Living In Thailand Blog
Thursday 31st March 2011
With more bad flooding in Thailand at a time of the year when the weather should be blazing hot because we are very close to the peak of the traditional hot season, how has this affected tourism?
I don't live in a farang tourist area and normally I steer clear of those places but here are some bits and pieces I've picked up from various sources.
My parents and brother have been spending a lot of time in Phuket recently at my brothers new house. My parents were there a few days ago and said the rain was torrential but they didn't see any flooding.
Many people originally from Phattalung have moved to Hat Yai to find work and what I've heard isn't good. Phattalung must be one of the least developed provinces in Thailand. This is a good thing in many respects because it hasn't been ruined by tourism, but neither has the infrastructure been developed much and there isn't much in the way of flood defences.
I visited Lum-Bpum a little while ago and it was already flooded in some areas. I chatted with the owner of the Lum-Bpum resort hotel and she told me that the hotel was flooded three times between November 2010 and January 2011.
There were lots of workers there rebuilding the hotel. I don't know for sure but I suspect that the hotel has probably been flooded again. A Phattalung resident told me there had been two meter floods in Lum-Bpum.
Nakhon Sri Thammarat seems to have been hit hardest, but - like Phattalung - it is a province that doesn't see too many farang tourists.
Surat Thani has also been hit hard, as have Chumpon and Krabi provinces. Samui and Tao islands in the Gulf of Thailand have had a lot of water and so have the tourist beaches of Krabi. Apparently, the airport on Samui has been closed.
A lot of scruffy farang kee-nok backpackers hanging around airport lounges have become unsuspecting TV stars on Thai news this week.
Satun and Trang have some islands that attract tourists and I suspect that these are also quite wet right now.
I read something recently that the rain was so heavy in Pattaya recently that some people there thought a tsunami had occurred!
When will it end?
Every time I look at the Thai Meteorological Department web site they seem to have extended their flood warning and they don't give a definite end date.
I heard yesterday that there will be heavy rain for another two days before it stops. However, I don't think that anyone really knows.
Hat Yai's flood defences are actually very good. I saw some workers from the municipality cleaning out storm drains yesterday and after several days of heavy rain I haven't seen any sign of flooding.
The same thing actually happened last year just before the big flood. It rained heavily for several days and there was no flooding in town.
What I didn't realise, however, was that outside of town there were some huge reservoirs filling up. It was the water released from these reservoirs that caused the actual flooding.
What this means is that individual towns, such as Hat Yai, can build their own flood defences but unless there are flood defences everywhere it won't do any good because in extreme conditions the water will come in from outside.
Wednesday 30th March 2011
The torrential rain has finally stopped (for the time being, at least) and according to the Thai Meteorological Department the storm is now on its way towards the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal.
The current La Niña conditions that have been in place for a while have thrown the world's weather into turmoil. At this time of year in southern Thailand I should be roasting. In previous years at this time of year it has been too hot to spend any time outside so I normally just lock myself in an air-conditioned room during the daytime and go out in the evenings.
The temperature as I write is 27 degrees Centigrade so I can't say it is cold, but with so much rain and constantly overcast skies it has actually felt cold compared to normal. We haven't had to use the A/C and I've been turning my shower heater to maximum. I'm really grateful at the moment that I don't have to shower Thai-style with only cold water.
In previous years I remember big electrical storms around Songkran time but nothing like this constant heavy rain for several days at a time.
I know that I overreact at times but after experiencing a nasty flood recently and then, just a few months later, seeing more flood scenes in this region on TV and hearing more flood warnings, it was all too much to take.
The big flood last November was bad enough but now we have a car, a new baby and two cats, which we didn't have then. Taking care of these things would all add further difficulties in the event of a further flood.
We have just reserved a new house. The foundations haven't even gone down yet and it will be about a year before it's ready. It's quite large and will satisfy all our space requirements for many years. The price was quite expensive for Thailand but I would imagine that a similar house in the part of England where I come from would probably be 4-5 times more expensive. Everything is relative.
My original plan was to wait a few years before buying a house, mainly because of financial reasons. I wanted to wait for the stock markets to pick up and, hopefully, for the UK pound to Thai Baht exchange rate to improve. However, I don't have the peace of mind I need at the moment and you can't put a price on peace of mind.
