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My Old Flame

Count me as another person who has decided that Thailand is not a good choice, at least for the time being. I first came to Thailand in 75 / 76 in the Peace Corps, where I learned a lot about the country, and developed a basic ability in speaking Thai. Then I returned to the States, got married, settled down and raised a family. I thought back to Thailand frequently, but it just never seemed practical to visit.

Then my wife and I came here on vacation five years ago and really had a wonderful time, sufficient that we returned a year later with our two sons, with whom we traveled to Khon Kaen for a few days, where I was based when I served in the Peace Corps, and spent the better part of a week on Koh Chang, as well as several days in Bangkok. We had such a good time that I actually started considering my options for retiring to Thailand, as the cost of living is a lot less than in the US, and we really enjoyed the food and didn't mind the heat too much. It sure beats the snow and sub-zero chill indexes that we are subject to this time of year!

My wife was less enthusiastic, not because she didn't like Thailand, but because it is such a long way away from family and such, and she hates the jet lag that is incident to traveling half-way around the world. At the same time, she could see how much lower the cost of living was, and she really did like most of the individuals she got to know there, so she has been studying Thai in preparation for making the move.

However, the recent events with the takeovers of the airports and government offices, and the whole attitude of the government has really set us back. I actually took an early retirement buyout last January, and my wife and I were planning to return to Thailand this January and February, both to scout out some possible locations for a retirement home, and just to enjoy the whole ambiance again, but I held off on buying tickets, and now I'm glad!

After the takeover of the airports I started looking at other options, the best of which appeared to be round-trip tickets to Singapore, from which we could take the train north into Thailand and up the peninsula, thus taking the opportunity to see a part of Thailand that neither of us has yet seen, and also providing a new experience, as we have not ridden the train in Thailand on our previous trips. It would also give us the opportunity to spend anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks exploring Malaysia, to see how it compared to Thailand. The possibility of obtaining a ten-year visa under the "Malaysia My Second Home" beats by far the visa options in Thailand.

Then Stick wrote about the changes in the visa rules, with particular emphasis on the reduction to 15 days for visas obtained at the border, versus 30 days if you fly into Thailand, and it was kind of like the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. It was like a sign that had been there for quite a while, but suddenly came into focus, that says "WE DON'T WANT YOU HERE". I had been managing to avoid noticing the sign, but no longer. Until things improve [and who knows when or even if that will ever happen], I will spend my time and money elsewhere. I am not happy about this decision, as I have many fond memories of Thailand, but to continue making plans to live there is just a form of denial.

It's really sad. Thailand has a lot going for it, as many people have known for a long time, but the current political situation and the attitude of the government are deal-breakers, at least for us. We are now planning a trip in the same time frame, but instead of Thailand, we will go to Ecuador. According to my Internet research, the cost of living is similar, or even lower, while the climate is more pleasant, with the average temperature largely dependent on what elevation you want to live at. They use the US dollar as their currency, so we would not need to worry about getting burned by exchange rate fluctuations. It is a lot closer, so the cost and time required to get there is less than half of that to Thailand, and there is only a couple of hours difference in time zone from where we now live.

Of course, unlike Thailand, I have not yet been there, so part of the reason for the trip is to explore and see how it really feels to us. If Ecuador doesn't work out, then we will keep looking, and there are quite a few more options that may be worth checking out. Malaysia is still on our radar, as well as a host of other places that I haven't even started to look at yet. But at least for now, Thailand has been moved to "wait and see", and if we get settled elsewhere and find it to our liking, then we will probably never return. I hate even writing those words, because I still have a lot of emotional attachment to Thailand, but that's how it stands.

Actually, that is a fairly apt metaphor: Thailand is like an old flame that I rediscovered after thirty years, with whom I had another fling, and started thinking about building a more serious relationship. However, the years have brought changes to both of us, and unlike a bad girlfriend, right now Thailand is not even trying to lure me back.

Stickman's thoughts:

The sad part about this is that I cannot refute anything of what you say. Things have changed drastically and other countries are genuine options. I truly believe that if the women are not a big part of the equation then it would actually be very hard to justify Thailand these days…