Why do I love living in Thailand? That’s a pretty simple question I was recently asked. After being settled here for a decent amount of time, you would think that I could just easily pop out the answer. Instead it makes me ponder exactly why I am so pleased to be living in this country. There are a lot of reasons, and it is good to see the whole picture to understand what it is about this kingdom that makes it a good home for me.
For most of my adult life, I lived in one single part of the USA, the San Francisco Bay Area. I saw the area grow a lot, bringing good things and bad, but overall I liked living there. Just before leaving California, I was getting a bit stressed out with the economy, the taxes, the overreach of the government and the lack of privacy and independence.
Since moving to Thailand, I have become passionate about where I live. It seems like every day is kind of an adventure with a totally new discovery. Now as I am semi-retired or working at an extremely lazy pace (take your pick), I am thoroughly enjoying my living experiences as an expat in Thailand. But that is pretty vague, and with this report I will try to make it a bit more specific.
I love having the personal freedom in Thailand.
Back in the US, everyone lives by a rigid set of rules. Sometimes you can’t even see how much it is that way until you are able to step away from it for a while. There are millions of laws that impose fees, taxes and fines. There are also a lot of unwritten rules and customs that Americans just naturally obey, like how it is much more important to have expensive health insurance than simply having good health, or not having your front yard look much different than any other front yard in the community.
Now imagine being plopped into a place where you can do whatever you want. No one is watching me. No traffic cameras, no patrolling policeman, no stern looks from a rent-a-cop when I do anything out of the ordinary. In America, everyone is pretty much placed in a box that has limits.
In Thailand, there seems to be no rules. No one of authority is watching what we do and ready to issue us a ticket. Generally people make responsible decisions and are pleasant to one another here, but there are no particular standards that must be enforced on us.
For instance, my wife decided one crazy morning that she would like to have a little garden cottage built in our yard. In the US, she would have to ask permission from the county, they would review the plans and tell us what we needed to change, then they might give us approval for a hefty fee. Then, while the cottage was being built, an inspector would likely come by unannounced to make sure we were complying with the specific rules they gave us for the project. We would have to pay money here and there and everywhere in order to get the official permission to build our little cottage.
In Thailand, my wife simply called her local garden cottage builder, discussed what she wanted and had it built.
OK, maybe there are some good reasons to make life more difficult on something like this, but it is very fun to have the freedom to just do things we want to do without having to answer to authorities.
If you are driving down a lonely country road near midnight in the US and hit a red light, you stop and wait. There is not another car for miles, it is quiet, but you wait because that’s the rule. In Thailand with the same situation, you might stop for a moment, look around and if it is perfectly safe, just go. There is no cop waiting in the darkness parked under a tree to give out an expensive ticket.
In Thailand, I am also free to think however I want to think. Freedom of speech and freedom of thought that has been touted as a foundation of American life isn’t really there anymore. I feel more free since living in Thailand than I have ever felt before.
I love the tastes of Thailand.
Thais seem to have curious eating habits for American eyes. They don’t think about the standard three meals a day and solemnly get the job done of filling up the tank. Thais seem to eat — or more precisely nibble — at food all throughout the day. And their idea of eating is having social interactions with others. Food is shared with conversation at any time. How about a little nibble at a sort of rice soup to get you started in the morning as you talk about your plans for the day, then a bit to eat with coffee at 10, and when you start feeling a few hunger pains around noon or so you share a noodle soup with some coworker, followed by a little treat mid-afternoon with some buddies, followed by a dinner with a big group of friends sharing some dozen or so dishes with a wild mixture of flavors and conversation.
Then the food itself, almost always from very fresh local ingredients, creates a menagerie of flavor experiences. Super spicy mixed with sour mixed with natural sweetness. Unusual foods that offer a strange punch or a savory aftertaste is likely to be somewhere in the days feasting. I love Thai food, be it noodles or curry or fried fish or something I never saw before.
I love the exoticness of Thailand.
For sure, this is an exotic place. There are so many strange ceremonies connected to cultural celebrations of an event that happened two thousand years ago involving ghosts or dragons or white elephants. It is so more exotic than a holiday of some president’s birthday (or maybe two or three lumped together to make a three day weekend).
Thailand has one foot imbedded in deep history and cultural events that seem amazing. Then mix it all with the acapella Pali chants of monks in orange robes, and it is as if you are transformed into a strange mystical place beyond ordinary life. Temples and palaces and ancient fortress walls surrounded by tropical vines and palms, with perhaps a little pond with a miniature waterfall are all around me here. It is nothing like the orderly little white and tan homes with identical square green lawns which make up most communities everywhere in America.
