Thailand, A Crap Place To Be
I wrote to Stick a couple of weeks ago affirming how bad Thailand has become and that you would never see me on those shores again for some time to come, preferring instead to go to Europe where it is cheaper with less hassle and just as nice if not better
than what can be found in LOS. The wider perceptions of Thailand from within the UK aren't that good these days and the majority of holidaymakers who are battening down the hatches during the recession are making plans to stay nearer to home.
Indeed most of the guys married to Thais here are either refusing to go to LOS this year or just sending their wife and kids to go back and visit family, choosing instead to stay firmly put on western shores. They have no compunctions about putting
their Thai partners onto a plane back to LOS but they are refusing outright to make the journey themselves. Some are citing the recession, or that they now have no job but many like me are also stating Thailand has lost its charm of late and simply
aren’t interested anymore.
Personally I refuse to go to Thailand these days on principle. The principle being that I have an increasing dislike of Thai people, or at least those in positions of self deluded authority. Thailand has always played a crap card to visitors to its shores but as a whole the Thai authorities and the place in general has become an increasingly shit(tier) place to live and one that seems to be getting worse. When I lived in Bangkok and Phuket, it had its moments (both good and bad) but from what I am hearing from my friends who still live out there and also from the press over here and through Thailand-related websites, LOS (should be renamed Land Of Shits) is most certainly not the place to be going to for a holiday. Indeed it never seizes to amaze me how anyone would continue to choose to live in Thailand given the current state the country is in.
The ‘one’ thing that made me finally leave 2 years ago was when one of the Deans at Chula wrote a paper to get himself on the constitution drafting committee. He published his letter in both English and Thai as he wanted to 'educate' Westerners as to where the root cause of all Thailand's problems began. I got to see the letter because he asked me to review his English and to say it was putting the blame on foreigners is putting it politely, but in a nut shell he implied that the continued ‘abuse’ by foreigners to the land regulations in Thailand was where the root cause lay and that the issue of foreign abuse of Thailand should be addressed. What was more telling is that it was this letter that finally got him onto the constitution working group. If this doesn’t give you an insight into the mindset of the country's elite, then I don’t know what will.
That was two years ago now and all I have seen since is an downhill slide across the entire shores of Thailand. For sure I most certainly got out at the right time and although my stint in Thailand has been good for my career (My salary which was good before I left the UK, increased by 50% upon returning), I would suggest that this is not the norm and that many people still stuck in Thailand would probably find it hard should they ever decide to move back West. Indeed of the few friends who have returned, they would have been better sticking it out in Thailand because the conditions in the UK for those who have been out of it for a while are dire. In the rather large and well know American company I work for, we have just made several thousand people redundant. In some ways it has been like the "night of the long knives" here over the past few days as many people are having their careers and salaries cut but for now I am one of the few survivors because I am contributing significantly to the bottom line. I do still hate to say it though but I did try and warn as many as I could via Stick's website when I departed LOS that ‘now would be a good time to leave’ but as always when one is negative about all things in Thailand, the rose tinted glass brigade come out of the woodwork and shoot you down for it.
When I arrived back in England, apart from the usual “your marriage will fail within 6 months” well wishes that I received from those that remained in Thailand, the guys at work who got to hear that I had just returned from living in Thailand, approached me to ask about 'life' in Thailand. Most if not all had their own aspirations of giving up their well paid jobs and going out there to 'live' the good life with some Thai wench or other that they had previously met in some bar / massage parlour in Pattaya.
In each and every case, they always asked the same question. "Can you give me some advice on living in Thailand please?"
So I advise them…
After I finish with my 'reality check', none of them obviously "like" what they hear because it bursts their bubble and I have come to dread the question about Thailand because I know I am about to shatter someone's dreams. In ALL cases they give me a hard time for being too negative about Thailand yet most of the time I haven’t said anything more than how it is when it comes to visas and the immigration hoops they may have to jump through in order to get a visa or work permit. Yet they still don't like what I tell them.
Sometimes reality hurts!
For example one guy here (aged 65 and married to one of the ugliest ex massage parlour 'good' girls with a Pratum 6 education that Pattaya could ever throw up) decided to spend his life savings building her a house in Nakorn someplace for which he intends to retire to. I asked him if he had the 800k THB for a retirement pension and he said "no". So I asked him if he could show the 40k THB each month required for a marriage visa. Again the answer was a vague "errm no I would struggle with that because of the exchange rates". So when I asked him how he intended retiring in his house in Nakorn someplace when he obviously could not satisfy the minimum requirements for a visa, he got all angry at me and told me I didn't know what I was talking about.
Let’s be clear here. This guy has 'never' lived in Thailand and has in total spent 6 weeks there over a period of 4 years whilst on holiday. He got married after a couple of weeks of knowing “the thing” he finally married and has since sunk all of his money into a place he has visited maybe only once or twice. Yet he 'knows' everything about Thailand but somehow he forgot in his enthusiasm to please his dumber than a brush Thai wife, about how to get a long term visa and all that that entails. Maybe she isn't the dumb one after all in this relationship.
But hey, what the hell do I know.
Now when I get asked about 'living' in Thailand I just smile and tell these idiots to go ahead and fill their boots because there is no point giving them the truth or even arguing with them as you just know you are never going to win that argument.
Despite the bad press about Thailand of late, you will still get the idiots, usually the sex starved, lonely soles who spend all week propping up bars and watching footy on TV, who aspire for a better way of life in Thailand with cheap sex and booze. But who can blame them, it's hardly their fault that that they lack the ability or drive to better themselves and as this is the world that their life currently revolves around. It is all they know.
Those of us who know better are staying away from Thailand.