The rented house and the area we are in now are OK but many of the local residents have very little consideration for others. There is rubbish dumped everywhere around the neighbourhood, except where it should be dumped, and some people think nothing of blaring out loud music at 11pm.
Last week Bpom observed two Thai men throwing an old mattress from the third floor of their building on to a piece of unused land just opposite our house. I find this kind of behaviour unbelievable but unfortunately it is quite common here. Some people seem to regard any spare piece of land as a place where they can dispose of their waste.
The roads around here are crazy in the evenings with teenagers racing up and down on their motorbikes at breakneck speed with huge, silly grins on their faces. Not only are they dangerous but the young Thai boys screw around with their exhausts and manage to make their Honda 125cc Waves sound like Harley Davidson choppers. The roar as they race past the house wakes us and the baby up frequently.
The development that our new house is on is quite expensive and the Thais that will be able to afford to buy houses there won't act the same way. It will be a lot more peaceful.
Most importantly, it's on high ground that doesn't flood so that is something else we won't need to worry about. We just need to wait for the house to be finished now and and in the meantime hope that the coming rainy season doesn't bring more floods.
A constant risk of flooding every time it rains heavily (while living in a country where heavy rain is a normal part of the weather system) is something that I simply can't live with.
(And now, just as I finish writing, the heavy rain has returned and it seems heavier than ever. Will it never end?)
Monday 28th March 2011
When I first arrived in Thailand I had no commitments, no responsibilities, no work, and consequently I was free to do whatever I wanted to do (my situation has changed somewhat these days).
I used this carefree period in my life as an opportunity to do some travelling around different parts of Thailand.
One thing I thought was strange was that whenever I mentioned my travel plans to a local Thai, their faces would develop a highly concerned look and they would tell me that wherever I was going was dangerous.
According to some Thai friends of mine, Nakhon Sri Thammarat was full of cutthroats and murderers, Trang was full of people who would add drugs to my drinks and then rob me, Phattalung was full of teenagers who stood on road bridges throwing rocks at cars, northern Thailand was full of liars and thieves, etc etc.
I visited these places - along with others - and there were never any problems. The people I met were fine and, like the majority of Thais, they took pleasure in trying to help foreigners.
In all cases, the people who had told me about danger somewhere had never been there themselves, or had been and not experienced any problems. However, not experiencing any problems personally didn't stop them from telling others it was dangerous.
A few years ago I was just about to go somewhere and I was speaking to a young, educated Thai girl. She started going on about how dangerous this place was (I can't remember where it was) and so I challenged her. I wanted to know why she insisted on repeating all this nonsense.
She had never been so I asked her why she was telling me it was dangerous. She told me that other people had told her and she just repeats what she is told without knowing any facts. It's the Thai way.
This is what happens all the time. There might be one highly unusual incident, or it could be an urban myth or an old wive's tale but in no time at all it's as if whatever is being said is a hard fact that happens all the time.
Why am I talking about this now? There is a reason.
We have two cats and now we have a baby. Without fail, every single Thai who knows this tells my wife that having cats around a baby is highly dangerous because cat fur will get into the baby's lungs.
They have no facts, no knowledge, and no personal experience but it's something somebody has told them so they then repeat it to everyone else. Bpom is now totally convinced of the danger and my poor innocent cats have been completely demonised. The door to our bedroom stays firmly shut and I get an angry look if one of the cats gets near the baby.
Along with my two brothers, I was raised in a house that always had cats and none of us have any problems. My brother in Singapore adopted an abandoned street cat and my niece has no problems. She gets an allergic reaction whe she encounters dogs but with cats she has no problem - probably because she has built up some immunity from living with Tabby.
Cats lose fur and they carry some dirt, but there is dust and dirt everywhere. Our cats are house cats and they are spotlessly clean.
I don't believe in wrapping up kids in cotton wool because they need to be exposed to the world in order to develop immunity. Without being rude, my wife's brothers and sisters don't live in the cleanest houses in Thailand and I would suspect the baby is exposed to a lot more dirt when she visits her aunts and uncles than she does when she encounters one of our cats.
