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Sitting On The Fence



I think back to roughly my third visit to Thailand where I ended up on Samui for the first time.

I woke in my seaside bungalow to a woody sound reverberating round my room. I had no idea what it was but later found out it was a tookeh or gecko which literally hang around the wooden overhanging roofs of such structures on sucker like paws. I stayed at the Hi Coral Cove situated between Lamai and Chaweng. I returned there a few years ago only to find they had refurbished the place and the same 150 baht room was now 1000 baht. I know that’s still only £20 but that’s now for the cheapest room. Previously that would have paid for the most expensive room / bungalow. They had installed a swimming pool in the resort since my last visit perhaps to cater for the family market. It completely spoiled the place for me as well as now being out of my budget. I remember being woken up one morning by a gang of Thai workers ready to demolish the hut I was staying in but at least I got moved to a better room. It’s the sort of place I may return to for a night on a special occasion these days. There’s a place near Lamai I usually stay at for 300 baht now. Samui is ok for a week or so only. I will return.

I began to spend more time in Bangkok on arrival then bus it down to Hua Hin where I may stay for a week before moving on. I tried Chumpon for a few days but it’s pretty quiet. It seemed to cater for the young wind-surfer dudes sitting around waiting for a wind. I think the price was about 500 bahr for a beach-side room. I’m not sure even I could endure too long here and there are no places to go nearby if you needed to interact with civilisation other than Chumpon city which I didn’t see much of. Met an older Canadian guy writing a novel here.

Phuket was ok initially for entertainment but after a few visits I became jaded. Not sure I would return there. My last visit was probably around 10 years ago. I spent most of my time in Patong so perhaps I should have stayed elsewhere on the island to get a better idea.

I visited Koh Tao a couple of times and would compare it to a smaller, quieter Samui with less infrastructure. I found it hard to get a room that wasn’t amongst the divers and without getting a dirt bike through to the other side of the island. Perhaps the road is longer now but when I visited it stretched a few kilometres along the port side then just petered out at both ends. I was able to dump my bags at a travel shop on arrival, rented a bike and drove around looking for a place. I stayed in a hut (room, bungalow – call it what you want) on a farm near the end of the road but moved to a small resort up on the mountain overlooking the bay. There was plenty of smoke available although I didn’t partake (certainly not in Thailand anyway). I noticed the young Japanese males were very fond of it.

The place seemed to cater for the diving crew and I wasn’t prepared to go through the whole diving course stuff. I did feel slightly uncomfortable as it seemed as if farang were running the entire island. I probably didn’t stay long enough to form a better opinion, but it’s a place I would revisit. There were a small number of beer bars then.

There was a restaurant I frequented with a magnificent stand alone tree nearby which contained a sea eagles nest which could be seen on regular intervals. I remember returning the following year only to find the tree was gone in place of some form of development : how sad. Even the tree alone was worth seeing. I am also convinced the sound of the tookeh is becoming less frequent as they bull-doze down the old back – packers “huts” – the home also of my favourite lizard. I actually digitally recorded its call on a mini-disc player (that must have been a while ago) using an attached microphone and have used the sound in some of my music recordings. Might just attach an mp3 for readers, (rather listeners). But it’s a sound which I always loved to hear and made me feel comfortable and almost at home. At least I knew I was definitely back in Thailand whenever hearing it. I thought it might make an interesting ring tone but even in Bangkok the sound of a tookeh can be heard.

So where is home? For me at the moment it’s a small (about 40 houses) village on the barren east coast of Scotland. I’ve lived here, alone, for 20 years and it’s the best home I’ve had but I sometimes feel as if I am renting my life / time here even though the house has long been bought and paid for. I was in IT for around 15 years and it was this period I discovered Thailand. Why did I go in the first place? I needed time out of the rat race and felt this as good a place as any. I also had a friend who was living there (perhaps more on him later). This quickly became my regular twice yearly 3 week escape from the corporate world. I did all the things a single 30- or 40-year old does there.

