits always shine through.

    1. James

      Thai people (and in a more general sense Asian people) certainly have a filter, it’s just tuned very differently than we are used to in western countries.

      You really have to pack your cultural baggage away and just roll with it. I’m a bloke and I’m not small, I can also speak Thai. I’ll often hear Thai people say something like “Oh he’s a big one” and you might feel insulted but you can hear them carry on “what beautiful hair and so white”. I often reply with a thank you, the responses can be funny as they don’t expect you to know the language.

      They don’t see it as an insult, it’s simply a talking point, like who you are, where you’re from, how much do you earn, where did you come from, where are you going, and wow you’re big.

      If they don’t see it as an insult I choose not to take it as one, as these people are otherwise super friendly, it’s just a bit of a culture clash.

  9. Sarah

    Great post, hun!
    I had the “we have bigger elephant-pants over there” conversation a couple of times too and always spent the rest of the day being annoyed of the salesperson / myself, so frustrating! I should really try to be as brave as you 🙂

  10. Tara- Hippie Hits The Road

    Hannah, this was a really lovely post!! Thanks for being brave enough to share your experiences. It’s amazing how the positivity of a random stranger can change the whole course of your trip. Putting that smile back on your face changes your energy and people feel it. You go girl!!!! Keep on rockin!

  11. Katherine Belarmino | Travel the World

    In a country like Thailand, you are exotic. Nine times out of ten exotic means beautiful, and a beautiful smile and a cheery disposition are the most attractive qualities anywhere in the world. I am so glad you found this surge of confidence to realize you are beautiful and positive attention-worthy! 🙂 I also try to remember that when someone comes off as rude to me in another country, they don’t necessarily mean it that way and it is many times caused by cultural differences and a language barrier. Love your attitude!

  12. Katie

    Love, love, love this! I have a post sitting in my drafts about being ‘the fat girl in t I haven’t had the courage to post it yet. I love your honesty and how a situation that you were worried about turned out to be a positive one. I,too, feel insecure on the beach and have found SEAsia to be quite welcoming of my body and looks. Korea, on the other hand, not so much!

  13. Lena

    Beautiful post. This made me think about my own experience in China as well. They’re just too honest in Asia and it’s not easy then but so happy the story ended in a good way. The blue eyes and white skin are goals in Asia and we got it without even having to try. Let’s love the small compliments and ourselves more 🙂

  14. Alyssa

    I am in Thailand right now and feeling the same way! I wasn’t planning on spending anytime on the beach because of it….but you may have given me the courage I needed! 🙂

  15. Lisa

    Good for you. I too, am a curvy girl and I live here in Thailand. After 6 months my underwear have begun to wear out. Try finding THOSE here. NOPE. So I’ve resorted to making my own (I’m crafty). I’ve now been inspired to try and start a business making adventure underwear for the curvy girl set 🙂 Sometimes a struggle can become a win!

  16. Roxanne Bamboat

    That was a really good post. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one that feels intimidated shopping for clothes in Thailand. I guess you ( and by that I mostly mean ME ) just have to accept that some and most people don’t know any better and don’t realise they can be offensive when they talk about your body type. Also after a point I just don’t give a S*&t 😀

  17. Taylor

    Love this! I’m living in Thailand right now and I wrote a similar post too! I love how Thailand has made me feel, way less self conscious, I’m not afraid to stand out (not like I have a choice here!), and I too know I’m bigger than all the Thai girls, but for some reason it bothers me way less here than if I were at home.

  18. Elena

    I’m glad that it worked out for you in the end! I suspect that not worrying about it so much helped a lot.. 😀
    I’ve been to many of the places you mentioned in this article and I had sort of a similar problem – many of the Thais thought I was a boy because I have short hair and wore a hat all the time. I had many people ask me which one I was. That was certainly…interesting to deal with, but sometimes it worked to my advantage. You learn a lot of strange things when traveling!
    Great post!

    1. Hannah Logan Post author

      Yes, I can see how that could be ‘interesting;. I was travelling with a guy from Korea in Myanmar and someone asked if he was a ladyboy- personally I have NO idea how they ever thought that but I guess you never know!

      1. Elena

        Lol, indeed. Hey, I wanted to add that I linked to this post in my own post about Thailand! I thought you did a great job covering the subject. Hope you like it!

  19. Terra

    Great story of finding yourself again. Also an encouraging story for so many other wonen and girls out there having those same fears. Thanks so much for sharing, and keep on smiling!