I had a bit of an argument with Bpom this morning about this subject. Her response was that 'lots of babies' have had a problem. I asked her who and, of course, she was unable to answer.
We've all heard the urban myth about the guy waking up in a bath full of ice sipping a drink with a note informing him that his kidneys have been stolen.
We all know the story but, of course, we never hear the name of the person or any real details. Of course we don't, because it is just an urban myth without a grain of truth. (You've got to be Kidneying)
The cats do pose a risk to the baby. They are quite big now and their claws are sharp. They would never intentionally hurt anyone but when they get excited and chase each other all over the house there is a risk they could accidentally jump on the baby.
I'm aware of this and take precautions but I'm getting a little tired of all the other rubbish. The problem for Bpom is that what I'm telling her conflicts with what she is hearing from everyone else.
This spreading of rumours and myths without having any facts, which is so common in Thailand, is completely contradictory to Buddhist teaching. Buddhism explains things but advises people always to discover the truth for themselves, and never to believe anything they read or are told without testing it first.
It's another example of how most Thais are very poor Buddhists but we know this already. Thais are Buddhist on the surface but the actual belief system is a strange mix of superstitious animism.
Not a good start to today. One of Bpom's sisters turned up at the house and in the course of conversation told us very jovially the word on the street is that the residents of Hat Yai can now expect to suffer a huge flood almost every year. Great.
Maybe laughing at it shows their defiance, but I don't like the way that so many Thais accept this kind of thing so lightheartedly. It's a serious issue and not a joke.
Last November's flood caused massive disruption to a large number of people and the damage must have cost hundreds of millions, if not billions, of Baht.
After the flood in November, TOPS supermarket at Central has still not opened. I think it will open in July. Will it only open for four months before the next flood comes and then close again for eight months to be rebuilt again? How can people live like this?
I tried to explain that Holland is highly vulnerable to flooding but it isn't a problem most of the time because the Dutch have put a lot of work and ingenuity into keeping the water out. Flood control in the Netherlands. It can be done if there is a will to do it.
The inevitable response from Thais is that building flood defences is expensive and Thailand is a poor country. Rubbish. Thailand is a rich country, except that there a lot of poor people. The money is there.
And anyway, with flooding causing so much damage won't a big investment in flood defences eventually pay for itself?
A few years ago the local municipality sent a study group off to Australia to get ideas to improve things here. How many people went? Two or three? I believe the group consisted of over 60 people. Is that something a poor country would be able to afford to do?
The municipality has erected fancy gates over the main roads into town and erected fancy lampposts along some of the main roads. These things look very nice but they were expensive and was it really the best way to spend public funds when flooding is such a huge problem?
I don't believe money is the issue. Thais have a fatalistic attitude and, with many things, they won't even attempt to fix a problem because they believe it can't be fixed.
Mosquitos are a good example. Bpom's parents, brothers and sisters all live in houses that swarm with mosquitos. Our house did too when we first took possession because there was nothing to keep them out.
That was one of the first things I got fixed. I had mosquito screens installed everywhere and (apart from when visiting Thais don't bother to close the screens, which happens a lot) the house is mosquito-free.
I joked with Bpom that Thais must like mosquitos. She said they don't but they think it is normal to have them in the house because nothing can be done to keep them out. I have shown her that something can be done.
It's the same with flooding but when you have such negative attitudes about not being able to resolve problems it then becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Instead of sunny Australia, what about Thailand sending some study groups over to the grey, damp Netherlands to see how the Dutch manage to keep water out so effectively?
I am one of the fortunate ones. I can afford to buy a house in an area that doesn't flood, whereas many Thais can't. However, this still doesn't mean that I don't get angry with negative Thai attitudes and apathy.
Saturday 26th March 2011
Living in Thailand is pretty relaxed most of the time (apart from driving) causing me not to worry about much, but one thing worries me very much these days - flooding.
After recovering from the big flood last November I was fairly confident that everything would be OK until at least this year's rainy season at the end of the year, and maybe beyond. However, more flood warnings have just been issued and there is already flooding in some areas of central southern Thailand.
April is the hot season in Thailand and at this time of year there are normally a few big storms but flooding isn't usually a problem.
