Changing the “here” for “there”
This is something I still remember, but while traveling in South East Asia in 1997, I felt more and more at home in this part of the world and especially in the Kingdom of Thailand or also nicknamed the Land of Smiles. Coming home I felt out of place and I tried to find ways to get back to the place where I felt home. My first way back was a 6-weeks job as tour-manager in China, from Beijing to Hong Kong. A different job as my job in the IT-sector and I had only been to China once for a 10-days all-in trip to Beijing! On forehand this job was to be continued with a 2 times 2-weeks tour in Thailand, from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. It was a good learning experience, but as I was not really qualified as tour-manager at that time, of course it was also my last tour for this company. I returned back home and started to work again in the IT-sector. But after two weeks of being jailed in an office for 10-hours a day and hearing all the small talk about what was on TV last night I was becoming desperate to find a way back to Thailand. And that came in the offer of a try-out job as PR-manager in a hotel in Bangkok. I did work there for a few months but working with a Thai boss was too much for me to handle at that moment (Sorry Khun Kob, I should have stayed and learn more).
So I returned home and I had not much time to think about what to do because I was hospitalized for TB and there almost on the border-line of life and dead I decided that I wanted more out of life as my 9-to-5 well paid job with expensive cars and ditto holidays. It was at that moment that I choose to leave my old life behind me and to start a new one all over again in Thailand. It was then that I finally made my mind up and to take a dive into what is called “LIFE”. I left behind a good, happy life and a caring wife, but sometimes one just has to do something. Just because.
Considering the long time view of living in Thailand
I think that most people who move to Thailand don’t plan their entire future at one time, because those kinds of people usually wouldn’t move to Thailand in the first place. But while considering moving to Thailand I asked myself a few questions, and of course it's difficult to be sure if you can give straight answers to yourself. But just give it a try; you will never know what you will find out. First of all I tried to realize me the quote that I started this posting with, and as someone once said to me while on tour in Thailand "You are not in love with Thailand, you are in love with Thai girls". Did I try to fool myself by saying that Thailand would be better and that I loved Thailand and not the other thing Thailand is famous for? Well there is only one way to find out and that is just to give it a go. Secondly I tried to measure the value of staying in my home country with a good paid job, friends, family and social security or moving to Thailand. For me Thailand did win, but I also realized that my new home country Thailand would basically give me nothing in return. And that while staying away from my home country in the end I would loose all my contacts with friends, work, business and maybe even all my social security that I had build up in my past live. And of course for the first year or tree, euphoria will make me overlook this, but eventually it will come to everyone. And maybe that becomes a moment that I will have to measure the values again, but then of staying in Thailand or moving back home or somewhere else. That's a choice a lot of us have to make at a certain moment. But some of us cannot cope with this decision and they choose to go back in a body-bag. I did choose to move to Thailand but to be prepared that I maybe would return back home soon again. And I did choose to return home once a year for a reality check and to maintain the ties with back home at least a little bit. Until now that's working out fine for me, but somewhere is coming a moment that I have to build up a future in the country that I adopted as my new home country. A moment that you really have to choose and cut all the ties with your old life, and I'm feeling that that time is coming soon.