Samui became my favourite place on the planet. I loved it and could easily spend a day pedding around the island ring road. Even the restaurants on the ring road above Chaweng were peaceful enough at night time. This was pre-Tesco Lotus days. I met loads of great girls and fellow travellers there over the years. At that time, I may have stayed in-touch via e-mail with some girls but never got involved. I don’t really understand the concept of a long-distance relationship. For me that would never work. I preferred (and still do prefer) Lamai and loved nothing more than a real coffee and smoke at the Italian place about half-way through Lamai on the left side (heading away from Chaweng). They have a small coffee bar overlooking the street with tall barstools for ‘scanning’ purposes i.e. checking out the street life. I didn’t stay anywhere other than that 6 km strip between Lamai and Chaweng. A must visit is Island Books located just outside Lamai on the ring road. It’s run by a guy from Liverpool and is a great place to have a drink and peruse the shelves. He is a very knowledgeable and likable guy who is incidentally aware of the Stick site. I would return to Samui without question. I always ask fellow travellers if they are aware of StickmanBangkok.com (pass on the word so to speak).

Incidentally there was a recent sub where a guy was asking about Thai film recommendations and Butterfly Man was mentioned. I have a copy of this and must say it is quite good if only that it was filmed ten or more years ago and shows Samui in a better light I feel. Also the main theme (farang falling for bar girl) I could relate to at the time.

On my bi-yearly excursions, I usually flew into Don Meuang from Amsterdam on China Air then walk the kilometre or so along the glass tunnel to the domestic lounge where I would look for the next available flight to Samui. Occasionally I would spend a night in Bangkok, usually in the Saphan Kwai area. There is a Chinese hotel called Pradipat where I would stay or if no suitable rooms were available I would stay next door in the Bangkok Condotel. On one occasion I remember getting a knock on the door barely 2 minutes after checking in and being offered a girl by an older “hotel tout”. I think on this occasion I was tired so refrained however I have succumbed on occasion and let me tell you, it's always a bad move. A man needs to see the goods with his own eyes before he makes a purchase. Usually the tout will disappear to the nearest bar and pick any random non-dancer or he may know someone he can contact on short notice. This system never works. What are the chances you will even fancy her physically. Slim to none. After several visits to my door with different girls, I ended up paying him a tip to leave me in peace.

Alternatively there was the Sudah Palace (Saphan Kwai) where there was local nightlife on your doorstep. The price range then was roughly 700 baht. The last time I stayed in either of these places I think it was probably more. The Florida was another place I stayed in for roughly the same price but last time I stayed it was up at 1000 baht. It's conveniently located at the Phyathai skytrain on the crossroads and it actually has a swimming pool although I’ve never seen it in use. At that time I wasn’t too sure about Bangkok but now find when I return to the city I feel its as real as the real Thailand can be (especially if you are coming from the tourist places).

I had a friend (a fellow Scot) who lived in the Victory Monument area so it was usually my first port of call. Alternatively I would drop in on the way home. On subsequent longer trips (one to three months) I would leave stuff there and travel light. I used to travel with a guitar, mini amp and looper which would restrict my travel arrangements. I became familiar with the Victory Monument and surrounding area and would regard this as the centre of BK. I stayed a few times in guest houses in Khao San. Last time I returned to the Banglampoo area after many years of absence and found it quite run down and noisy but ok for a short stay. I probably didn’t register this on my first visit to this area as I wouldn’t have any reference or experience of a run down area of BK. It was also difficult without having a skytrain connection getting to the likes of Phyathai without the dependence on taxis which ran at about 100 baht each way. I would only stay there again if I was more familiar with the bus schedules (schedules in Thailand yeah right) and the boats on the Chao Praya River. I love the huge wooden barges which I once heard refer to as ghost ships. Another great thing are the “scooshers” you get in the toilets to wash your ass. Every home should have one. I’m not sure if this is a Thai thing or not. Perhaps they got the idea from Vietnam or from early French colonialism. Sounds like the sort of thing the French would invent. The last time I was in Hua Hin I met a French Canadian from Quebec in his mid-fifties who had worked as a civil servant and I was amazed how well he was “looked after” by his government pension. He was able to keep an apartment back home and travel extensively on his pension. We spent time socialising with an older Frenchman who was a very good artist specialising in portraits of the fairer sex. At home he would hire a model, find a suitable location (usually outdoors) and paint her naked. This was art, not porn. I think his idea was to do the same in Thailand and I pointed out to him that if I did the same thing in the UK then I would risk being arrested for lewd behaviour. Not sure how this would go down in Thailand though. I noticed there were communication issues between these guys due to differences in dialects. It didn’t help that the old artist was half deaf. Fond memories indeed.