With a newborn baby in the house this really isn't what I wanted to hear. Being affected by a flood makes life very difficult for a while.
The November flood was the first time I had experienced being in a flood and it left me quite shell shocked. Since then, however, as I've had time to reflect on what happened my feelings have started to change and now I actually feel a little angry.
I will never know the exact sequence of events in November but huge reservoirs out of town were allowed to fill with water over the course of several days and then the water was released. Whoever made the decision to release millions of gallons of water knew what the consequences would be but it happened anyway.
Was this really the best course of action? Was it right in the first place to allow so much water to accumulate, and was it right to release it all at once?
In a tropical country that has always been subject to huge amounts of rainfall even before humans existed, why is flooding still such a problem?
Yes, even developed countries like Australia suffer from huge floods occasionally - as we saw recently - but the conditions there were quite exceptional. Flooding in Thailand is a regular annual event.
Why aren't huge reservoirs being built to contain all the water, and why aren't huge canals being built to channel it away from residential areas and big towns?
Sulak Sivaraksa suggests that many Thais have to put up with this because they are, as he puts it, 'Common Men'.
"Flooded roads are also supposed to be graciously accepted as small inconveniences which the Common Man must learn to tolerate."
Could there really be any truth in this? Do some Thais have to suffer from regular flooding simply because they aren't considered as being very important?
The pattern of big floods in recent years suggests they are getting bigger with each occurrence. I've asked locals why this is and the reason they give is because so many houses are being built.
If this is the case, then as more houses are built so should more flood defences be built at the same time. I guess that building flood defences isn't as profitable as building houses.
I am starting to become a little obsessed with this. I've been looking at houses for sale out of town recently. One reason is to get the additional space we need, but I am also strongly motivated to move because these particular houses are located on high ground which isn't susceptible to flooding.
The location isn't convenient for much at all but that is a secondary consideration. Living without the fear of flooding is the primary consideration, even it if means living miles from anywhere.
Perhaps Thai themselves are also responsible for the way things are.
Before we moved into this house I asked the neighbours if the area had floods. They said no. Thais will always tell you what you want to hear even if it is a long way from the truth.
One woman - an old woman in her 60's - told me that even if it did flood, flooding was sanook (fun). The house has two floors, she told me, so what's the problem? At the time I found her comments disturbing, and having experienced a flood personally I now find her comments even more disturbing.
Do some Thais really think that being flooded is fun? Are their lives so utterly boring that the only excitement they can hope to get in life is when a natural disaster strikes?
I know I will manage to do whatever is necessary in the event of another flood but at the moment I don't feel as if I have sufficient reserves of mental energy to go through it all again.
With the new baby, on top of everything else, we've got quite enough to keep us busy in life without having to deal with floods that could probably be prevented if there was enough of a desire to prevent them.
Talking to my wife about this, there are obviously big differences in the way we think.
My line of thinking is that plenty of people in Thailand are paid to take care of the country's infrastructure and to take care of other people. My view is that pressure should be put on the right people so that they do what they are paid to do.
My wife can only think of things that we can buy and things we can do to survive a flood. She has never lived anywhere else and she is a typically pragmatic Thai. Like all Thais she knows that although other people are supposed to be taking care of things, in Thailand you always have to take care of yourself.
Bpom is very close to her family and also to a few good friends. When you can't rely on the authorities to help, and you can't always manage on your own, it is these very close relationships that enable Thais to survive.
This may all pass without incident but, fearing the worst, I am a little upset at the moment. The baby is now our main concern and having to go through another flood - with no fresh water, no electricity and unable to get out of the house to buy anything - it will make taking care of her extremely difficult.
Monday 21st March 2011
Ancient manuscripts have been browsed, stars gazed at, astrological charts drawn, wise monks consulted, tea leaves read, chickens sacrificed, and - 13 days after her birth - our daughter has finally been given her official Thai name.
Transliterated how I would transliterate it phonetically, it sounds something like Bpuh-putt-chuh-yaa (meaning knowledge and beauty - so I am told) but no doubt the English spelling will end up being very different to this after it has been through the lousy official system of transliteration.
