10 Reasons I Like and Don’t Like Being in Thailand

natalie with Thai friendsOut of the EFT Box

For this article, I decided to deviate from the theme of this website altogether!

Instead of writing about EFT and how to use it to transform your thoughts and emotions and your life…

…I’m instead going to tell you a little about my current life in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

I Left My Comfort Zone to Travel the World

As you may know, I’ve recently sold or given away nearly all of my possessions and left Tucson, Arizona for an experiment in international living.

While the journey from the dream to being here, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, hasn’t been easy, it has been and continues to be interesting!

In the process of selling my house and leaving Arizona, I faced shame, hopelessness and fear, triggered by all sorts of seemingly unrelated events.

And, in fact, those same feelings continue to wash over me from time to time.

Thankfully, because of my continued work with EFT, they are becoming noticeably weaker. These feelings of shame, hopelessness and fear are, for me, the core issues I continue to learn about and make peace with.

Now that I’ve sold my house, my truck, my furniture and given away truckloads of “stuff,” I’m facing the reality of being a foreigner in a strange land.  I plan to stay in Thailand for around three months.  After that, I’ll likely choose to explore more of SE Asia, and maybe even more of Thailand.

But I’ll figure that all out as I go along. I imagine myself ending up somewhere in Latin America.

My Personal Travel Guide

Frequent Flyer MasterChris Guillebeau, from The Art of Non-Conformity, has been a huge inspiration for me.

He’s just published a book of the same name and at the time of this writing, he’s in the midst of a US book tour.  You can meet him!

Anyway, Chris is a world traveler who lives in Portland, OR, when he’s not traveling and changing the world. He’s written a couple of great eBooks that helped me figure out how to finance my travels. If you are also interested in international travel, you might want to check out Travel Ninja and Frequent Flyer Master.

But back to the topic of this post.  Some glimpses of some of the things I’m liking and not liking about living in Thailand.

Stuff I Like

Chiang Mai Thanen Market

1.  Thai Food

I’m an open-minded and adventurous eater, so I come home with something I’ve never seen or tasted before every time I go to the market, which is about 5 times a week.

So far, I’ve only eaten a few things I would never eat again. Most of the food is very flavorful and super fresh.

There are many recognizable fruits and veggies like carrots, cabbage, onions, tomatos, squash, cucumbers, watermelon, grapefruit, mango, papaya.  And there are many I don’t recognize, which I often buy anyway.

friendly thai peopleI love the creativity and variety of the food.

2. Thai People

I’m finding Thai people to be happy, easy-going, friendly and helpful.

Communicating is usually possible (if simple and basic), even though I only know a few words in Thai.

Most Thais in Chiang Mai don’t speak much English, and understand even less.

So it’s all about pointing and counting on fingers and gesturing and playing a little Charades to communicate.   Amazingly, it often works.

>I would especially like to get to know more about the Buddhist monks here.

I went out early one morning to watch the monks go out from the monasteries with their begging bowls.

I took a ton of photos, all from my lap or hip, because it just didn’t feel right to be obvious about it.

Got some cool shots that way!

Women are not supposed to touch, sit next to nor speak to them here.  But they have “monk chats” at the temples and apparently that’s a legitimate way I can speak to a monk.

I would also like to contribute to their begging bowl on their morning barefoot walk around the city.  Pun tells me it’s ok for women to give them food.

And I’ve made some Thai friends.

There’s Lee, who has a cool coffee shop that supports the mountain people (his relatives) who grow the coffee.  I’ll probably do the 3-day trip he’s doing to his village in late Nov.

There’s Pun, girlfriend of Stephen, my TEFL teacher.

We’ve been to the food market together, the night market and Dio Suthep, a Buddhist temple on the mountain outside Chiang Mai.

There’s Oar, the soon-to-be-wife of Gordon, from Canada, who went with Pun andme to the night market.

And there’s Om and Add, who work here, where I live, have taken English classes from me and who help me in countless ways.

I’m trying to hook Om up with Lee, because they are both single and terrific people :)

3. Chiang Mai Expats

There are lots.

Even in my, mostly Thai part of the city, there are lots of international expats.

And even though I didn’t leave the US to meet and hang out with Americans all over the world, it can be a relief to be able to speak freely in my own language, not needing to shorten every sentence and simplify everything I say.

And I’ve joined the Chiang Mai Geeks, a group that meets weekly to talk about all things related to computers and the internet.  I felt right at home with that group on my first visit (even though there were only 2 women and 19 men – well maybe because of that!).

4. Transportation

It’s easy and inexpensive to get around the city.  The huge Thanen Market is just 4 blocks from my apartment, so it’s a short walk (and I LOVE markets).

There are songtaos and tuk tuks to take me anywhere quickly.  A songtao is 20 Baht or about 65 cent US and a tuk tuk costs a little over a dollar.

But the best of all is that I’ve rented a bicycle (350 baht a week, US $10).  Next week, since I’ve decided to stay in Chiang Mai for a while, I plan to buy one and sell it when I leave.

5. The Freedom to Do My Work

When I dreamed up this move, part of the dream was living in an inexpensive place with the time, the space and good internet so I could work on my website and create all the cool products I’ve been dreaming up over the years.

My apartment is 4500 baht a month (US$150).  Food costs me less than $5 per day. Transportation averages $3/day.  My fun and adventures come to about $30 per week.

So if I had no other expenses, I could be  living on less than $500 per month.  And that includes the occasional trip to a mountain temple, Thai massage or the ticklish fish foot cleaning I had yesterday.

I am happy to report that in many ways, I’m living my dream!

Now, travel, like life, is seldom all wonderful.  But isn’t it the contrast that makes it rich and worth living?