I began to spend more time in Bangkok on arrival then bus it down to Hua Hin where I may stay for a week or more before moving on. It’s a good stop-off point on the homeward trip too. As the years went by I would spend more time in one place (usually Hua Hin).

I visited up north but felt something was missing – I guess it was the sea. I also visited Isaan which I intend to explore further in the future. Not sure it’s a place you would live alone and I do spend most of my time without company. This also applies back home.

Apart from working 8 hours a day and a few hours every second weekend, I hardly socialise. I usually see my parents every two weeks and my sisters perhaps a few times per year. My real friends (i.e. not work colleagues or band associates) live 60 miles south so I see them a few times a year. I’ve known these guys since school days. I must reiterate that this is a lifestyle choice. I tend to prefer my own company and cannot imagine living with anyone permanently. The idea of moving to Thailand primarily to hook up with someone is alien to me. However, when the itch needs scratching, there is no better place.

The first time I visited Thailand was on a 2-week vacation in 1995 to Pattaya and I have returned to Pattaya several times since. All I knew was that Pattaya was the cheapest deal in the brochure and I knew little of its reputation (other than what everyone “knows” about Thailand in general). I didn’t really know what all the fuss was about. I wouldn’t want to live there but its ok for a few days on the way up to Koh Chang or the likes.

This leads nicely to what others think of Thailand and I would suggest that undoubtedly there is a stigma from those who have never been there. I wouldn’t give them the time of day since the furthest they have probably travelled is two weeks in Spain. As we all know, there is much more to Thailand than Nana, Patpong and Patong. Anything that is available in Patong is available in a different shade in Can Cun for example.

I was with a girl in Koh Chang once when on the spur of the moment I decided to leave and head down to Koh Samet. We never reached that destination. On the mini bus near Rayong, I suddenly remembered I had left all my money (around 400 pounds in crisp 1000 baht notes) under my mattress on Koh Chang. We got off the bus in Rayong and spent a shit night in a crap hotel. It cost 100 baht for a room and the pillow was dusty and hard. The following morning, early, with no breakfast and only water, we headed back towards Koh Chang. This was one of the longest days of my life. The worst part was when we arrived back at the port on Koh Chang and were waiting for the next inward ferry to make up the seats on a shared bus to White Sands Resort. The foreigners were arguing for a decent price and the Thais were not buying it. The waiting and frustration was stressful. I just wanted to get back to the room. I was sick with worry and the girl had broken down completely. When she discovered there was no money she referred to me as a “stupid farang”. Yes, she was right, it was dumb. Incidentally I saw this same girl many years later in a bar in Lamai. I spoke to her briefly but moved on.

On arrival, there was a young Dutch guy and Thai girl occupying the room and I asked him if I could look under the mattress. Of course the money was gone and although I did talk to the management, they knew nothing. I went to the local cop on the island who was wearing only a pair of shorts and a gun in his belt. I told him my situation and the fact I had no money. He gave me enough to get the next ferry off the island. I ended up scraping enough together by transferring some Dutch guilders at a bank in Trat and cashing in a five pound note gratefully received by an Englishman on the mini-bus to get to Bangkok and a bank where I could get cash. I returned the money to the address he gave me. I hope he got it. Thanks. Incidentally Scottish money is not transferable in Thailand it must be Bank of England notes with no handwriting on them. I remember pissing off a London cab driver by paying the fare in Scottish notes (i.e. Bank of Scotland) notes. <You're right that banks may not accept Scottish banknotes but many of the private exchnage booths do – example here – and the rate is only marginally inferior to Bank of England notesStick>

