Readers' Submissions

Warts And All Thailand Is Not For Everyone – Or How Amazing Is Thailand Really?

  • Written by San Kam
  • August 21st, 2007
  • 9 min read



I’m just a normal guy and all of what I say here is either my own personal experience or personal experience of friends and acquaintances.

Something happened to me recently and this is one of the main reasons which prompted me to place all of these thoughts on paper. I took a long hard look at where I’d been, where I am now, and where I might be going. I think some of the things I will cover will ring true with some expat residents and at the same time I hope will have would be expats think a little harder, before packing up and leaving to join the Thai dream whether they are old or young.

I’ve been in Thailand for nearly 3 years and came here from my home country the UK to escape the rat race, retire and relax. I’m comfortable but not what you could call by farang standards wealthy. There is very little I miss about the UK and I came to Thailand to start a new life with an Isaan girl I took a real fancy to on a previous visit. That was when I knew very little about Thailand but was still very cautious.

Housing

One of the biggest decisions to make is to either rent or buy. If you rent it’s more often than not that at the end of the tenancy you will not get your deposit back. I lost 20,000 baht. I thought I was safe as the landlady (in her 60’s) always seemed so accommodating, but how wrong can you be! I went with a girlfriend to the local police station and they were good enough to ring the landlady but it made not the slightest difference. No deposit back as I had not given the month’s notice on the first of the month but on the 10th of the month!

If you opt to buy a house then you will never own the land in your own name. (Condos you can by in your name). Farangs continually buy properties for their Thai girlfriend and wives and guess what? An unhealthy number get kicked out, sooner rather than later, but still they come and do it and kiss goodbye to large amounts of cash. What the attraction is of owning – or not owning a property in a third world country where immigration rules change as often as the weather and the government is here today gone tomorrow is a mystery.

If you are retired and living off investments / pensions think hard – can you afford to lose this kind of money? Thailand is a very, very hard place if you have no money. If you are not wealthy or really don’t want to risk losing money then the wisest thing to do is to rent and not be tempted to buy a house, even under pressure from your partner. One other major advantage to renting is you can move quickly if you need to. In comparison houses can take years to sell.

A local farang died suddenly leaving behind an Isaan common law wife with 2 small children. All he had left in money was 15,000 baht, and a beaten up car in the name of his ex wife. He’d been married twice before and each time the wife had burnt him and the monies had gone mainly on houses, so this poor fellow was left to live a fairly lowly existence with only a small monthly pension. His one good fortune was that his last Isaan woman was there to take care of him, but he never had a real chance to enjoy it. This is only one instance of a farang being ripped off and there are many more sad stories.

In my own experience my Thai partner was asked by a house seller to persuade me to buy a property that was for sale. If she managed to persuade me they promised a kick back to her of 100,000 baht. Of course, I was never to know! It happens.

Police

Keep well away. If you come into contact whether you are right or wrong just pay them as to do otherwise can often land you in more trouble than you could imagine. If you are in real trouble get a good lawyer and get the help of any Thai friends you have pronto.

Thai women

You can discuss forever and a day the Thai culture and its values but the reality is you are farang therefore you are rich. Doesn’t matter if you don’t have much, they want it and they will do almost anything to get it. Lies mean nothing to them. Their desperation to have a good life is all important. This applies to a good majority of women whether they work in a bar or not. They all want a cut of the action. Very few consider where the money comes from and whether it could be your last penny – today and now are all important. Face is everything with additional pressure from family and friends.

When your partner says “I take care of you” it means “I do the cooking, cleaning and washing.” “You no take care of me” means you do buy her (or her family) gold or lavish her with gifts, money or a house. Remember a good maid costs only 3,000 – 5,000 baht a month and with any luck she won’t nag you either, so where is the deal? Love from the heart is not a real concept for the girls who seek the attentions of farangs. Money is the driving force.

Internet dating is fraught with dangers. Who are you talking to? Who knows? I’ve spoken to and chatted to women but they were the lady’s friends, a dating agency, also men who pretend to be the lady in question and many can keep the pretence going for a long time. That’s apart from the weirdoes and psychos who are drawn to these sites.

A lot of girls on the internet are from Isaan and you need to be doubly careful with these ladies. In Isaan, most of the girls on Thai dating sites are there via an agency as they do not have the knowledge or skills to do it for themselves. The agencies proliferate around Udon Thani, Khon Kaen, Korat, and even around Surin etc. Initially you won’t know you are dealing with an agency and you maybe won’t know until you actually arrive there. Fees can be high and often hidden which of course you will have to pay. The fees are sometimes hidden within the “sin sod”. The parents can give a kickback up to 100,000 baht this way, and you won’t know a thing about it.

The girls are in the main gold diggers and see stupid farang as quick way out of there various life problems. Don’t expect to find a real, genuine girl here not too many exist.

Language

If you don’t speak Thai, and let’s face it most of us either can’t, won’t or are simply incapable of learning the tongue, then life becomes much, much harder as very few people you come into contact with speak English. If you want anything more than a beer or an iced coffee you are going to struggle. Even I’ve had trouble to get just an iced tea!

Internet

Now this is the lifeline to the outside world and is a great medium to pass the time, your chance to read the newspapers back home and keep in touch with family and friends and do some internet banking. In other words it can stop you going crazy.

This is Thailand though and it can disappear at a moment’s notice for no known reason, only for it to return after 1 hour or it could be 3 days. Remember power cuts happen here and can also bring every thing to a grinding halt too.

Medical treatment

This is an important topic for old’uns. The positive is it’s cheap in comparison to home unless you happen to be a Brit where it’s free. The downsides are language, poor service, poor / inept medical care and the chance you can be overcharged. Medical services are a business and they need to make a profit. So some treatments can be suggested / performed which are not strictly required. The important one is I think is the language barrier which can be a problem but not always. If you have no-one who can translate and relate what is being said you are literally in the hands of the gods. Scary – but true – check out some of the Thai expat forums for first hand accounts.

Banking

Generally the banks here are helpful and ATMs can be found almost everywhere. Banks tend to make rules up as they go along, so if one bank won’t open an account because you don’t have a work permit or whatever, then try the next one. Luck of the draw comes into play. Forget about Thai credit cards so keep your home country ones and try to keep an address there so they can be forwarded to you here.

Business

Don’t do it, end of story! It’s too hard to make any kind of living here and the Thais don’t want you to be successful. The government agencies will have you jumping through hoops over every aspect with red tape. Regular businesses that do make money return Thai kind of profits not farang profits so you’ll never make a fortune unless you come up with something that is really special otherwise you’ll need additional income streams.

I have made generalisations here and covered only some of the main points, but these things will probably happen to you at some stage in Thailand. Thailand is not the Shangri la paradise it is often painted as. “Amazing Thailand” is the current tourist catch phrase – it can be but unfortunately not in ways you might expect.

Take Thailand slowly and most importantly of all be very careful if you intend to live here permanently there are potential pitfalls at every turn.

Stickman's thoughts:

A lot of points and it is hard to comment on them all. I agree with some, disagree with others. I do agree with the overall premise of the submission though, that Thailand is not paradise and there are many things to be aware of.