Back to the “Land of Smiles”

Here I am back in Thailand for the tenth time. Is this becoming repetitive to the point that I might have to call it my second home? Seriously though it’s a perfectly sane thought for me or anyone for that matter who is finding it more and more difficult to live in Canada or the US these days. There are definitely many advantages to living in a foreign country such as Thailand.

Why do I write this, you might wonder? Isn’t Canada one of the countries so many people from around the world aspire to come to  make their home? Aren’t we on the list of the top ten most desirable countries to live in according to one of the latest polls taken? My research revealed that in 2018 the US News and World Report put us in second place after Switzerland.

Float from the annual Flower Festival in Chiang Mai

Float from the annual Flower Festival in Chiang Mai

With this honour I should be grateful for having been born on Canadian soil and be content to live there. However, with an insatiable desire tor travel most of my life, I have been fulfilling that dream ever since I retired from full-time work. My travels have definitely opened up other possibilities causing me to question whether I want to continue living in Canada at this stage of my life. Is it a good match for me? Does it satisfy my needs? What do I like or dislike about it? These are the questions that I must consider and Thailand is one of the countries that has perked my interest.

I am not the only traveller who is dealing with such a dilemma. I have met and continue to meet more and more people of all ages who are considering the pros and cons of taking the plunge and moving here for the reasons I have listed below. But first let’s take a look at why we are questioning where we choose to live when we have so much already. It’s not just Thailand that appeals to us. It could also be Malaysia, Mexico, Ecuador, Spain or Portugal. The list of desirable countries to move to and call home keeps changing from year to year depending on such factors as cost of living, climate, safety, political scene or economy. You can always Google International Living, a magazine which has touted the joys of living in foreign countries for over twenty years, to find other possibilities.

So after ten years of visiting Thailand, I have narrowed the reasons for putting it at the top of my list to the following:

