On Living in Thailand 2018-02-14T09:47:53+00:00

On Living in Thailand

Banking and Money in Thailand
Originally posted on November 1, 2010
The unit of currency of Thailand is the “baht”. The baht is divided into 100 satang. 1 salung = 25 satang. Thai coins come in 1 baht, 2 baht, 5 baht, and 10 baht. The colorful Thai paper money comes in 20 baht, 50 baht, 100 baht, 500 baht, and 1,000 baht notes. All notes and coins are adorned with a picture of the current king.

Thai Bank Notes
 You’ll also see smaller, copper colored coins of 50 and 25 satang but they are not easy to spend. I just seem to get them

Becoming a Tourist Again
Originally posted on Feb 14, 2017

Before retiring to Thailand I spent many years as a part-time resident and a part-time tourist. Upon retiring and settling down here, my time spent doing touristy stuff in Thailand became less and less. I had forgotten what a really cool place this is to be a tourist. Then some old friends came for an extended visit and helped us to remember.John and Denise and Pikun and I had shared a house together when John and I got jobs teaching in Iran. This was in the mid 70s, before the Iranian

Beware the Jabberwock
Originally posted on Jul 1, 2017

One of the first articles I ever wrote was titled “Cobras in My Garden” (Bangkok Post, circa 1980). I told the story about finding a couple of monocled and venomous slithery friends who had invaded my garden. They didn’t fare very well after an encounter with my garden hoe though. I had chopped one in half (a big no-no I later found out), the head flying off into the bushes. The whole neighborhood screamed at me for being such a fool. About a half hour later their fury was corroborated when the

Building a House – It Will Cost More Than You Planned For
Originally posted on Sep 1, 2017

I have written before on Expats buying land and building in Thailand. I have suggested that renting might be the preferred way to go for a number of reasons. A lot depends on your relationships to Thais and Thailand, and how much money you can free up; money that you won’t need for day-to-day living and health care.
(Full disclosure: I have bought and built here in Thailand.)
The biggest problem we Expats face of course, is that foreigners are forbidden to own land in

Building Your Dream House

In an earlier column I said that for me I thought it best to rent a house or condo.  I still feel that way but very frequently I encounter the Farang who must build his “dream house”.  Too often this dream can turn into a nightmare.
Your dream may be designing your own home, but Farang ideas for what a house should look like don’t always work here.  Western roof lines might not take into consideration the Thai rainy season.  Amateur designers may not know how to create the most efficient and cooling floor space.  They don’t

Chiang Mai – Way Down Upon the Ping River
Originally posted on February 1, 2014
Vieng Ping – Original name of Chiang Mai “City on the Ping River”
Well, it finally happened.  After all the chaos down in the capital Bangkok some people have begun talking about moving the capital of the country to Chiang Mai, or, if things get too crazy down there, maybe even going their own separate ways. From The Nation.
I am hoping this is all hyperbole, but historically a separate Chiang Mai it wouldn’t be anything new. It wasn’t that long ago that Lanna Thai (the northern regions of present

Christmas Bird Watching on Thailand’s Unbeaten Paths
Originally posted on January 4, 2015

We made a New Year’s resolution a few years ago, that even though we live in the main tourist destination in Thailand, we should see more of the country, especially the less-traveled paths. Earlier this year I wrote about our journey to Kanchanaburui. During the heavy touristy season we think it best to be away from Chiang Mai. Let the Bangkok and Chinese tourists enjoy our town. It’s no fun for us being down town with tens of thousands of tourists who want to experience CM’s cool weather.
So here

Cost of Living in Thailand Part I
Originally posted on February 21, 2010
Note: This was originally posted many years ago and things of course have changed. Many of the costs are the same as posted but others have inflated. To be safe it would be best to add 10% - 20% on the prices mentioned here.

One of the biggest questions we had before retiring in Thailand was how much would it cost us?  And the second questions was, would my Social Security pension be enough to live on here?  Everyone is different.  I know someone who is perfectly content to live on

Cost of Living in Thailand Part II
Originally posted on March 1, 2010
Note: This was originally posted many years ago and things of course have changed. Many of the costs are the same as posted but others have inflated. To be safe it would be best to add 10% - 20% on the prices mentioned here.

We continue with how much living in Thailand might cost you.  All prices are Chiang Mai prices and are as of today, Mar 1, 2010, and of course are subject to change.  All prices are approximates.  Local prices will vary greatly.   Check the daily exchange rate at www.bangkokbank.com .

Getting around

Cost of Living in Thailand Part III
Originally posted on September 27, 2010
Note: This was originally posted many years ago and things of course have changed. Many of the costs are the same as posted but others have inflated. To be safe it would be best to add 10% - 20% on the prices mentioned here.

The first 2 posts about the cost of living in Thailand have proven quite popular (Part I, Part II). So I thought that I would periodically post an update and describe the cost of the “stuff” that I have been buying in my daily life here. The more one

Escape from the Hot Season
Originally posted on July 30, 2010

There’s something happening here.  It’s not exactly clear.  The hot season here in Thailand (and it looks like around the world too) seems to be getting hotter and longer (I just learned that the last June was the hottest one on record – for the whole world!).  It is the rainy season now so we are experiencing a little respite.  We’ve got about 8 really good months ahead of us.  But I’m not really sure we can take another hot season like the last one
So, Pikun and I need your advice.