This has all been done by a friend of Bpom's and we (the parents) haven't had any kind of a say at all in the naming of our own daughter. This is how it works in Thailand, apparently. However, it doesn't matter because - like most Thais - she will hardly ever use her real name.
The name she will use is her nickname - Ellie - and we've had another problem trying to figure out how to transliterate this into Thai.
Some English words transliterate into Thai very easily and accurately but others are a problem because certain sounds simply don't exist in Thai (so there is no way to write them) and certain Thai consonants change their sound depending on whether they are written at the beginning or the end of a syllable.
The English letter 'l' is one such example. There are two consonants in Thai that make an 'l' sound as an initial consonant, but as a final consonant they make an 'n' sound. One consonant is used very commonly and the other rarely.
This is the reason why Thais say 'Centran' when they mean 'Central' and why a Bangkok taxi driver once told me he didn't know where the world-famous Oriental Hotel was. He knew it as 'Orientan'.
Transliteration - both Thai to English and English to Thai - is a disaster.
Sunday 20th March 2011
I spend very little time with other farangs in Thailand but occasionally it is quite good fun to share experiences and have a laugh.
Last week I got together with some other teachers to test, interview and select some students from a large group for a free trip to Australia.
The banter among the teachers was highly amusing. We are all here because it is better than what we came from and most have settled down with Thai wives. What was interesting was that all the banter and cynical comments about Thailand and Thais revolved purely around one subject. Thai driving.
It's great here most of the time but as I've said a million times (at least) the driving standards are appalling. As far as I am concerned, and it seems to be the case with most of the farangs I know, it is the worst aspect of living in Thailand.
I am actually getting a little concerned about not being able to control my temper at times. Last week there was lots going on and I had other people in the car so it wasn't too bad. I just let the idiots go without reacting.
Two days ago I was driving on my own and I had a red mist moment. I felt bad afterwards about not being able to control my temper. It is also possible that one day I could get into a lot of trouble, either by crossing a Thai with a gun or doing something that I regret later.
I'm normally very relaxed and easy-going but bad Thai drivers bring out the worst in me.
Some - not all - Thai drivers use lots of little tricks to get ahead of other road users and this was what my little incident was about. Maybe they think they are being clever and that other drivers don't know what they are doing but to me it is always very obvious.
There are lots of motorbikes in Thailand and at most traffic lights there is an area reserved for motorbikes waiting at red lights. When cars stop they should stop behind this area.
Also, at many traffic lights vehicles can turn left on a red signal with caution. The left lane is normally clear because cars turning left don't need to stop for very long.
One little Thai trick is to use the left turn lane, but instead of turning left they then pull across right into the area reserved for motorbikes. This way they get to the front of the queue waiting to go straight on very quickly.
Normally no one else says or does anything and once a driver does this and sees that no one objects he keeps on doing it. Then other drivers see what is going on and some decide to copy. In no time at all you have loads of people pulling the same little stunt even though it is clearly very wrong.
This is what happened as I was waiting at some traffic lights and I reacted badly. The offender was a minivan driver. Whenever I meet obnoxious Thai drivers they are usually driving pickup trucks or minivans.
I think the sight of a furious farang quite scared him. After pushing in to the front of the queue and waiting to go straight on, he then made out that really he wanted to turn left. He didn't.
If Thais did this kind of thing while queuing in the post office or at a supermarket checkout there would be a big problem. In fact, no one would even consider going straight to the front of the queue and pushing in. However, in their cars hiding behind dark tinted glass they seem to think they can do anything they want.
Last week at one big intersection I noticed that the traffic police had put plastic bollards in the road to force drivers in the left lane to turn left. I was pleased to see what had been done but it is rare. Everyone knows what some drivers do but most of the time nothing is done to prevent them and no action is taken against them for doing wrong.
My wife keeps telling me - and I keep telling myself - to just let it go but I have enormous problems just watching someone push their way in front of me without reacting in any way.
One of the areas that interests me most in Thailand is cultural behaviour. I like to observe what Thais do and I like to know why they do the things they do.
If you read up on this subject you will understand that Thais have a culture of non-confrontation. Social harmony is highly prized and the best way to achieve this is to avoid confrontation.