Here’s what I don’t like so much about living in Thailand.

I Don’t Like

1.  Thai Food

Know the essence of Thai food?

Chili and sugar.

Funny I never realized that with all the Thai restaurants I’ve eaten at in the US.

I’ve taken to buying the salads they make fresh for you in the market.  The two I’ve tried are green papaya and grapefruit.

Totally fresh.

Totally sweet.

Dangerously hot.

So I’ve made friends with one of the salad-makers. We have this deal where she gets my approval before putting anything in the salad.

Garlic?  Yes

Fish sauce?  Yes

Fermented crab?  No

Tiny dried shrimp?  Yes

A huge chunk of pasty sugar? Just a little

Tiny fiery green chilis?  No!

The first time she made me the grapefruit salad I let her put just one tiny green chili in it (they usually put five of these, the tiniest and most deadly of their chilies).

My stomach burned and churned for hours.

I pick the chilis out of everything I buy. They are really, really hot.

In restaurants, the condiments are available on the side – wonderful for me.

I’ve seen Thais add 4 heaping teaspoons of sugar to a bowl of noodle soup.

The pic on the right is a sort of giant grapefruit.  Guess what’s in the packet for dipping?

Sugar, salt and chili, of course!

Actually, it’s quite yummy to my taste.

2. Thai Language

Communicating is VERY frustrating.

One day I went to the market armed with the Thai word for duck – pet.

How hard can that be, right?

Ok, so I get the way they don’t say a real tongue-tapping t, but more of a combo of a t and a d and a th (I was a reading teacher – I dig this pronunciation stuff).

So I’m practicing my word on the way to the market – pet, peth, ped.  I’m so confident I’ll get duck.

I get to a place and can’t really tell if it’s duck or chicken (probably totally obvious to a Thai 2-year old).

Confidently, I say “PET!”

“Huh?” The look on their faces says it all.

“Peth!”  I repeat, a little less confident.

Then, “Ped,” starting to wilt a bit.

Inspiration hit.  I know how to quack!  Did my excellent duck imitation.

They were grinning now, looking like they were trying to stifle a laugh.

I’m not sure how it happened, but eventually they got the idea that I wanted duck.  All three pointed to a place over there, somewhere amongst the hundreds of venders in the market.

Anyway, I got my duck.  p.s.  Didn’t like it much – too sweet!

I’ve found that the main difficulty in communicating, whether in English or Thai is pronunciation.  Even when they speak English, I often can’t understand them.

Rule #1 for understanding a Thai speaking English.  Turn all starting r’s into l’s. “Go light,” means “Go right.”

3. Chiang Mai Expats

OK, here’s the thing with the expats here.

They are generally not friendly to other expats!

I don’t know.  Maybe that’s the way it is world-round.  I’ve got here and that’s a good thing and I don’t want any more of you here and so to discourage you I’m not going to make eye contact or say hello or acknowledge your presence in any way.

Well, I hate it. My potential English-speaking friends – ignoring me!

The Thai people I pass on the street are much friendlier.

And then there’s the farang men.  Farang is the Thai word for foreigner.

They are nearly always with Thai women. Hey, I love Thai women too, but don’t like the feeling that caucasian men find me, and women like me, unattractive and undesirable.

4. Transportation

It’s tame compared to many countries I’ve visited, but it’s still pretty wild.

I feel safe enough riding in a Sangtao or Tuk Tuk (even though a good jolt could toss you right out of either and into the famous Chiang Mai moat), but on my bicycle it’s clear I’m risking my life.

THE hardest thing of all is communicating with the Sangtao drivers.

It is so hard to say a Thai word and be understood!

Heck, it’s so hard to say an English word that they know and be understood.

There are things you have to do with your voice that go way beyond pronouncing the letters.  And my ear and mouth just haven’t got it.

Here’s how I survived the challenge of communicating to a Songtao driver today.  I said “Eh-po.”  And it worked!

Can you guess what English word that was supposed to be?

Airport.  (Remember, you gotta drop the r’s.)

Ok, here’s another thing that bugs me.

They always want to charge me way more than the going rate.  You’re supposed to be able to take a sangtao anywhere in the city for 20 baht.  Right?  Not me.  They ALWAYS try to charge me 40, 50 or even 100 baht ($3).  It’s very frustrating.

I know, I know, tap on it, Natalie!

5. The Freedom to Do My Work

Well, yes, I do have freedom.  I have all day, every day.

But maybe too much freedom is not such a good thing.

Or maybe I just like to struggle (I’ve tapped on that one a lot too).  I complain when I have too much to do.  Now I’m complaining that I don’t have enough to do.

Actually, I came to Thailand to take a course in teaching English as a second language (TESL).  I figured that would be a good way to make some money while I create some products for my EFT website.

That’s given me some structure and in between class and assignments, I’ve been making videos for my new EFT manual and working with Mond, from the Philippines, on creating the new look and feel for the site.

So, I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s become a bit of a habit of mine to whine and think I have problems.

So, I’ve decided to change that.  To become my biggest supporter, encourager and cheerleader.  I’ll probably write more on that, because it’s a hugely valuable shift.

So, I can say now, with confidence and conviction…

…my life is terrific!

And lately I’ve been congratulating myself on how much progress I’ve made toward creating the dream I dreamed two years ago on a trip to Costa Rica.

I’d love to hear just anything you have to say about this longest ever post and my Thailand likes and dislikes.


p.s. One of the best travelers to learn from is Chris Guillebeau.  Check out what I learned that got me to Thailand from LA, nearly free.

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About the Author

Natalie Hill is a Transformational Coach for women entrepreneurs. She loves empowering women to bust through their blocks so they can be who they were born to be. Contact Natalie at Google+

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