  20. Anna

    I love this post Hannah! I’m so glad that once you stopped feeling so self conscious, you had fun and got a lot of compliments and flirtations. This just shows that confidence and a smile is all we need to be pretty :).

  21. Erin Klema | The Epicurean Traveler

    When you posted in the Part-Time Traveler Talk Facebook group that we should read whichever post caught our eye, I wasn’t expecting to read a post that would resonate so profoundly with me.

    Just last night, I was eating Thai food with the guy I’m dating, and I asked him, “Would you want to travel to Thailand?” He answered, “Yeah, of course.” Then he gave me this look like, “Don’t you, world-traveling foodie blogger, want to go to Thailand?”

    Of course, I said, “I’d love to go there someday.” The world traveler me, she wants to see Thailand. The foodie me, she want to eat her way through Thailand. But the curvy, fat girl me? She’s hesitant to go to Thailand.

    Every time I read a Thailand or SE Asia packing list post from a thin to even average-sized female blogger who recommends packing just a backpack with “the essentials” — three bikinis, a pair of shorts, flip flops and a tank top — and you can buy the rest when you arrive, I roll my eyes. Three swimsuits of mine are going to take up much more room in my backpack than three of their teeny tiny bikinis, and where will I find clothes made primarily for Thai people to fit me? Those were my thoughts. Always.

    So, thank you for setting me straight and reminding me this is never a reason to hold myself back from traveling. In the words of my globetrotting friend Jenn, this post was “so much yes.”

    1. Hannah Logan Post author

      I think it’s a worry all of us non-toothpick girls have. There will be crap moments (I’m looking at YOU Mr. Elephant pants man!) but the good ones will outnumber them 100x. Do it, rock it, and you will love it! xo

  22. Martha

    Well the post title certainly caught my attention! It’s funny how human nature seems to mean that we always want to be what we aren’t. I loved your story about the Korean girl. How come we want to be dark while dark girls want to be white? Is all of this some kind of marketing ploy? I loved your article and the older I get to more I think I learn to let go and just enjoy life instead of just allowing myself to feel dissatisfied at my own body (which is also someone everybody does, no matter what size they are).

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  24. Kandace Saunders

    Thank you. I am coming to Thailand next month and I have a size 10 or 12 in Canada and I know I’m not fat but I’m definitely not skinny or athletic built like everybody that I seem to see in Thailand pictures. It’s made me so self-conscious seeing travel photos and only seeing skinny girls I don’t even want to think about how I will look compared to the others

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  26. Karla

    That is just amazing how some street vendors in SE Asia really have no shame in calling you names and Elephant pants?

    Who thought of that horrible name?

    I’m really happy and proud that you are very confident and don’t let it stop you from seeing the world and the world seeing your inner beauty not outside appearance.

    That dude, Mr Six pack realized that you’ve more substance, brains and essence than the skinny or pack of bones that parade in their string bikinis. I guess a good, honest conversation with them is like a minute long!

    You go girl, take the bull by the horn and don’t let anyone intimidate or make you feel like an outcast.

    BTW, I learned something from my curvy American colleague who worked with me in Seoul, be like a duck and let water slide off your back! Don’t let anything affect you and if people think you shine, well tell them to put on sunglasses lol!

    All the best and happy travels 🙂

  27. Abi

    Thank you so much for this!! I wish I had read it before I went to Thailand – as a curvy girl who’s a bit bigger than most of the Thailand/South-East Asia travellers, i was very anxious about going and this anxiety didn’t end when I was there – I deffo didn’t do and experience everything I wanted to because I felt like I didn’t fit into the stereotypical image of the ‘solo female traveller’ and actually ended up coming home early 🙁

    I hope to go again travelling solo and do it right this time and people like you really inspire me that I can do everything skinny girls can do!!

    Please don’t stop writing articles like this because it is inspiring me and probably so many other curvy girls around the world too!

    Thank you so much again!

    Abi

    1. Hannah Logan Post author

      Aw Abi that breaks my heart that you didn’t get to do what you wanted and had to leave early 🙁 please don’t give up on solo travel! One of the places I felt most comfortable as a curvy girl was in Croatia- even on the beaches. Even the chubby grandmothers wore bikinis and no one gave a second thought. Maybe consider a destination like that for a little boost of self confidence! xo

  28. Don Juan

    You received compliments because you ARE beautiful! Man I love curvy girls and so do a LOT of men. Not that you need me to tell you that.

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