So here I am, two years on and after 4 years of marriage I am still funnily enough "still" married, despite those who wished me otherwise. We now have a young daughter too who is the apple of my eye and as a consequence I have no desire to take her anywhere near Thailand. I mean come on, why would I want to expose her to the lowest form of pond life that currently resides in Thailand anyway? What kind of parent would I be if I did that to my child?
My wife too after experiencing life in the UK has no desire to rush back ‘home’ either. This year she has no desire to even to go and see her family and when I asked her about a destination of choice for a holiday this year, she immediately picked Europe because she wanted to experience other cultures, languages and to see where history was made.
During her tenure here in the UK, she has been made very welcome, has lots of 'English lady' friends in the community and everyone who meets her and our daughter are enchanted by them both. When she reflects back on my experience living in LOS, it doesn't take a lot for her to understand that her experiences of being an immigrant in the UK is poles apart to the one I and other foreigners get to experience as an immigrant to Thailand.
We sat down the other day as we filled in her application for permanent residency in the UK and listed out the major differences between being a foreigner in Thailand and being one in the UK.
On the plus side of the UK, she doesn't get double charged or indeed charged any differently to me when we visit a public place. No one in the street comes up and calls her 'chinky', 'tiddly wink', “hey you Asian” or any other kind of derogative name to single her out. Heck the UK even has laws in place to prevent such things from happening anyway.
When I listen in on conversations she is having with her Dad back in Thailand, the fact that we have anti discrimination laws in place is something that fascinates him because as she tells her Dad, it is something totally different to how her fellow country folk are treated back home.
Because she is my wife, she isn't expected to show 40k THB each month, nor is she expected to do regular border runs or face the once a year visa lottery. Neither is she expected to turn up at immigration every 3 months just to show that she is still alive and well or face a 2000 baht fine for failing to do so. Taxi drivers don't try and debate with me over the fare because she is not English, nor do shop owners try and rip her off by short changing her. No one has tried to scam her nor has she had to worry about what we say, who we are with, how we dress and even on those rare occasions when the sun shines, she has not had to worry about getting a single freckle or dare I say it, getting darker skin should someone come out of the woodwork and pre-judge her for it.
None of this happens in the UK but it happens all the time in Thailand.
In the UK, authorities are people doing a job and generally can be trusted. In Thailand they are people best avoided.
On the negative side of her UK experience, my wife has “had” to pass the life in the UK test to get her residency visa. That’s it! We couldn't think of anything else negative to say about her (or indeed our) experience since we returned. The life in the UK test is hardly a negative other than it is a load of nonsense that the average UK born citizen couldn't even pass. Yet pass my wife did. She even works here and has earned more in 1.5 months than she ever earned in a year working in an office in Bangkok.
The other upshot of the 'test' is that by passing, she gets to stay here forever!
In Thailand you could invest 1 billion baht, speak fluent Thai, be married to a local and even be a pillar of the community but still be told to jump through hoops for your annual visa renewal. On top of that you would still face the daily discrimination, scamming, short changing and general “just under the surface” abuse that Thailand has to offer. The fact that most foreigners don't tune into or understand the general abuse levied at them because it comes with a smile, doesn't mean it doesn't or isn't happening. They are simply just oblivious to it.
I know the UK is not a bed of roses but if you live in the middle class bubble where we live, then the majority of the UK riff raff don't even come onto our radar anyway and we 'may' only encounter some of them when we enter any of the major cities here. If you live in the idyllic leafy parts of England like we do, then the beer guzzling skinhead brigade or council tenants don't even come near our area unless they are on the rob. The air is far too clean for them here anyway and besides the green suburbs tend to clash with their tattoos and nose rings. Funnily enough it is these types who tend to end up on the shores of Thailand getting their heads bounced off the bar tops by some local Muay Thai champ and telling anyone who cares to listen about how wonderful Thailand is.
But joking apart, who would want to go and live in Thailand or indeed visit Thailand these days. The examples Bangkok Barry recently gave of the King Power duty free scam of ripping off shoppers with threats of jail, the Pattaya beer mat debacle where the Ozzie woman was jailed for a few days, the young boy of 14 who died whilst swimming in Pattaya, the red shirts versus the yellow shirts and the foreign hostages being held at the airport as a consequence, the recent submission about the police corruption in Bangla road in Phuket chaining all the foreigners' motorbikes for a stipend to the local policeman's ball, the recent shoot out in the same vicinity, the death of David Carradine under suspicious circumstances, the exit fee upon departure, the unfavourable exchange rates at present plus god knows what else makes Thailand the place to NOT BE GOING TO. Add into this the secondary issues of swine flu, the bird flu and every other kind of achooo and you may as well turn up wrapped up in Noddy suit wearing a gas mask for all the joy it will bring.
In Thailand of late there is a general air of desperation that pervades the lower echelons of Thai society and the prime focus seems to be on obtaining their next baht, meal, drink, drug or whatever from any passing foreigner that just happens to be in the vicinity. Add into this the corrupt Thai police who do sod all but shaft you at their convenience, it beggars belief as to why the borders are still open for business and why any foreigner would ever want to go there. Given the choices I have around the world, Thailand is somewhere near the bottom of the pile.
So this year, and next year and probably for the foreseeable future, I and my Thai wife and our lovely daughter will not be going to Thailand nor will we be spending the £3.5 K that we would normally spend on holiday by going to Thailand for a 2 star experience but will instead be at least 5000 miles away spending our money in Europe instead, having a 5 star experience nestled in a place steeped with history and where we won’t be wondering who or what is going to try and rip us off next.
You make a very compelling argument.
I note that many foreigners who are in favour of Thailand at present are into the nightlife – and that is fair enough. But for anything else, the massive changes in the country in recent years don't make it anything like the favourable destination it once was…