These days I tend to spend time in Hua Hin. I prefer the older crowd. There’s a pretty good music scene there and I have played on a number of occasions. The Sam Roy Yot area is beautiful and the nightlife is easier going. I prefer the short time liaison and there are several message places on the edge of town that I tend to gravitate towards. I like the discretion of some of the bars here some of which have rooms upstairs. I stayed in several places in Hua Hin with prices ranging from 150 baht to 500 baht per night. There was a great old guesthouse I used to stay in which had about 4 rooms and a communal coffee area with TV. Unfortunately it is now a four-storey hotel. These old places are becoming harder to find. Yes I am still an old backpacker at heart and genuinely feel uncomfortable in 4-star establishments.

I was last in Thailand in November 2010 where I stayed mostly in Hua Hin. It was on this trip that I turned to drink in Thailand. Up until then I had never been much of a drinker. So why now? I was seeing if I could handle Thailand (specifically Hua Hin) without the bars and spent more time hanging out at the hotel (about 3 stories high with around 6 rooms and reception area – a condo or perhaps converted town house or just small hotel). After all, if you lived there you would realistically spend less time in the bars. There was a table outside I could sit at and read and watch life on the street and I would buy a 350 baht (same price as the room) bottle of vodka which would last me 3 nights. OK, hardly an alcoholic yet. I would buy a tonic from the hotel and they were ok with me just sitting outside reading until it got dark. Ironically there were four or five girls around the hotel who were almost certainly available as there was a small bar next door. But I played it cool for the remainder of my trip and didn’t partake until my last couple of nights in Bangkok where I was inexplicably drawn to J One like iron filings to a magnet. Well, after all, I was on holiday.

I remember years ago asking a taxi driver to take me to JONE (I pronounced it like the surname JONES without the s). The logo on the building was confusing to me and I didn’t see the space between the J and ONE. Another time after requesting the same location J ONE (spoken with the space this time), the driver recommended we go to PASSA. Where? We eventually arrive at plaza which I somewhat reluctantly went through with. But that’s often the case with the message joints, it's all a bit of a lottery. I find the smaller shops on the islands more to my liking. Bigger, flasher establishments, although expensive, can be fun. For these places it all depends on the physical attraction to me. I've had a few memorable times from as little as 1000 baht to as much as 3000 baht. There are loads of middle size places (and middle prices) in Bangkok in which the selection is limited. You might get lucky but usually I walk away from them as nothing catches my eye. They are usually off the main drag down a side soi and walking away can feel a bit intimidating at times as there are often up to a dozen Thai males hanging around. But I am getting fairly good at diplomatically saying “I don’t see anyone I like so maybe I will return later”. I’ve often felt pressured into sealing the deal with someone when I know I won't enjoy it and will leave feeling worse than I did before I arrived simply because I settled for the best of a bad bunch. This is never enjoyable and I always feel guilty for wasting my time and money. I might add that I have felt the same way on a number of occasions back home too.

You’ve got to be firm. You are the customer and if they can't deliver the goods then I’m afraid face doesn’t come into it. Remember, I’m not Thai, I’m from the North of Scotland.

Anyway a bit about my current situation and where I am in my life. I’m 51, single, working, never married and never will marry, own a brilliant fisherman’s cottage on the East coast of Scotland, have no debts and have money in the bank and a cool car. I worked for 15 years in IT and have a related degree. Sounds pretty good but am I happy? I suppose the answer to that is, well, sometimes. Incidentally, the car I bought quite recently is a Honda CRZ hybrid, quite a sporty little number and quite out of character for me really. It certainly raised a few eyebrows at work but I guess it’s the sort of thing a single guy might do when he reaches 50. Its not a mid-life crisis ok at least I hope not as I think I already had that experience in my late 40s. To tell you the truth I am no happier now than I was with my last Ford Fiesta.