Coming from a culture of fierce confrontation - as I do - and not liking the confrontational nature of the UK, this is one of the things I like most about living in Thailand. However, there are some drawbacks.
Firstly, Thais hold back emotions in order to avoid confrontation and they don't have a controlled way to let off steam. When some Thais reach breaking point, the red mist descends and it gets ugly.
Also, knowing that they won't be confronted, some Thais take advantage of others out of selfishness. If you were to zip up the outside of a line of traffic and try to push your way to the front in the UK, it is possible that someone would jump out of their car and pull you from yours.
In Thailand this is very unlikely to happen and so some Thais continually take advantage of others in order to get ahead all the time.
When the van driver pulled his little stunt the other day, the last thing he expected was for someone to confront him. When he was suddenly confronted with a raging farang he looked genuinely afraid of what might happen. Thais aren't used to this kind of thing happening.
After the incident I didn't feel good - and I certainly didn't feel proud - but next time he sees a line of waiting cars he might just wait behind them, as he should do, instead of using the left turn lane to jump to the front of the queue.
The AFP is carrying a story being reported by several media outlets about ladyboys in Thailand. They are now classified into three types: Type 1 (just women's clothes and handbags), Type 2 (breast implants), Type 3 (full sex change).
Thai men over the age of 21 (with some exceptions, such as having served in the reserves while at high school) have to stick their hand into a bag and select a ball. If the ball is red they then have to do a couple of years in the army; if the ball is black they don't.
Of course, this being Thailand, it is possible to bribe your way out but that is another matter.
The latest news story says that Type 1 ladyboys have always been eligible for the conscription ballot but now - if the army doesn't get enough conscripts - they will conscript Type 2 ladyboys (men with breast implants).
I don't disbelieve this, but after living in Thailand for a while you realise that many foreign news agencies don't have much of a clue about what is happening in Thailand or how Thailand works.
This story makes the comment that Mr Thaksin's office was unavailable for comment. Whoever wrote this story really needs to catch up with events.
Just what the world needs right now - another war. Obviously, the civilised nations of the world can't stand idly by doing nothing while innocent people are being massacred, but coming so soon after such a devastating tragedy in Japan caused by the forces of nature it seems so desperately sad that we are now killing each other because of the darker side of human nature.
With the number of Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims already exceeding 15,000 in one prefecture alone so far, the final number will be colossal.
Gaddafi has been quiet for a long time but on my first trip to the United States 25 years ago (Chicago in 1986), before Saddam and Bin Laden were known to the world, Gaddafi was the number one big bad guy over there.
After landing at O'Hare and taking a taxi to my hotel, I clearly remember the taxi driver telling me how the United States should bomb the hell out of Libya.
He had to wait for a while but he finally got his wish.
Friday 18th March 2011
Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. I started receiving my occupational pension at the end of last year and - along with my investments and savings, the income from letting out my UK property, and a few other smaller income streams - I have a comfortable income for this part of the world without needing to work.
My plan at this stage had always been not to work or settle down but to spend my time visiting lots of new, exciting and interesting places in the region. I never planned to have any kids and I wasn't too concerned about marriage, having been a single man for so long.
Last year I got together with the girl who is now my wife - who then announced she was pregnant a few months later - and now I am a husband and a father. It has all happened very quickly without any planning.
You can have plans in life but you never quite know what might be around the corner. Also, what is important at one stage of your life may not be important later on. We all change and we need to do what is right for us at any particular time.
Don't do things that don't feel right just because they are old plans (your priorities may have changed), and definitely don't do things to suit other people. Listen to and follow your heart. It's your life, no one else's, and you only get one chance.
I used to love travelling alone and turning up in new places where I could explore. I used to do this kind of thing for my main vacations when I lived in the UK and I would also use long weekends to explore European cities. I'd just get a cheap flight to Munich or Berlin or somewhere, find somewhere to stay once I got there, and walk the streets exploring. I loved it.
The last couple of times I have done that kind of thing in Thailand it hasn't quite been the same. I no longer get the same buzz that I used to and I actually end up feeling quite lonely being in hotel rooms alone. Yes, as a single man in Thailand it is very easy to pay for some female company (or even some male company if you are that way inclined) but that route is quite unfulfilling emotionally - believe me. I've changed. Also, once you start getting used to being with someone then being alone again is quite difficult.
