Living In Thailand Blog
Friday 16th January 2015
A regular reader wrote to ask whether I would be continuing with this blog. I mentioned last month that I wouldn't be continuing, but it is only fair that I elaborate a little. There are two main reasons for not continuing, and they can both be seen in the photo below.
Dream World, Bangkok
Parenthood - even at this stage in my life - has come as something of a shock. I wouldn't describe myself as a control freak, but for the first 50 years of my life I had a lot of control over both my time and finances. That is no longer the case.
I will briefly describe my activities over the past week.
Last Saturday was Children's Day in Thailand and apparently Prayuth, who has given himself the mission to return happiness to Thailand, ordered the local airport base to open its doors to the public.
I had wanted to see what was inside for a long time and was quite looking forward to visiting. However, that was also the case for about half the population of five provinces in southern Thailand. The base is about five minutes from where I live, but it took around two hours to get there and two hours to get back again.
The resultant traffic jam made the Friday evening rush hour traffic jam in Bangkok look like a walk in the park. It was horrendous. I hate crowds and traffic jams, but not to have done anything with the children on Children's Day would have been unthinkable as far as my wife was concerned.
RTAF Wing 56, Hat Yai
On Sunday we flew to Bangkok for my daughter's hospital appointment on Monday. The Nok Air flight was very busy and I wonder whether this had anything to do with the Air Asia crash in Indonesia.
Since 2004 when the market was opened up to budget airlines in Thailand, a lot of Thais have started flying around the country as opposed to travelling by road. For roughly the same price it is a lot quicker and safer.
However, there was a news article last week saying that with so much competition in the sector, prices are so low now that budget airlines aren't making any profit. It is therefore likely that fares will start to rise soon.
After the hospital visit we spent the rest of the day at Dream World just outside Bangkok. I was pleasantly surprised about many aspects of this day trip.
Even though it is quite a distance from central Bangkok, taxi fares in Thailand are so low that the journey isn't expensive - about Bt300. On the way I was convinced that when we arrived I would get into an argument involving dual pricing, but that didn't happen.
I read the pricing information in Thai, walked up to the counter, asked for two adult tickets and one child ticket, and there were no problems at all. I then asked the woman if they had a dual pricing policy, because it is very unusual in Thailand for any attraction NOT to have a dual pricing policy.
She told me they did, but only for tourists. Presumably, by having the conversation in Thai she realised that I wasn't a tourist. She said that foreigners who work in Thailand get the Thai price. "You do work here, don't you?" "Yes," I told her, even though I don't.
Our daughter loved Dream World, as did my wife. It is a very nicely thought out and maintained attraction, proving that when Thais have the inclination to do something well, they can.
Yes, it is an artificial attraction, but it is no more artificial than the plethora of 'authentic' floating markets that have been opened in Thailand in recent years purely to attract tourists.
The staff inside were pleasant and it was good to see that food and drink prices were comparable to outside and that there was no obvious profiteering.
While walking around the farm inside I was approached by a fellow farang who asked me if he could ask me a question. When I agreed he started speaking in Thai to a TV camera. It was Adam Bradshaw, who seems to be making a bit of a name for himself as a TV celebrity in Thailand and who aspires to be the next Andrew Biggs.
He has a real gift for languages and apparently learnt to speak Thai in two years. He speaks Thai very well - much better than me - and much better than most other farangs living in Thailand, even those who have lived in the country for many years.
He's a nice guy and has made a huge effort learning the language, which many farangs in Thailand are too lazy to do. I wish him much success.
Adam Bradshaw with my two children
The area around our regular hotel in Bangkok near to Victory Monument has changed quite a lot and the changes are good. The ugly row of parked minivans has gone and the broken, uneven sidewalk has been repaired. It is now actually possible to push a baby buggy on the sidewalk without having to walk in the road.
Motorcyclists still go the wrong way up the Soi, which is one-way, but I guess that some things in Thailand will never change.
Since Prayuth came to power he has been trying to fix a lot of problems in Thailand, but out in the provinces I have seen no change at all. My impression is that changes occur in Bangkok first and they may possibly occur in the provinces later, although it seems to based on a province's proximity to Bangkok.
On Tuesday we flew back and there was a mountain of laundry and other jobs to attack. One of the great things about Thailand is that you can buy a lot more house for your money compared to other countries. I have a much larger house than I could afford in the UK, but with a large house comes a lot more cleaning and maintenance.
The weather has changed dramatically in the last couple of weeks. A few weeks ago people were worried about possible flooding, but now it is like an open-air sauna again. With so much rain and then so much sun my garden is in sore need of some serious maintenance (as is the fishpond) and I started to do these jobs on Wednesday and Thursday in between the morning and afternoon school runs.
The only time I get some time to myself is when my daughter is at school. Once she is home I forget about trying to do my own jobs. Our year old son also puts quite a strain on my wife and I have to take him off her hands when she is close to breaking point.
We get no help from my wife's family, who are all too busy, and of course my family aren't here. Occasionally, a neighbour will help us with the children but it doesn't happen very often.
Today is Teacher's Day in Thailand and the school is closed. My wife went out to help her sister with something and I was left with my daughter and also the kids next door. In addition to looking after them and cooking them lunch I set about ironing the third machine load of clothes since we got back from Bangkok.
This is how it is every week and shopping trips and trips to clinics and hospitals with sick children (or after fights with cats) present more demands on my time.
With so little time available I can only do those things that are beneficial to me, beneficial to my family, or which earn money. Doing this blog doesn't tick any of those boxes.
I added the option recently of being able to book hotels through these blog pages. I was hoping that if a few people booked hotels, then the little I earned in commission would be justification for carrying on. Sadly, that didn't happen. One very kind reader in Bangkok helped in this way, but he proved to be the exception.
Almost 100% of the financial support I need to continue running this site comes from my local guide to Hat Yai and I will be continuing doing work on this part of the site. I have already started running down other sections of the site.
It's unfortunate because writing here is something that I quite enjoy. Then again, I also enjoy disappearing into scenic and/or interesting parts of Thailand with a camera to explore and record my experiences, but this is something else that I have had to abandon temporarily.
You can have anything in life, but you can't have everything. Once you decide to have children, you have to give up a lot of other things.
Will I start again? As Buddhism tells us, nothing in life is permanent. Once my son starts going to school it should free up some more time, but the two children will continue to keep us busy for a number of years yet.
The answer is that I don't know. I don't want to make any commitments that I can't honour, and I don't want to say that I will stop only to start again. I have stopped writing on a number of occasions and it is ridiculous to keep stopping and starting with no continuity.
Children, especially young children, change everything in life and at the moment I just don't know when life will return to any semblance of normality.
The other thing that I have been wanting to do for years is to rewrite everything that I wrote previously about Thailand on the other pages in this site. Although I still agree with some things, I wrote a lot of stuff too soon and my views have changed with more knowledge and experience.
As a result of doing this over the years I have been contacted by many people. There have been a few 'odd' people, but on several occasions I have been overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of strangers. There are many problems in the world and many bad people, but there are also a lot of great people too.
A big thank you to all of those people.
Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.
One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. Each link on the right will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region. Agoda hotel rates are usually always the lowest and I have received good customer service, therefore I am happy to recommend the company to other people. Here is some analysis I did regarding booking hotels in Southeast Asia.
Booking.com used to be more expensive than Agoda, but when I have checked hotel prices recently I have found their rates to be quite competitive. Unlike Agoda, you don't need to pay at the time of booking with Booking.com - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, Booking.com show you total prices whereas Agoda show you a price and then add on 17% for tax and service charge.
If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined.
Images of Thailand