  • Cost of Living – My monthly expenses could be kept to a minimum of $1,000 a month in this country. Monthly rents for a small apartment can be had for as low as $250 a month depending on location. It’s more if you live right in the centre of a big city like Chiang Mai or Bangkok. Utilities which include electricity, water, and garbage collection may run up to $60 a month or more if you rely heavily on A/C.  Internet is a bargain at about $20. Food staples grown locally, such as rice, fruit and vegetables are cheap. As a single person I could get by with under a $100 which doesn’t include eating out. A meal at a local Thai restaurant will cost around $2. However, if I eat at a Western restaurant, of which there are many in Chiang Mai, meals can cost anywhere from $10 to $50 or more depending on what it offers. Wine is expensive here so adding that can inflate the amount making it better to stick to local beer!
  • If I were to live in Chiang Mai, I wouldn’t need a car. It’s a very walkable city and public transportation is cheap. A ride on the brand new Blue Buses here costs 20 baht…about $1 Cdn… no matter where you go in the city.
  • And now what about health care in Thailand which is always a huge concern for ex-pats? I assure you it’s not a problem. Most expats prefer to pay as they go rather than sign up for a health plan….that is if they are healthy. If not, then it would be best to have a plan. One thing you can be assured of is that the quality of medical care is superb as are the hospitals which in some cases, such as Bangkok, are more like high-class hotels. As for the dental,  it’s on a par with the medical. Most dentists and doctors have been trained in the US or Europe and offer wonderful care. I’ve been having all my dental work done here for years. A cleaning will take me back about $30 whereas at home it would be over a $100.
  • The climate – Everyone knows that Thailand is a warm country since it is near the equator, and, yes, that means it’s often more than warm. It has two seasons, wet and dry which for most of the year is hot, and it can get very humid during the rainy or wet season. Fortunately, I prefer the humidity over the cold winds and snow I have to face in Nova Scotia. I have gotten used to it as many do. Furthermore, the climate here isn’t as changeable as it is on my home turf. It’s pretty steady at hot and sunny most days. It’s never cold except if you go north towards China where nights in the mountains can dip down to a comfortable 10 to 12 degrees. Chiang Mai is in the mountains of northern Thailand so is slightly cooler than Bangkok in the middle lowlands. Thailand’s tropical climate offers an abundance of fresh fruit and veggies year round which means you can live a healthier life. Moreover, you save money by not having to heat a house with a fossil fuel which in turn can ease your conscience knowing you aren’t adding more carbon to our overloaded atmosphere.
  • The People – What is there not to love about the Thai people? Every time I return, the first thing that hits me is their beautiful smiles and their cheerful greeting of sa wa dee kah their word for hello. Along with the ‘wai’ which is a slight bow forward from the waist with hands together at the heart, there is no other greeting like it. Nothing seems to bother the Thai. They simply accept things as they are and go about their business with a smile. They believe that getting angry is a waste of time and isn’t good karma. Some might say they are too passive. I don’t agree. They don’t stress out over things they can’t control like other people’s little dramas. I love it! I find it’s very difficult to be stressed in their midst.
  • The Culture – About 95% of Thailand’s people follow the teachings of Buddha or the Theraveyda form of Buddhism. There is little formality attached to it since it’s really more a way of life. The many temples or wats are open all the time so the Thai and visitors alike can enter any time of the day to offer their respect to the Buddha. The Thai also love their festivals and will look for reasons to hold one as much as they can. Parades, colourful dress, and lots of delicious Thai food are always abundant. In a city as large as Chiang Mai, which by the way has been designated as a UNESCO site, there is always some event going on. This week is Design Week promoting cultural tourism. Artists, designers and entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to use their creativity and  promote their movement towards sustainability.
  • Environment – Thailand is noted for its beautiful and diverse environment. Northern Thailand is mountainous and famous  for its coffee, tea, and rice production. It is also home to over seven Hill Tribes all with a unique culture. Traditionally the poorer part of the country, the late King Bhumitol, the revered leader for this country for many years, dedicated much of his reign and knowledge to developing this region through his water irrigation projects and sustainable farming methods. This was one of the ways he managed to get the flourishing heroin trade under control by weaning the farmers off their dependence on poppy growing. The southern part of the country is noted for more than 1,000 islands of all sizes and character with their one feature in common…their beautiful beaches! They are the prime draw for the growing tourist industry.
  • Markets and Shopping – There isn’t anything you can’t buy in Thailand. Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, and other larger cities which draw the tourists. They are a shopper’s delight with glitzy shopping centres springing up like weeds. One of their busiest times for shopping is turning out to be Christmas. Surprising isn’t it that a Buddhist country has taken on this commercial aspect of Christmas as well as the fun of Santa Clause, snow and reindeer. It’s not the religious aspect that has captured the Thai imagination, but the decorations, the music, and the novelty of Santa. It’s a time for them to have some fun with the commercial trappings of Christmas and to take advantage of the sales. I should also mention that the other draw for shopping in Thailand, especially for tourists, is the proliferation of markets which can be found in every city, town and village. This is especially so in the North where crafts and food reflecting the different Hill tribe customs are readily available at great prices.
  • Safety – People often ask me if I worry about my safety travelling solo as a female. I have never felt unsafe anywhere in Thailand and have never had a problem. Although theft has never been a problem for me that doesn’t mean I can be lax about carrying too much money or flaunting my diamonds. There is petty crime and in Bangkok you might run into such  scammers as tuk tuk drivers who will make up stories about a popular museum being closed for the King’s birthday or some such reason. Then they offer to take you to a good jewellery or silk shop where they receive a commission for any thing you purchase. It’s a well used ploy which only works on the first time visitor who hasn’t read their Lonely Planet guidebook. Although there are a fair number of murders, most are domestic or drug related with the rate far below what we have in the Western world. The one danger to watch our for is the traffic. It’s getting worse as the country’s economic index goes up and the desire for larger cars dominates.

Thailand has much to offer any adventurous foreigner or farang who is seeking the things that I have written about. Granted there are more, such as numerous job opportunities since the country’s economy is fairly strong right now. Furthermore, on a more contentious subject, Thai girls have been a draw for hoards of Western men who have come seeking the pleasure of their company.

Thailand would definitely be the country at the top of my list if I truly wanted to leave Canada to live in a foreign country. Although it lures me to return year after year, I am still weighing the pros and cons of making such a move. For now I am content to come for a few months and then move on. After all is said and thought about, Canada is my native land where I still have family ties as well as good friends. For now the old adage of “Home is where the heart lives” still rings true for me.

To view this gallery of photos place your cursor over each picture. For a slide show click on the first picture and away you go. Enjoy!

 

 

 

8 thoughts on “Back to the “Land of Smiles”

  1. Hey Bets, now I’m itching to get on that plane….soon! Great article – only thing I would add that is unfortunately a negative……the air in Chiang Mai – so dirty – my biggest pet peeve! I’ve always thought it would be great if they made CM a walking city with a couple of monorails (a la Disneyworld) transporting people across the main thoroughfares! See you in about 2 weeks.

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    • Hi Sally – I wanted to stay away from the negative because there are more than one and the post was already getting too long. How about the traffic as another? I look forward to seeing you guys soon. I need some advice on what clothing to buy this year. There is lots to choose from but the pants we have been selling are getting scarcer and more expensive. They are listing them at 150 baht going down to around 100. The only place that is asking less for wholesale is where you buy them at 80. Apparently the Chinese favour the ones with the draw string over ours. Wouldn’t you know!

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