Readers' Submissions

Thailand On $10 A Day


Welcome Stickmanites. This article is in response to Harry J's recent article 'Living on the cheap in Pattaya, is it worth it?' Before I begin, I know that what will follow will be a lot of skeptical mail and total disbelief, but believe me, I lived the life and will challenge anyone to pistols at dawn should they wish to challenge it. We are all different, having various needs and pleasures and as such our monetary requirements differ. My circumstances dictated my living conditions (see previous article, 'My long walk to freedom') and although I was envious of the big spenders occasionally, I was mostly satisfied with my lifestyle. I survived in Thailand on 10,000 baht a month, sometimes more, sometimes less!

Impossible I hear you shout! Is it? Consider my position…

Harry got by on a 'meagre' 38K baht a month, an amount I dreamed about. Many of his observations are correct, although judging by his article he is a single person and therefore many expenses seem extraordinarily high. As I said before though, each to their own and this article is by no means an attempt to disprove his thoughts. What did my 10K a month cover, well basically everything (in moderation of course). With the help of my Thai missus I learned to live the Thai life.

Harry is 100% correct in stating that there are very nice apartments available away from the farang fortresses. I had a furnished, revamped apartment of 55 square metre that came complete with air-con, kitchenette, 60 channel cable TV and European bathroom. It was in easy walking distance of a major supermarket, banks and a short songthaew trip to the night spots. Having seen many poky, cramped condos (some as small as 28 square metres) and the astronomical rents they charged, I would not have swapped them for the world. There was but one other Farang in the street, my German pal who survived pretty well on his 18K a month, and he sent money to his girlfriend's family in Esarn as well! My monthly rental was 3,200 baht plus utilities averaging around 1,200 baht which included the hiring of a refrigerator.

I was extremely fortunate in finding a woman who accepted me for who I was and the situation I was in. She even told her father off when he phoned to demand money and used the usual parental blackmail, very unusual in Thailand. My greatest gift was that she was not a bargirl, spoke English well, was a gritty survivor and my friend as well as my lover and wife. Together we got by on around 2K a month for food, supplementing the bought goods with our love of the sea. Wifey loved to spend the day on the beach, collecting mussels and other assorted seafood while my passion for fishing kept us reasonably well supplied. Walking back from the beach, she would suddenly duck into the surrounding bush and emerge carrying various herbs, spices and edible plants. Supper would be a gastronomic seafood delight that would easily have cost 300 baht at a touristy restaurant, but cost us zip. We had great day on the beach to boot. Harry 'made do' with 9K for a single person, no mother Hubbard there, although he does state he enjoys his food. Good for him. I had the added bonus of dropping 25 kg and felt marvellous and fit, bright eyed and bushy tailed. The mobile vendors honked their way past the apartment regularly and there was no problem getting cheap fresh produce.

Harry was wise in having medical insurance which cost him 5K a month. I had no choice but to ride my luck without it. Foolish yes, but I managed. Other expenses for him were gym and electronic goods which totalled another 4K. These were things I had no need for.

Transport. If the distance I had to travel was under a kilometre then I would walk. Depending on the heat and my mood, I would often walk far further than that. I only used baht buses and motosais for long distances and would spend a max of 500 baht per month on them.

Finally, the biggest expense of most Farang – booze and babes / bums (or both for many). After living in Thailand for a while, the bars lose their appeal and one has to be a real die-hard sex fanatic to find them alluring night after night. Maybe it's boredom? Again, I was lucky to have my lady who more than kept me happy, and when we did go out it was normally to play pool and sink a few beers. Most of the time I just popped into the small shop right next door to me and bought a couple of large beers which in most cases was cheaper than the 7 Eleven. I developed a taste for Sato Siam, which is a cheap rice wine and when diluted with water and ice is actually very refreshing but still packs a healthy punch. At 25 baht a bottle it was good value and lasted the whole evening. In total, we spent around 1,500 baht a month for the two of us on entertainment. Incidentals made up the balance of my expenses. Harry had about 10K for pleasure.

I never had the 'pleasure' of doing visa runs, as I had been a naughty boy in that department. Something I don't recommend to anyone.

Let the debate rage!

Stickman's thoughts:

I spend about 60k baht a month. I could get by on 30K but that would take some massive adjustments and I would not like it at all. What I find most perplexing about your situation is that it appears you chose not to seek work. There is this massive safety net called English teaching and 30K baht per month jobs are available to almost anyone! Living on such a low income is not only about cutting back, but about pride. I just couldn't let myself fall into that situation. If someone was unable to work then that would be one thing, but for someone quite able-bodied to choose not to it raises certain questions…