Last year I wrote what turned out to be one of my most popular blog posts when I announced why I was trading London for Thailand. It’s time for Part 2, the part where I explain why I’m heading back home in July.
Now, there are many reasons why I could be looking to leave Thailand, aren’t there? I know what you want me to say. The supply of ladyboys could never last forever. Shockingly enough, it goes deeper than that.
The last seven months have been a hugely fun and unforgettable learning experience for me. I’ve had to embrace a culture that I have about as much in common with as a fish out of water. For anybody who has dabbled with the idea of visiting Thailand, I say do it. It’s a friendly and vibrant country, with some of the best damn beaches you’re ever going to see in your lifetime.
One of the reasons I left London was to chase full value for my money. When you’ve spent your entire life in the Greater London suburbs, it’s not difficult to put a high price on a tropical climate and a diet of fresh coconuts. These were things that appealed to me immensely, and they still do. But in leaving London, I’m sure I underestimated all the comforts and relationships I’d be leaving behind.
When I ask myself whether I could spend six months holidaying in Thailand every year, the answer is a resounding “show me the booking form“. But it’s difficult to settle here, and it feels like a temporary home.
Traveling alone is much different to traveling as a couple. My girlfriend works in fashion and if you know anything about the fashion world, you’ll be aware that it revolves around the major cities of New York, London, Paris and Milan. Her work almost demands that she be in the thick of her industry, and as much as we both love Thailand, Bangkok Fashion Week left a little to be desired in the prestige stakes.
We also have two puppies. I’d like to point this out to anybody who gets suckered in to the cute fluffy pet markets of Bangkok. Do not buy pets unless you’ve researched the quarantine regulations in your country. I wouldn’t give up my dogs for the world, but getting stiffed with a quarantine import bill for £5000 ($8000) was a major shock when I made their travel arrangements back to England.
There’s a misconception that Thailand is cheap. I guess it is, for certain commodities. But you have to understand that the tourist economy is vastly different to the local economy. And unless you know more than Hello and Goodbye in Thai, you’re going to find it pretty difficult to escape the tourist traps. My outgoings in London were roughly £1000/month ($1600). After noting down my expenses last week, I worked out that I’m spending on average £4200/month ($6700) in Thailand.
Those costs are inflated by living on the cusp of Downtown Bangkok, in one of the city’s prime locations, with an expansive 4 bedroom apartment. It also hits the wallet when you have to renew your visa every 60 days. I’ve already ticked off trips to Malaysia, Singapore and Cambodia with other adventures planned for my last two months here.
So in response to those who say Thailand is a cheap recluse for oddballs who can’t survive in the west, I would have to say try it for yourself. Going by the prices I’ve experienced on my travels, America is one of the cheapest places I’ve ever visited. And Singapore is definitely the most expensive, although luxurious from coast to coast.
It could be as luxurious as my balls, I’m still going to refuse to pay $5 for a small pack of Oreos.
The weather here is hot and humid all year round. I don’t recommend heading to Thailand in April or May, unless you’re prepared to get down and dirty in your own sweat. I would also advice you not to make the schoolboy error of venturing in to a Bangkok thunderstorm under the assumption of “Eh, fuck it, I’m used to London showers, what’s the worst that could happen?” The worst that could happen is a monsoon in your face.
I’m definitely going to miss having a wardrobe full of shorts and summer shirts when I head back to London. Yet there are changes I’m looking forward to that have made the move a necessity. Seeing friends and family is obviously uplifting. Just being able to communicate freely, in my own language, is something I’ve learnt to appreciate. I find it quite difficult to express myself in broken Thai, and expression is a fundamental quality in all of our lives.
Looking further ahead, I’ve definitely caught the travel bug. I could never be one of the single state gremlins who knows little about what’s outside his city, let alone what goes on in a different country. By the end of 2012, I aim to have visited every continent (including Antarctica!). Until then, I think I’m going to enjoy the sun for a little while longer.
Seven months in Thailand and I’ve almost turned a shade of “slightly brownish white”!
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