Stickman Readers' Submissions January 8th, 2011

Cycling Thailand

Flatbed scan of a fire damaged 3×5 print

I hope my title isn’t misleading. This isn’t about bikes of any type despite the image of the wanker cyclist above. This is about how your perception of Thailand ‘cycles’ through the good and the bad. How you perceive almost anything always changes and often evolves. Your life as it relates to Thailand is almost guaranteed a sort of renewal, an epoch you’ll recognize as the same but different starting point where you’ve stood once before. A new era. A different but same Thailand.

mens clinic bangkok

Your ability to ‘see’ and accept this cycle is heavily dependent on your intelligence and mental maturity. These cycles aren’t limited to just Thailand, but to everything in life. Life is a series of evolving circles of events often overlapping and almost always touching. Allow me to provide some examples:

Marriage. Everyone seeks the key to a successful marriage. Some say love, others say religion, like education, common interests, sexual compatibility, financial health and the list continues. All of these things are important, but a marriage can fail regardless. I’m personally convinced love cycles. Simply put, individuals fall in and out of love regularly, perhaps even for the above reasons. We would never tell our partners this, and we certainly wouldn’t want to hear it from them. Yet, it happens. If there is a key to a successful marriage I’m convinced it would be in acknowledging the cycle of love and being committed enough to marriage to wait out the lulls in anticipation of the coming epoch. The new beginning. And of course we can work harder to achieve this.

Photography. Like any hobby our interest in photography cycles. At first we’re excited and thrilled with each new piece of equipment, learned technique, or awesome images from a new destination. But like anything else, life often gets in the way and we find ourselves sidetracked. Or maybe we just get bored. And then something happens to renew our interest, perhaps new more capable equipment (digital photography was the catalyst for many old-timers to return to the fold), or relocating to a new and exciting land. And BINGO, we’re once again at a new beginning searching out the latest gear and techniques, but this time with the experience of the last era under our belt.

Thailand. I’m sure we all remember how fresh and exciting our first weeks, months, or even years were in the Kingdom. So much to see, a new culture to experience, languages to learn. At first our enthusiasm is keen, each day a new adventure. We start thinking how great it would be to move here permanently, and many start making plans for early retirement, or even accepting any available position to get here while they’re still young. The thrill is everything.

But then something happens. Slowly the shine wears thin. The ‘wear’ is brought on by things we first didn’t see or if we did see, we overlooked or discounted. Corruption, poor attitudes towards farangs, immigration hassles, local business ethics, poor customer service, lack of professionalism, dishonesty, lack of legal rights, inflation, racism, sexism, and so much more.

We all see the same things, but perhaps in a different order, and depending on our frames of reference we assign a different order of importance to each. But nonetheless the shine fades. Day by day.

It’s easy to recognize when a mate declares “I LOVE THAILAND, I’M GOING TO CASH OUT MY LIFE IN THE WEST AND MOVE HERE IMMEDIATELY!!!” that in many if not most cases they’re acting too hastily. If only they had the benefit of your experience they’d slow down and consider much more. Right?

wonderland clinic

Having lived in Asia almost all of my adult life I’ve noticed something else. Those who do move here, can call it quits and pack up and leave with just as much haste! I’ve seen it many times. They move here on an impulse, often leaving behind career and family, and everything is great. Then the shine wears thin. And again on an impulse they move back to their country.

If the person is wealthy or even well off financially this isn’t so much a problem, in fact some call it living the good life. But if you’re in the middle of your working years, you could very well find yourself back ‘home’ working as a greeter at Walmart. Very few will have the opportunity to just step back into their old jobs, and most would be unwilling to start at the bottom all over again. Assuming an employer would let them at their age. Chances are they won’t.

Worse, your frame of reference, your very perspective on life and all things important to you, has been forever changed by your time in another country. You won’t have the same frame of reference as those at ‘home’. This can severely affect your family and social lives. It can leave you feeling very discontented and somewhat of an outsider. It can leave you angry and developing bad feelings towards those unable to understand your perspective.

In short, ‘fitting in’ and learning to be happy when returning home, I’m convinced is infinitely more difficult than when arriving in Thailand. Perhaps for many, impossible.

And every time you make the big transition, either to come here or to return home, it costs in both financial and ‘opportunity cost’ terms. These costs are often huge.

Why is this topic on my mind? Because I’m cycling. I’m not happy with many things about Thailand, and how I see Thailand, both changing and not changing. I’m disappointed and in some ways hurt. Like Stick I’ve been putting a great deal of thought into my future here in Thailand and frankly I’m not sure if I’ll be here this time next year.

Yet, ‘the cycle’ won’t be the reason I leave. I can intellectually internalize my perceptions and I’ve lived long enough to recognize them for what they are. Part of the cycle. If I leave Thailand it would be to give up much of what I love here, for what I love more there. It would be personal. It would be family.

Family also cycles, and an epoch nears. A new beginning. A new era. I’m just not sure if I’ll be able to take advantage of it.

Where are you in the cycle?

Until next time..

To read more visit “Steve’s Musing” at or just tune into the In Focus, Bangkok Images Weekly (embed on “In Focus, Bangkok Images Weekly ), a weekly photography column on this site.


I know readers don't like it when I go on about this, but there is a very definite trend amongst guys I know in Thailand who have been here several years or more and who have been successful in their life and are not necessarily here for the women who are *seriously* considering returning home, or trying somewhere new. Many reasons are given why this is and yes, we do go through cycles. I also think that Thailand is changing…

nana plaza