On another Thai forum, one filled with piss and vinegar, a lot of rancor gets voiced back and forth over the new visa changes. I imagine most readers and writers that get published here in addition to Stick can't be bothered as much.
I find Stickmanbangkok.com a much more interesting place with better writing, more mature and informative dialogue, and less bitterness. The other site does have its merits (not sure if Stick would care for me to drop the site's name). It has more immediate gratification when one seeks advice or inquires about an aspect of life in LOS. But of course…the bitterness. A bitterness that outdoes the occasional vitriolic reader's submission one happens upon here.
Stick mentioned somewhere (recently?) about how some people complain about the dated feel of this site. I rather like it, and I think sites largely made of text were really what the net was always best at. Video, GIFs, flash, music, animation and layered, framed design all take up bandwidth and make a website seem 'busy'.
Text is cheap and simple. In the military they have an acronym: KISS. 'Keep it simple, stupid.' In the beginning, there was the word. I imagine in the end, only the word will remain and we will forget all about YouTube, but then again, I tend to think apocalyptically.
Anyway, on to the point of this sub. I read on this other forum a lot of guys who advise people with visa troubles to just scram to another exotic locale. Usually they say Cambodia, but also Indonesia, Vietnam, India and one guy actually claimed South Nepal is pleasant.
These posters seem genuinely perplexed about why people might hold on to expat life in Thailand as much as they can. They don't seem to understand why people prefer Thailand above all else, and why the prospect of relocation to another country nearby for the long term just doesn't count as a viable option. Of course, these gents all likely have their lives in LOS stabilized on retirement visas, and they probably don't even ask themselves how they would feel about giving up Bangkok for Phnom Penh.
So I would like to address this and go over some reasons I feel that Thailand has any other place trumped 'by spades' (a idiom from contract bridge, had to look that one up before I used it). I myself spent a month in China recently and while I found the country quite interesting, the prospect of living there long term depressed me. Same with Kuala Lumpur, a very modern country, more diverse than Thailand arguably. But something about it…it lacks the panache of Thailand.
Now, going over prospects of wintering in a foreign land, all I can think of is Thailand. I wish I could resolve myself to Mexico, as the round trip air tickets there cost around 300 – 400 USD, I already know the language, it's a shorter flight (in case of family emergency), and no visa required. Furthermore, in Mexico one can get hired without a work visa with ease (relative to LOS). But still, Thailand is all I can think about…
So why Thailand? What does it have that no place else does? I read once, somewhere online, an opinion that 'Thailand has perfected tourism'. And I would have to agree.
What's your fancy? Women? But of course… Rock climbing, diving, other assorted adventure sports? Yes, and cheap, with the infrastructure to boot. Massages, food, clubbing, elephants, Muay Thai, drinking yourself into a stupor on a pittance? It's got it all. Sure, other countries have those attractions too but not with the established variety of Thailand.
But another reason: the existence of already present expat and backpacker culture. Sure, Malaysia has more drastic cultural diversity but Thailand has WAY more Western expats. One can pretty much avoid culture shock in places like BKK, Phuket, Pattaya, and Chang Mai. No matter where one goes in those places, one can find Western amenities and hear a Western language spoken.
Personally, as much as I have a fascination for foreign cultures, I still get nervous at the thought of isolation from familiarity. Expats in Thailand who live up country and away from the main cities, I commend you. I couldn't do so easily and without some mental distress.
Cambodia has a lot of expats. Phnom Penh is filled with them. Not only that, but with the ease one can get a business visa there, why not? Well, I'd say because it just doesn't have that spark Bangkok does. Bangkok is a truly global city.
Personally I would just feel like I am waiting to die in Phnom Penh. I'd rather live within a few hours of Bangkok than in the middle of PP. But I am used to big city life, having lived in both LA and NYC. Even now as I write this in San Diego, I miss the drug-like high of a metropolis where a dull moment never happens.
Of course the medical infrastructure of Thailand is tops. One of the best in the world, prices factored. Medical tourism is a thing, it combines two of the biggest global industries (as an aside, some economists argue that tourism is a bigger industrial sector than any other, including energy and oil). While I have no current health problems, I certainly will at some point, and I can see why one would include this when considering where to base oneself.
But the women…perhaps I have deluded myself and all that really makes Thailand a winner over India is the abundance of willing ladies and relaxed sexual mores. But I don't think this is the case. Thailand has it all and I look at the bigger picture. I don't consider myself a 'sex tourist' but rather I like to have multiple reasons for any decision and action I take.
I also have a particularly keen sense of landscape. I fancy Karst topography (limestone cliffs) and mountains in general. All my favourite places in the world (that I have visited OR seen in pictures) are where mountains and sea cliffs meet ocean. The land has an effect on consciousness, I surmise. Indeed the rather young school of 'psychogeography' would agree. Some people have a similar such sense but more of architecture: how building design effects things like productivity and mental state.
Cambodia lacks the varied topography. Few (if any?) Karst formations exist along Cambodian coastline. Vietnam of course has Ha Long Bay, arguably more beautiful that the Phi Phi Islands, but still…various factors here. Malaysia does not have an equal. Indonesia and the Philippines are islands and I prefer surface travel over flying…the constant cost benefit analysis continues, and Thailand always manages to come out on top.
So, why Thailand? Why does it haunt me so? I have some ideas. And right now I have no real desire to travel anywhere else. But, as I always like to mention, money is the biggest factor. 'Bang for your buck' so to speak. No other country in the entire world offers everything Thailand does, most especially for an equal or lesser price. I don't see this changing anytime soon. Cambodia has the potential, but it will take as long as Thailand took to get to where Thailand is, I believe.
I think Thailand's appeal for expats is a combination of the warm weather, the relatively low cost of living, the decent i.e. good enough infrastructure, the food, the abundance of other expats and of course, the local females.