I never wanted to end up being a lonely old man with no partner or friends spending my entire life on the Internet using the artificial on-line world as a substitute for the real world. I have no regrets about how things have turned out even though I've had to abandon plans and I am now restricted in what I can do.
Many of the poorer people in Thailand don't have any choice as to what kind of life they can lead because of severe financial constraints. Westerners generally have more choice but I think that many lack direction. Sometimes having too much choice can also be a problem. I had the same problem a few years ago.
There are many 'self help' books available but one that was recommended to me many years ago by a South African friend who I have a lot of respect for was Martha Beck's 'Finding Your Own North Star'.
Essentially her message is to tune into, and then to follow, your own desires. People will ignore their own desires and instead do things that are expected of them by their friends, family, or society at large. This then leads to an unsatisfactory and unhappy life.
Many people will also stay in jobs and follow certain careers purely for money but if you have no time to enjoy the money, or hate every minute at work, that is no way to live life.
Leaving behind the financial security of my old job was the toughest thing of all and it was the thing that almost prevented me from doing what I wanted to do. However, it is possible. There are many ways to earn a living and because the cost of living in Thailand is so much cheaper than in the UK I feel almost as well off now as I used to when my income was a lot higher. My income these days is a lot lower but so are my outgoings.
I am no expert but I started to become unhappy with my life in my mid to late 30's and I knew something had to change. I had all the material things in life but that was no compensation. At around 40 I started to initiate some huge changes and this led to me quitting my job when I was 42 and moving to Thailand just before I became 43.
I am now 50 so the journey took about 10 years. It's an ongoing journey that never ends because there are always problems in life that need to be fixed but I am now past the most difficult stage and feeling more settled and contented than I think I have ever felt.
If you've been following my recent comments, here's yet another 'Pattaya Death Leap' victim. If you are unhappy in life, then simply moving to Thailand isn't the answer because the same problems will surface again later even though the scenery is different.
When this happens the problems may actually be a lot worse due to the additional challenges of dealing with a completely different culture and language. Do not underestimate this. A change of country can work wonders but the underlying problems also need to be fixed.
Thursday 17th March 2011
There were some heartwarming scenes on Thai TV this morning running alongside the heartbreaking scenes from Japan.
Along with many other countries, Thailand is making a big effort to help. Money is being collected and sent, as are supplies and blankets. Most Thais are very caring and in a culture where merit-making is so important there is no better way to make merit than to help people who desperately need help.
The danger of exposure to radiation seems to be growing with each day that passes. On top of the total devastation in some areas and freezing weather this is another problem that Japan has to deal with urgently.
Thailand has a number of car factories and at least one camera and lens plant (Nikon in Ayuthaya) that assemble Japanese products. I'm not sure how these are being affected. If production can simply be ramped up in Thailand that would be a good thing, but if the Thai factories rely on parts from Japan they could have big supply problems for a while.
Of the parts they use to assemble finished products I'm not sure how many are made in Japan and how many come from elsewhere. With so many important electronic parts coming out of Japan, I suspect that many businesses around the world will soon start to have severe supply problems.
Huge natural disasters are normally associated with the developing world. With Japan being such a vitally important industrial nation, this particular earthquake and tsunami has created a whole new set of problems.
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. I always use Agoda to book hotels in Thailand. The company was established in Thailand and has great local knowledge, as well as a huge inventory of hotels.
If you click on one of the destinations opposite you will get a list of hotel deals from Agoda. It's generally a good idea to book on-line because you will get a good room rate and you won't suffer the disappointment of arriving at a hotel to find that it is full.
I book hotels regularly in Thailand and I have always found Agoda to be the best on-line travel agent. At times I have spent a lot of time researching hotel prices and although other deals sometimes look better at first I always end up returning to Agoda.
If you don't wish to pay for your hotel at the time of booking, Booking.com normally allows you to pay when you check in at the hotel. Some people prefer this method, but I have always found Booking.com to be more expensive than Agoda.
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. However, you will normally find that Agoda is the cheapest and therefore you can save yourself time and money by just booking through Agoda in the first place.
Images of Thailand