Why I love living in Thailand

bangkokWhy 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.

thai girl smilingThais 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.

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11 thoughts on “Why I love living in Thailand

  1. Greg,
    couldn’t agree more, you forgot to mention the “sao chia bia”, the girls that will mix your whisky and soda in a black Jack Daniels minidress.

  2. AGREE 100%

    PEOPLE ARE KIND CONSIDERATE POLITE AND FRIENDLY.

    As for the women, I think your other article said it all.

  3. Nice article Greg. I’m also from the Bay Area, specifically Montara and Pacifica, what part are you from? I have not been to Thailand yet Greg but I am really curious to see this place because I would like to witness for myself this friendly atmosphere. At one time I would have doubted what you say and not believed you but I’ve seen enough YouTube videos now to convince me that the people there really are like what you describe. I’m really happy for both you and your wife that you’ve found your piece of paradise and are enjoying your lives, because you’re right about what you said earlier to me, life is short. Thanks for sharing your experiences to give encouragement to other people like myself.

  4. The wife (she is Thai) and I recently went to Bali and thought it was a dump. Its expensive, the Infrastructure is bad and the traffic is terrible. Saw many groups of Thai people though.

  5. I have just learned of this blog and I find it very interesting with good quality articles that seem to be upbeat about Thailand. Chiang Mai is a great place I have only recently discovered. To better know a place one needs to know the people and speak the language, an endeavor which one might expect to take years in most cases. If one must learn the language, what better place in which to learn than Chiang Mai? My hope is that I can learn enough written and spoken Thai in 3 months to motivate me to continue for 7 more years, a point in time when many linguists say the language learner finally begins to become fairly fluent.

    Too bad one can’t buy one’s way to fluency? Not really, there is a lot of pleasure to be had gradually learning a new language once one begins to feel at home having come down from his or her U.S.Tower of Babel.

    It is very helpful to read your thoughts about loving life in Thailand!

    • Thanks for the good words about my site. Learning Thai is the biggest challenge for every Western expat here. It is not like learning any European language, which is easy in comparison. Most expats just have a good vocabulary, but could hardly be called fluent. Every single day we learn some new words or how to better say the ones we thought we knew so well. It is a continuous struggle, but maybe that’s what we all need.

  6. I just recently found your site. Nice job.
    I live in Chiang Mai as well. Right now it’s only for 7 months per year but that will change soon. I too love the Thai people, the culture, the food. It reminds me of the way things felt in my neighborhoods when I was growing up in Buffalo NY. Small mom and pop stores everywhere and a feeling a friendliness instead of the distrust so often prevalent in the states.
    I do a ton of motorcycling up north here where the roads offer world class touring and totally enjoy the rural countryside I pass through. It’s gorgeous and all very friendly to bikers.
    Be well,
    Dave

  7. they didn’t have rules in Bangladesh and a building collapsed killing over 1.000 people. how’s your air and water quality? maybe your lucky and they are good. Somalia has few rules. how would it be to live there. i know Alaska has a lot fewer rules than california, and napa where i live probably has fewer rules than new york city.
    easy to say forget health care but instead live healthy. i didn’t see a doctor for forty years and then i had a pain in my side and needed emergency surgery to to remove a two pound tumor and a kidney. luckily i was in a big city and we have doctors who belong to the AMA and follow strict rules of professional conduct.
    yeah, if i got rich i would consider Thailand if i could stand the heat, rain and humidity, but the climate here is quite rare and good.

  8. I really like your articles about Thailand. I am a Chinese and have been staying in ChiangMai for the past 4 years for studying. And I go back to China twice a year and each time i went back, I felt like I wanted to come back right away. I personally like the people around there, traffic is not that bad yet, but getting worse though if you have noticed. Also, I read your article (http://cdplus.currenciesdirect.com/cd-news/buying-real-estate-in-the-very-hot-market-of-thailand/), I couldnt agree more about the points you made in it. And I think ChiangMai will get even more popular in the next few years.

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