In the morning, I am not wakened by an alarm clock; I am up only after the birds in the garden get too loud with their singing to allow me to sleep any longer. In the late evening, it is the grasshoppers and other odd little creatures making their sounds that put me to sleep. In fact, I have gotten into the habit of no longer ever wearing a watch. I don’t want to know what time it is. I will just go through my day with the natural sights and sounds.
I love the friendly, fun and beautiful people of Thailand.
Thais will not go out of their way to talk to anyone who passes by. They respect your privacy and are on the slightly shy side, but once that little ice is broken, you are welcomed into their life as if you were part of the family.
It is easy to feel very good being with Thai people because they show acceptance and warmth to you very quickly, no matter what their age (and yours). Very soon, you are laughing a lot together and they show real interest in what you are doing, despite having a bit of a language barrier.
Thais do not like to argue or complain or show bitterness. They are more likely to laugh about differences of opinions. As long as a farang shows the same traits, conversations will always be lighthearted, with lots of smiles. The order of the day is sanuk — fun. Everything that might be tedious in the West, like work or politics or the economy are treated in Thailand in a fun way. Life is fun, and never take anything too seriously.
Thai people are also the most beautiful people in the world. Oh, I don’t mean the starlets and celebrities that are beautiful everywhere, I mean that ordinary Thai people seem to be the most beautiful of ordinary people anywhere. Little kids are careful to dress in spiffy little school uniforms looking their best. The young women have hourglass figures and dress like they are always prepared for an on-the-street interview for national TV, clean and smart looking all of the time, with perfect hair, perfect lipstick, perfect in every way. And even the old folks look good, dressed sharply just to go shopping in the market. And they all have a smile ready to flash at anyone that is nice to them.
It is extremely rare in Thailand to see anyone in a dirty T-shirt, wrinkled sweats and a bit grubby. Thais seems to really care how they look all the time. It makes the day more pleasant for everyone else.
I love the religion of Thailand.
This country is almost entirely Buddhist, and it is so different from living in a country that is almost all some mixture of Christian and Jewish. Not to say anything bad about Western religions, but it must be conceded that the foundations for Western religions are built on rules and regulations and conformity to a particular way of thinking and living. No woman should look like a tramp because that implies she violates a few tenants of the written and unwritten rules.
In Buddhism, one makes peace within their self and must answer to themselves. Karma prevails. Sure, Buddhism has some rules also, but they don’t appear to be as restrictive in how a person can live their life. Buddhism welcomes everyone, prostitutes, transvestites, drug addicts, anyone that might be considered a deviant in the US. Everyone seems equally embraced by the religion. In America, a person may have to reform their lifestyle before they are welcomed in particular churches.
The religion of Thailand has taught the Thais to be as kind as possible to everyone, no matter their status in society. Thais are thoughtful and considerate to others. If you look hungry and tired, they will stop to buy you a bag of something to munch on (even if you just ate for the fifth time that day just a half hour ago).
You will notice that whenever a Thai sees a replica of Buddha or of the King of Thailand, they will take a moment to stop and honor them with a little wei blessing with their hands together. That is also how they also greet you when they first see you. That shows a respect for others that is on the same plane as their respect for their religious teacher and the father of their country.
It is a very special country that can treat almost everyone they meet at just about the same level they would treat the person that is the spiritual leader and the center of their entire culture.
I love the cheap living I can have in Thailand.
With the income I earn from social security and the little enterprises I dabble in, I would probably be forced in America to live in a dumpy trailer park in Southern Arkansas along with some pretty low life people. In Thailand, this is enough money to live in a large new home with a beautiful garden in a gated community. I am also able to buy the freshest food, visit local restaurants and take occasional trips around the country. We actually have a maid that cleans our house three very full days a week, and we are able to have a new car. It is a far cry from what I could afford in the US.
My wife and I were fortunate to be able to pay for our house in full when we had it built, and pay in full for our cars — always buying brand new. That took some initial money, but it was a fraction of what it would cost back home. And in Thailand, there are no property taxes on our house. Each month, my wife (who is quite good with money) strictly budgets $500 a month for all of our monthly expenses for both of us (food, clothing, entertainment, everything). Usually, we have money left over at the end of the month. I dare say it would be hard for us to live on that kind of budget per week in the US.
I love the places we can visit around Thailand.
Our Thai home town, Chiang Mai, has no beaches or ocean, but it doesn’t take much to escape to a place that does have them. We really love visiting the beautiful beach towns like Krabi or Rayong or Hua Hin and jumping into the water for a swim and getting up close to the tropical fish and underwater gardens in the clear sea.
We also like visiting villages on the top of forested mountains to savor the views and cool weather.
Sometimes we like to jump over to Luang Prabang in Laos and experience a whole new country. Or go down to Ankor Wat in Cambodia. Or perhaps Macau and Hong Kong.
We have so many choices. Right now we are saving up for a trip to Bali.
With each trip, we come home with a lot of good memories.
I really love my life in Thailand.