Text by Maya – Photo by Maya
I’ve been living in Thailand for more than 2 years now, first in Bangkok, then in Krabi, in the South, having a chance to experience life in the capital city followed by life in the peacefulness of a beach town. So, here are 10 reasons why I love life in Thailand and don’t regret the decision to move here:
- The Thais & their sense of hospitality. Thailand is a country of warm smiles and open arms. Everybody is welcoming and willing to help if they see you are having troubles. Sure, they will probably laugh at you, but not for mocking, instead it’s a way they have in Southeast Asia to deal with funny/ potentially embarrassing situations. You slip and almost fall? They’ll laugh. It’s to say: “nothing’s serious, don’t feel embarrassed, we’re all happy and laughing together in a friendly way”. Mai pen rai, no problem, is like a mantra in this country. People are not loud, on the contrary they are quiet, they avoid confrontation as much as possible, but are funny in an almost childish way. They are also very happy and proud to be Thai, not showing that sense of inferiority that it’s so heartbreaking to see in other countries.
- Thai Cuisine: food in Thailand is cheap and delicious. Of course you can find McDonalds, Starbucks, KFC in almost every city and large village, but the best deal and choice you can make is to eat street food. And even if you don’t speak any Thai, it’s very easy to order: just point to the ingredients you want to order, and signal for how much chilli, or fish sauce or sugar you like. Most street food vendors specialise in only one or two recipes, so you need to look around and found the one that cooks what you want. My favorite Thai food? At the beginning it was Pad Thai, the National dish together with Somtam (papaya salad), basically fried rice noodles with egg, vegetables, fish sauce and cashew nuts. But then I discovered Massaman curry, Hunglay (a curry from the north) and kuaglin. Also, I love Mango & sticky rice. And fruit: fruit is delicious, and so varied: I mean, have you ever eaten longan? jackfruit? dragon fruit? rambutan? mangosteen? and rose apple? And what about durian? I’ve tried it and, surprise, I liked it very much!
- Food delivery: not only the food is delicious, but it’s so easy and cheap to eat everywhere. Most Thais don’t cook everyday at home, but just order delivery or drive themselves to the food stalls and take away inexpensive, local, yummy cuisine. This happens everywhere, from villages to metropolis like Bangkok. Food is available at every hour of the day and night, at every corner of the road. And if it’s really too late and the street food stalls are closed, there’s always a 7/11 nearby, open 24 hours.
- Style. Or NO style. In Thailand you don’t need to have a huge closet and hundreds of clothes. Basically there is only one season with a few variations: hot and sunny, or hot and rainy. Except for some areas in the north where it gets cold at night and chill during the day for a few moths a year, everywhere else the temperature is warm, and you don’t need much more than a t-shirt and shorts. And nobody will judge you for the way you dress. Upper class Thais love Fashion and girls and guys can spend loads of money on clothes, however the attitude in the country is “dress as you please, as long as you are neat and clean”. Sure, you need to cover your shoulders and legs to enter temples, but any other occasion call for whatever you feel like dressing.
- TUK TUK: they look like crazy version of open mini-cars and drivers have the bad habit to drive like crazy, but tuk tuk are fascinating and fun, I can’t resist to get a ride when I’m in Bangkok or Chiang Mai. Getting stuck in a tuk tuk at rush hour, under the mid-day sun or a tropical storm, can be a nightmare or an exceptional experience to remember, it depends if you are one who sees the glass as half full or half empty. Samlor, the Thai version of a sidecar, is another popular way of transportation (used in smaller villages) that you should try at least once.
- Incredible nature. From jungles and rain forests to rivers and mangrove forests, from mountains and karst peaks to tropical islands and dreamy beaches, Thailand has a nature so stunning and diverse that you are surrounded by it no matter where you are, even in the centre of Bangkok (take a walk in Lumphini park and you’ll see what I mean! Monitor lizards and exotic birds everywhere). Not to mention the variety of plants and flowers that grow literally everywhere, power lines included.
- Thousands of Temples. No, they are not all the same, and they are not boring if you take the time to learn about Buddhism and its exquisite art. Thailand has over 40,000 temples, and I won’t even try to make a list of the most beautiful. From the Tiger Cave Temple perched on a mountain’s peak to the white big Buddha that overlooks Phuket, not to mention the Blue, White and Silver temples of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, or the almost unknown khmer architecture of Phanomrung Temple in Isaan and the phuttakaya style of Wat Bang Thong in Krabi or the unique Chicken Temple in Nakhon, the number of pagodas deserving to be seen around Thailand is endless. Remember that they are holy places and dress accordingly when visiting: cover your shoulders and knees, and wear easy-to take-off shoes and a pair of socks if you are not comfortable in walking barefoot inside the buildings.
- 7/11: at 7/11 you can find anything and everything you might think of. Plus, they are open 24 hr a day and they are everywhere. And when you are bored, just enter inside a 7/11 and look at all the incredible products they sell: from bath stuff and cleaners to snacks, food, frozen food and drinks. Some products look bizarre for Western costumers: Red Fanta (mostly used for temple offerings), Korean or Japanese sea-weeds, quick Carbonara (ready in 5 minutes), any style sausages, fish-balls, chips in any flavour you can imagine, syrups, Durian and Taro ice-cream and the list could be longer. The larger 7/11 even sell a few clothes and accessories like thongs, t-shirts, hats and sun-glasses, and mobile phones, too. Not all the food you find inside these shops is healthy (more on the contrary, I’d say), however it’s surely fresh because they are re-stoked everyday, and if you are in a hurry you can buy your meal and have it warmed up at the shop.
- K-Bank and all phone payment methods. Once you open a bank account and get a debit card (which might take some time due to the extent of Thai bureaucracy) it becomes very easy to go around cashless and forget about banknotes. You can pay by phone literally everywhere, including restaurants, super market, deliveries, and most street food stalls. I’m aware that in most countries phone payments are a reality, however it’s not the case in my native country, where we run far behind. So, Thailand has been a very pleasant surprise.
- The weather. Well, not if you are one of those weirdos who can’t stand summer. In tropical Thailand is summer all year around. And I love it. Actually, this is the reason that got me dream about moving to Thailand since I first set foot in the country as a kid. In reality, there are three official seasons: November to February is warm and sunny, with blue skies and mostly calm sea; March to May is very hot and humid, with storms or showers in between blue skies; June to October is mostly rainy with winds and rough seas in the west coast; many islands close during this wet period, and tourists and expats go travelling somewhere else. Life is quiet in these months, and I’ve come to appreciate the green season and the calm and peacefulness that goes with it. Apart from some mountainous areas in Northern Thailand, where night can be freezing and days very cool, the temperature rarely drops below 20 degrees, even at night. How amazing is this? No need for winter clothes, no need for a heating system, yet you can buy decent Christmas Trees online if you fancy a traditional Christmas.
I could easily find another 20 reasons why I love life in Thailand, but I’d also like to hear your opinion: do you live in Thailand or have you lived here? Do/did you like it? If you’ve left Thailand, what are the things you miss the most? And if you have never lived in Thailand, what would you like to know about life here?