For the first time in 16 years I am not going to Thailand for a holiday and in fact I haven’t been in the last three years. In this current climate, I need to think long-term. In the good old days (only a few years ago) when the pound was worth 75 baht my budget would have been £1500 for three weeks all in. Flights were around £600 from my local airport to Amsterdam / Charles De Gaulle onwards to Bangkok. There was a time I paid just £399. These prices can still be had but you will probably need to get your way to London first. I prefer flying from my local airport. Just randomly Googling flight prices just now gave me around £700 so I guess my budget for 20 days is now £2000 (including flight).

I am no longer working in IT and have been working on a golf course for the last 6 years. So 2000 pounds is now 1/9 of my current salary. A 20 day trip equates to around £100 a day. I was on holiday in Scotland for most of December and did not spend £100 per day here. There’s not much to spend it on, believe me. To get things in perspective, I collect English 5, 10 and 20 bank notes and stash them in a wallet over the year. Any time I receive these in change I would put them away and take this as spare cash to Thailand. Normally this would amount to around £300. I haven’t been away for three years now and so have accumulated £500 which will be my budget (spending money or loose change) for my holiday here. This will pay for daily expenditure like food, fuel, drink etc. So that’s £500 to be spent here as opposed to £2000 in Thailand. By my third week of holiday here in Scotland I had spent around £ 1000 but that included extras such as £500 for a new bed and some other bits and pieces as you do on holiday. But it's still half of what I would have spent if I’d gone away. And I’ve got something to show for it i.e. a comfy new bed where I can dream of being back in Thailand. Now realistically what would I have to show for yet another month holiday in Thailand other than a sun tan, some t-shirts and cheap software. There’s also the inevitable re-adjustment on returning to sunny Scotland which I always find depressing. The countdown usually begins towards the end of the last week of my trip added to the two days of adjustment at the beginning of the trip and that leaves about three weeks in total. I always overspend on the first few days of the trip until I adjust from Euro prices to Thai prices.

This is the third year of our current recession and people are simply not spending. What’s the first thing people will cut back on in such times – holidays. The second is possibly health club membership although this doesn’t apply to me (though I do work at a golf club). For savers, you can get an average of 2% on a fixed rate for two years for a cash ISA and around 0.5% on your main cash account. You can invest up to £5600 pa on a cash is a and you don’t pay tax on the interest you make. The interest on 5K per year works out around £200. This is as good as you will get investing in the banks here. If I sold up completely i.e. burned all bridges, I could raise £250,000 but this means selling my house and I am not prepared to do this without a trial run of roughly a year. Due to the current climate, it's not a great time to sell. I could rent it out however any time the house is empty means no income. There’s a place next door to me which has been empty all month and I am keeping an eye on this. Inheritance will be significant in the future as well as several small pensions and share investments. I should qualify for old age pension aged 67 as I have contributed 30 years of national insurance payments (providing the authorities don’t shift the goal posts again) and I read recently that this is going to happen and as usual, being British, we will simply bend over and take it up the ass. The longer term plan is to save and invest for the next five years with a view to retiring. Investing 200 k in good stock could generate a 5/10% return on dividends without eating into your capital. Whereas investing in the bank will dwindle away your capital over 20 years. If you have health problems later in life, you could be in trouble. I would certainly keep my assets (cash / property) in the UK.

Ideally, I would like to be able to lock my door and disappear for 6 months during our winter and return in late spring to Scotland for the summer but at the moment I’m not sure my finances will stretch that far at age 60. Living in two countries requires serious cash. It's unlikely I could rent my property for the exact 6-month period I’m not using it as homes are normally rented out on a yearly basis. It's hard to get this to balance in my mind sometimes. The reality is that if I am going to retire in Thailand I will probably need to sell up completely and that’s not an easy decision to make. The main problem living in Scotland is that in the summer it is bearable but in the winter it is miserable and the winters are stretching much longer than the traditional 6 months. We have experienced the worst winter in 50 years here and on Friday temperatures were 4 degrees, wet and windy. I know as I am out working in these conditions on a daily basis. Of course my employer will provide water proofs and boots of the lowest quality so if you want to keep warm and relatively dry (never completely dry) you buy your own.