Going to live in the Big Mango
It was finally with a China Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Bangkok that I made the first step into my new life. While still in my home country I had made contact a few people in Bangkok. First of all with a German man who lives already in Thailand for about 20-years, he and his family have become good friends of me. After 3 days staying in the hotel where I had been working before I moved to an apartment building at Phra Kanong. Some friends did not understand why I liked to live in this 30-years old apartment building without air-condition. Well first of all its located 5-min walking from BTS-station Phra Kanong, so I have an easy and cheap transport in Bangkok. And the neighborhood is very much Thai, not as western and expensive as the rest of Sukhumvit. And other parts of Bangkok were unknown to me at that time. And I'm happy without air-condition and I sleep well under my fan. And for 5000 thb a month I have a 2-room apartment with wooden floors and a big open balcony overlooking Phra Kanong and Onnut. The room is more ore less furnished so I did not have to buy any furniture. But I started with buying a TV and Stereo to have some entertainment in my room. And of course all the other small things that you need to sleep and wash yourself. And as it is for Thai normal to shower with cold water I also had to buy me a hot-water boiler. And I'm still using it now! Cooking at home is out of the question because eating on the streets is cheaper and better. As the fan-ceiling was in the living room I did choose to also sleep in the living room and I just did put the mattress on the floor and used the bedroom as clothing room. It took me about 2 weeks to get myself organized and to feel at home. So it became time to get in contact with someone else that I met before via Internet. He offered me a job interview for a job as tour-leader to conduct tours for Dutch tourists on holiday in Thailand. And with my working experience and his need for people I had my first tour 5 days after the job interview. I call this kind of tours the "Luxury Hotel & Touring Car" holidays. In my all live I had never done such kind of tours myself and here I was being the leader of such a tour! This kind of work was at that time 100% illegal, but as the tourist police knows that it brings in a lot of money for the Thai tourist industry they close their eyes. To help them in doing this the work is done together with a Thai national who has an official license to be guide. So outside the bus and hotels he will do the work, inside the bus and hotels I can talk and explain. Well my first tour was a total disaster with a very money horny guide. But later I did found out that this was a kind of test and I was offered a second and third tour. And at the moment that I was offered 3 tours in a row I realized that the next 2 and half months I would not be at home. So I left my apartment and did put my small luggage with a friend of mine. Between tour 1 and 2 I was free for 5 days and I did stay in the hotel where I had to begin in the second tour. And between tour 2 and 3 I was 10 days free and I did choose to live in a new apartment at Soi 15 of Sukhumvit. After my third tour I returned back to Phra Kanong, but my old big room was not available at that moment so I did live for 3 weeks in a smaller room. Then I moved back to my old room again. I was finally really settled down, was I?
Well for a while I just enjoyed the life in the Big Mango with once a while a tour of duty of 2 weeks. Living here is for sure different as living in my home country. First of all I have never lived in an apartment building on the 6th floor. And it had been a long time ago that I had to take care of my own daily things in live. Like the laundry. First I always brought it downstairs to a small laundry shop just around the corner. Until a girl living on the 4th floor offered to do the laundry for me. And that becomes easier for me. Every day on my way down I just drop of my laundry in a bag and when I come back my cloths are hanging on the door. And once a week I come to pay her. Back home it would be a kind of service that would cost you a fortune, but her it costs me between 5thb and 10thb a piece. Cleaning my room is a different story. As I do not want someone I do not know alone in my room I choose to do it myself. And as I lived in a non-air-conditioned room I have my windows open 24-hours a day. That also means that you have to clean your room every other day, because the floor will be black within 3 days. I wonder how my lungs look like. But as you will find out I'm pretty lazy so I had to choose between dirty rooms or find someone to clean my room. And of course like all this kind of things, it's like Thai people can read your mind and someone offered me to clean my room every other day for only 100 thb.
Cooking? What you say? I do not believe anyone is doing that here in Bangkok, unless you like it or you are having a big family and not much money. Where ever you stop in Thailand, I'm sure that within 100m you will find some place to eat. And probably it will be good and cheap food. So why bother to make food yourself? It's probably more expensive also. My apartment is on a Soi of Soi Phra Kanong. And the main street is one big market of food vendors almost 24-hours a day. So it does not matter at what time I come home, I can always buy some food and take it home to eat or just eat it on the street and watch the colorful life of Bangkok going by. Still fresh in my memories are the very early breakfasts that I had when I returned home from a party at 5 o'clock in the morning. It's the time for the Thai people to start their daily life because it's still cool, for me it was time to go to sleep. But not before I bought some food and to sit down on my balcony. From here I watched Bangkok awakening and saw the sunset above Onnut, with in the distance a soft sound of one the many mosques that spread their morning praying all over the roofs of this villages called Bangkok. Bangkok..... Home sweet home!
Two months living in the south of Thailand
While I was still in my home country I did meet a guy who is married to a Thai lady from a place in the south of Thailand. And they have built themselves a house just outside the city of her home town. So we made a deal that I would go to live there and in that way also take care of the house. So again I left my apartment in Bangkok to take the train to the south. Her home town is located at a railway junction of going to Nakhon Si Tammart and going to Hat Yai. His family would pick me up from the railway station and I was greeted by people "You are friend from Charlie?". Who the fuck is Charlie? It took me a few minutes to understand that Charlie must be his Thai nickname, because his real Dutch name is probably un-pronounceable for Thai people. So I was brought to my new home halve way down in south Thailand. It's a real typical Thai house, to show of to your friends and family that you have it well made. It's a kind of house that I would never have build myself. But it offers me a good opportunity to try out the Thai life outside the big city Bangkok. Let me try to describe this place. It's a kind of Thai-Chinese telegraph road dirt track that became important because of the trade made by railway transport. Nowadays that the railway is not so important anymore and the interest in this place is also gone. On the other hand, if you like the south of Thailand, here you are in the middle of it and within a 2-hours drive in any direction you will be at beaches, beautiful national parks or islands along the cost. The center of the city exists of a 7/11 and a cinema. And behind this cinema is a street with some bars and of course in these bars are working only girls. In the 2 months that I have lived here I had 1 or 2 times the “pleasure” of meeting another falang. That means if you do not speak Thai, like me that the most Thai people here are simply out of reach and contact for you. Because they will simply run away or say "Mai mi" or "No have". And that will bring you in more isolation as you are already in this small city.
Well I had suppose to live her by myself, but when I was brought to the house of my friend I learned that in the house there were already living 2 schoolgirls who are family of the family of my friend. So actually I had a room and shared with them they house and bathroom. And of course his Thai family was living nearby and they would come over almost every day to check-out the house. Well I checked the house out already and there were quit a few things missing that my friend told me that I could use. And it was not a big surprise that it all returned when I told my friend about it. At first I was enjoying the free space that I was living in, but later I was feeling more and more isolated. Maybe this would have been a good time to buy myself a motorbike, but I didn't. I made a few trips by train to Nakhon Si Tammarat but that is only bigger as the place I came from and nothing more. And of course I made some trips to Hat Yai which is the only real city in the south of Thailand. So I was happy that my girlfriend took a one month holiday to come and stay with me here in this place in the middle of nowhere. In the meanwhile there had been a wedding of another family member and the party of course was in "my" house. One of the guests was a local “high” ranking police officer with a very beautiful daughter who was in a relationship with an American guy called “Tony”. In her way of doing and talking it was clearly to me that they had met each other in the bar-scene. For me no problem and she was straight forward open about that (as she sees no problem in that). But this local “high” ranking police officer made it loudly known that he did not like that kind of girls at all. As he was already bloody drunk I thought it would not be the right moment to remind him that he was very rude to a guest and that his own daughter was also “that kind of girl”. So my girlfriend and I left the party and went to our room upstairs. Somewhere in the middle of the night we saw the drunk police man driving away in his car to bring people home (a at least 1 hour drive for him). And some of the family did overstay for a few days or actually more as a week. A few days later we did visit Tony and his girlfriend at their beach-hut on Phuket. They are nice people and we had a good dinner on the beach.
After two months I was getting so bored and irritating to live here that I made a suddenly decision to leave this place as soon as possible. So the next day early in the morning I left a note to say goodbye and I left the last month rental fee. I took a motorbike taxi to the train station and made him the happiest man in town that day. Instead of a 20 thb note I did give him a 1000 thb note. As I had only one thing in mind “Getting away” I said to him “mai pen rai” when he said that he did not have change from 1000 thb. As I was waiting on the platform I saw the train to Bangkok arriving and it had never made me more happy as today. Back to my sweet home Bangkok! A place where I would enjoy living for the next year until I felt the need to say goodbye to that busy and hectic city called Bangkok.
Note: When I think later about it, there must have been other plans with me as one of the daughters of the family was looking for a husband. Me? No way!