The cost of living is increasing and yet wages are frozen. For savers it’s a joke due to the shambles that is the UK banking system. I’m not even going to mention the availability of female companionship here as I have completely distanced myself from that whole game. I have totally lost confidence and trust in that arena. It is simply not worth jumping through all the hoops and risk losing everything you have worked for. So to conclude, it seems I am to work in a low paid job in poor conditions for the next 16 years when I may qualify for a pension of around £500 per month. Even if you have paid off your mortgage and have no debts this is not enough to live on. I have zero confidence that things will have improved by that time.

I have an elderly aunt who moved to New Zealand in the seventies. She owns a house worth around £170,000 and about £40,000 in savings (around the same capital I currently have) and is considering returning to Scotland for the remaining years of her life. I suppose she would like to be near family. I would strongly advise her to remain in NZ.

What would I see myself doing in Thailand? I’ve always felt it too hot to play golf. Living the isolated Isaan life? I would like to think I can go there and not necessarily get too involved with anyone. Just live quietly, under the radar and enjoy life be it initially for 6 months. I have spent as long as 3 months there but was playing music and moving around a lot. I think at this stage I would like to settle somewhere quiet but with easy access to a smallish town / city. Hua Hin seems to tick most of the boxes and I seem to be spending more time there. There are good golf courses here. There was a recent comment on Caveman’s exploits along the line of this idyllic life style will grow old eventually.

Now if it does grow old and you have severed all connections in the West then what have you got to return to? This may explain the number of older guys jumping from buildings. Thailand may have been their last chance at a new start in life and things just didn’t work out for whatever reason. I most certainly don’t want to be in that situation.

My mother is in a private care home with Alzheimers which is paid for by my father. If the same thing happens to me when I get older, the authorities can sell your property and assets in order to fund your “care”. Whatever happened to the welfare state in this country? This is a situation I will not tolerate and can only see two solutions. The first is to modify your will such that you give “power of attorney” to a relative (probably my sisters) in which they take ownership of my assets if I get dementia or become ill. The other is to sell up and move. If I did develop problems later in life, I could return home with few assets and hopefully be “cared for” under the national health. I’m not sure I would actually do this but then if you are living in a foreign land and are not able to look after yourself then you will be vulnerable. Food for thought.

I’ve almost certainly been spiked on Samui as I recall one evening walking in Lamai and feeling euphoric and content and physically good and instinctively knew that only a drug could create this mood. Wish I knew what it was. I’m sure it was administered via a drink in a bar as I had no company at the time.

I did try a leaf which is used by the farming community (bai gratom, I believe). It is chewed and increases the heart beat and relaxes the joints of the body. I picked it off the tree but I was offered the same leaf on Koh Tao by a tout but refrained as I believe it is illegal when sold and / or if caught in possession. I’m really not sure about this but we all know the rules when it comes to this particular subject in Thailand or any foreign land (Cambodia aside, it seems).

Is working on a golf course relaxing, say compared to working in an office? It's certainly not physically relaxing for sure and in all jobs these days targets must be met. There is an element of stress in the job. Boredom due to repetitive work is an issue. Winter in particular is hard to bear but even the weather in summer can be miserable, grey and wet. Work is a means to an end and allows me a quiet life. The important thing for me now is that my work is located 2 miles from home with an ASDA in-between. I cannot see myself working on a golf course until I’m 67. Yet I don’t want to return to corporate work commuting to the city some 2 hours per day (a distance of 25 miles return). I think the IT bridge is well and truly burned now anyway as I am now deemed too old and have been away from the industry too long. There are advantages and disadvantages to both lifestyles but the golf course just wins. <FWIW, I love the idea of working outside doing something which uses one's physical labour where you are out in the fresh air and the sun and get fit from work. Seriously, such work sounds like a dream to meStick>

Women play absolutely no role in my life here. I haven’t had any physical contact with any since my last trip (3years ago). I have an almost monk-like existence. I don’t socialise much and never go out to clubs / bars etc in town unless it's connected to music associates but these days that’s kind of over. Believe me, if you saw the kind of drunken idiots on most high streets in the UK most weekends you would want to stay well clear.

There’s a red-light district here but I don’t go there now as my job dictates an early to bed / early to rise lifestyle, however the place is dead anyway. According to newspaper articles the working girls have been driven away from the area (due to a lack of punters) to the main high street and nightclubs etc. I believe the law now makes a punter more vulnerable to prosecution by simply driving around the area. Apparently you can also lose your driving licence for a period if caught. I’m not saying this is a good or bad thing, just pointing out how it works here.

Nowadays, I wouldn’t know as I simply don’t frequent these places. Ten or more years ago there was a reasonable street scene where with a bit of driving around you could find something suitable (some nights better than others). The period I was in IT, I frequented the scene since I had free transport (company car) and free fuel (petrol card). Ah, those were the days. Actually I’m now much better out of the loop.

I would have thought in the middle of a recession the industry would be thriving. Not so. The last time I spent two hours driving around the circuit and saw nothing but skank. Complete waste of time, petrol and energy. There is the escort option but it's too expensive and a little sad, I feel. As far as on-line dating is concerned, I’m not signing up for any of that. There are some that promise no strings attached sexual encounters but frankly I don’t buy it. What’s the catch, where are the hidden cameras and wait for the scam.

Is it any easier in Thailand? Yes. But is this alone a good enough reason to risk selling up and spending the rest of your life there. I think not.

As I pay no rent, I reckon I can now live as cheaply here in Scotland as I would in Thailand. I live a quiet life and earn roughly £250 per week after tax (that’s 12,500 baht per week). I can live comfortably on this and can save around £4000 per year. On that kind of money it's probably just as well that the p4p scene here is practically non-existent. If there was a thriving scene (and I’m sure there probably still is a scene via internet), it's maybe better I don’t know about it. I run a good car, my yearly electricity / heating is around £2000, internet/telephone around £40 monthly and my food requirements are basic. I seldom eat out or use fast food chains. However, dentists, plumbers, joiners etc are expensive. The only reason I can afford to live this way is having paid off my mortgage, being single (i.e. no kids) and having no debts. When I was younger I spent a lot on accruing a large collection of musical instruments which I still use. I was given a sung which is a traditional four-string instrument from a guy I jammed with in a country bar in Hua Hin.

During the take-over of the airport a few years back I ended up in Havana Cuba living in a family home recommended by a tout. I settled into a reasonable routine. I was given the keys to the house and could come and go as I pleased. On one occasion I accompanied the mother and father downstairs as I was leaving. When we exited onto the street, they quickly headed off together with their heads down. It was clear they didn’t want to be seen with me. I reckon they were unlicensed to rent to foreigners. In another place, I was having a meal with the proprietors, a black couple. I had paid for the meal. There was a knock on the door and a Canadian guy I had previously met was looking for me. I had told him the apartment block I had moved to and he had been pressing all the buzzers to try to locate me. He joined us for the meal, however the atmosphere had very quickly changed on his arrival. When he left, I was quizzed by the couple as to who he was. I tried to explain that part of the reason we travel is to meet fellow travellers and that we don’t usually ask to see their passports. The couple were convinced he was undercover. Even I began to feel that this was possible. He spoke fluent Spanish. These people were extremely paranoid and made me feel uneasy. I was glad to return home (not a feeling I often had returning home from Thailand to the bleak Scottish winter I might add).

All in all it was not a great place to be but it was an interesting experience. I did have a liaison or two but it always felt too stressful as if the door would come crashing down during the act. I still have a clear image in my head of some of my times there so it wasn’t all bad. It was hard to get out of Havana without being accompanied by an official. I was invited by a hotel tout to his home where he would cook me rabbit. We left on a public bus (which I didn’t pay for) and arrived in his neighbourhood. We walked through a large housing estate to get to his cottage. It reminded me of any poorer class estate in my own city (most of which you probably wouldn’t be safe in as a visitor or resident). It was sunny and the people seemed happy enough. His place was small, modest and a bit dishevelled. It had chickens in the yard and rabbits in hutches outside. I chose my rabbit, it was killed and served to me two hours later. It was probably the best meal I ate in Cuba.

As someone who is used to working, retiring suddenly offers a huge amount of time on your hands. In Thailand you would need something positive to fill that gap that would not involve the bar scene. I really think that this is the crucial ingredient to a successful retirement. On the golf course at home, I see the older retired guys playing during the week in all weathers. They are a decent group of people but I cannot see myself being satisfied with this type of life style in my later years. Not in Scotland anyway.

An option would be to enrol on a Thai language course. I would say I am at an advanced tourist / taxi level and can read to a reasonable level. It's been particularly hard to keep working at it in my spare time and will be especially difficult if I don’t return this year. I have invested a lot of time on the language and it is one of my main reasons for wanting to continue re-visiting. The trouble is there’s not really the option to use it here. Although my friend speaks fluent Thai I feel kind of awkward speaking to a non-native in Thai. It feels a bit fake. Why are two western middle age men trying to communicate in an alien language?

It's now three years since my last visit and not much has changed in that time. It has been the wettest spring on record with low temperatures. Work is hard and challenging with little financial reward. Everything is increasing in price and wages have been frozen for the last year. I read that in the UK we are today earning the same as we were in 2003 but obviously inflation and prices have increased dramatically over the same period. I cannot justify going anywhere on holiday and I love and really miss travelling. I still miss Thailand and know that one day I will return there. The Thai option (and music) are still my main obsessions. However I don’t want to spend my time constantly wishing I was somewhere else.

I enjoy and read all of the readers' submissions on this site so keep up the good work, guys. I am always interested in hearing about every day situations from people who are living in Thailand or spending a lot of time there. More information on prices, rent, visas, good deals, logic, language, travel, news stories, comedy, weird situations, relationships etc are the sort of stories I like. Yeah and don’t forget the ladies. It's all good.

If I’m honest, I feel some of the submissions are a little over-analytical regarding Thai / Western relations but then I’m not looking for a relationship. I’m not overly keen on the fictional story featuring the farang freelance detective or whatever. Too much dialogue, I feel.

My view on the recent debate regarding why there are so many transsexuals in Thailand is “follow the money”. These guys can earn better money as girls.

I would like to follow up this sub in the future but it will depend on my future travel plans. I will return to Thailand of that I am sure but I would also like to explore other options. Perhaps this submission has touched on my feelings of not having visited for the last three years. It's almost like an alcoholic or junkie who has been clean for two years. It's that powerful. Having said that, I have enjoyed the last three weeks of my time here in Scotland (maybe because I haven’t been at work) and look forward to further adventures in the future. To all the people who have been brave enough to make the move I ask,

Is the grass really greener on the other side?

Grasshopper




Stickman says:

At first I thought this was a bit rambling but then I really got in to it and enjoyed it. It's always nice to read about people when they are prepared to open up and tell you about themselves, especially when they are frank and don't make themselves out to be Bill Gates trapped in David Beckham's body with an appendage resembling John Holmes'.

Personally, I'd love to be able to split my time between Thailand and my homeland, New Zealand. As long as I do what I am currently doing, that is not really possible as I need to be in Thailand to run the site. Even a couple of weeks away makes things very difficult to keep on top of. The other issue is that the best weather in Thailand is December through to February and the best time of year in New Zealand for weather is January through to March – so there is overlap which is a nuisance. When it's the rainy season in Thailand it's Winter in NZ!

For those who are thinking of moving to Thailand and I guess especially those who intend to retire, keep your plans loose. I cannot stress enough how much Thailand is changing, especially for those who are planning retirement. Prices are moving and the way foreigners are received is perhaps not quite the same as it once was.