Experiencing the Rainy Season
Originally posted on Aug 10, 2016

When the rain came I thought you’d leave cause I knew how much you loved the sun 
– Rod Steward, Mandolin wind
It starts around 3:30 pm with the buildup of clouds over Doi Suthep in the west. The puffy cumulus clouds shoot up thousands of feet, turning dark with the promise of a daily afternoon rain. The last two rainy seasons have been anything but rainy. One or two hard rains in all that time, when normally the downpours are daily. The reservoirs are the lowest they’ve been in 50 years, when normally

Going Cold Turkey - But Now I Have a Smart Phone
Originally posted on August 31, 2010
For the last ten days or so I have had troubles with my Internet and for the last week I have had no connection at all.  Seems like it started with squirrels chewing on the telephone lines and now, after new lines have been installed, and after my fifth desperate call to my Internet provider, we still don’t know what is wrong.  One doesn’t realize when one has become addicted to something until you have to go without.  So I am now going cold turkey

Going Up the Country
Originally appeared in Chiang Mai City Life magazine
Most of us retirees are old enough to remember Canned Heat‟s declaration from Woodstock that they were “Going up the country … where the water tastes like wine.” I‟ve run into some Expats who have taken that to heart.
A growing number of Expats are deciding to live in rural, upcountry, Thailand. Since so many new Expats are considering just such a move I thought I would ask some people I know who are already living “up the country” for some advice.
Ricky lives just about 150 kilometers equidistance from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Lampang. That is

Holidays in Thailand
Originally posted on March 15, 2010

It seems that every time you turn around there is another Thai national holiday.  They seem to always occur when you need to go to the bank or to immigration.  In fact, there are more than a dozen (the number seems to change yearly) Thai national holidays.  That compares to 10 U.S. federal holidays and only 8 “bank” holidays in England.
For New Years, the Thais celebrate January 1st, Chinese New Years, and Songkran, also known as Thai New Years.  In true Thai fashion, Songkran is a three-day celebration of partying and water

Hot Season in Thailand – Colors, Tastes, and Sounds
Originally posted on May 1, 2015

I’ve blogged about the hot season in Thailand before (You Can’t Beat the Heat) and how enervating and life sucking the 40 degree C (104 F) can be. This year hasn’t been that bad, even with the 6 weeks of smog. But if every hot season is going to be this hot (and smoggy) then I’ll have to go to somewhere cooler and clearer during March, April and May to escape this scorching Chiang Mai retirement.
But this year we had family visiting and other guests (I keep telling them not

Insurance in Thailand
Originally appeared in Chiang Mai City Life magazine

I get a lot of questions about insurance in Thailand.  We typically think of life and health and maybe auto insurance.  But that’s just scratching the surface. There’s property, house, condo, accident, travel, rental, and marine insurance, just to name a few.
In fact there is even a golf insurance policy that will cover you if you are hit by an errant golf ball or, more likely on my part, if you hit someone else with your golf ball.  They also pay you up to ฿10,000 if you get a hole

Internal Heat and a Broken Stomach
Originally appeared in Chiang Mai City Life magazine

Buddhism teaches us that if we are going to be born then we must also accept that we will grow old, get sick and eventually die.  If you are retiring here then getting born and getting old you have already achieved.  Hopefully we can put off that last one for a while.  That just leaves getting sick.
Getting sick is part of the romance of traveling and living in a foreign country.  Thailand has some unique ailments and the Thai language has some very colorful words used to

It’s Dengue Fever Season
Originally posted on August 24, 2010

The rainy season brings relief from the brutal hot season.  The rice fields get flooded and it is time for planting.  Because there is so much water around, mosquitoes start breeding and when they do they come out and bite.  One result of this is the blooming of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne virus. Endemic to this part of the world, it sometimes grows to epidemic proportions.  Looks like this rainy season may be one of those times.
Now I don’t want to scare any prospective retirees away.  Dengue is usually not life threatening (for adults), and

Living in Thailand and Having Skin in the Game
Originally posted on September 1, 2015

I have a condition called pityrosorum folliculitis. No it isn’t that Walking Dead viral infection so I don’t believe I’ll turn into a zombie anytime soon, nor is it anything like that terminal disease from Love Story where Ali MacGraw dies in Ryan O’Neal’s arms.  Boy did I hate that movie.  In fact pityrosorum folliculitis, although a tongue twister, is pretty mundane, but it is the focal point of a good story about the quality of medical care here in Thailand.
So, let’s start at the beginning.
About 15 years

Living with (and on) Thailand’s Creepy Crawlies
Originally posted on November 1, 2011
One thing a person from a colder climate discovers when they move to the tropics is that much more stuff here seems to be alive. Touch a tree and your hand comes away covered in ants, some biting like crazy. Smell a flower and you stir up bees, wasps, butterflies and moths. Walk through the grass and insects, frogs, birds, and snakes (hopefully) jump out of your way. The tropics is like a great big, living soup.
I’ve had cobras, lizards, turtles, giant snails, huge rodents, bofo toads, and lightening fast

My Other Car is a Motorcycle
Originally posted on October 20, 2010
If you are considering living in Thailand, it is probably a good idea to begin thinking about what you will do about transportation. Mass transit, outside of Bangkok, is basically non-existent. Most towns have converted pickup trucks that act as taxis and pick up people for short rides for a few baht (thus the name “baht buses”), or you might wind up riding in a motorcycle side car which do the same, and there is a pretty extensive bus system between towns. Lately Uber is a convenient and inexpensive way to

Praying for Rain
Originally posted on April 25, 2010
It hasn’t rained for months (except for a period of about 7 minutes the other day) and the temperature has been over 40° C every day for the last few weeks, so I have been thinking a lot about the next rainy season.

You’ve probably heard that rain in the tropics is not the same animal as rain back home.  Coming from Seattle I should know something about rain.  But a real tropical rain shower is a quantum leap from a typical Seattle drizzle.  Here is what happened to me last rainy season.

An old colleague from

Questing in Thailand
Originally posted on April 1, 2015

When our family was young we would go on road trips. On long road trips a fun way to make the time go faster (and not to continually answer the question “Are we there yet?”) was to come up with a “quest”. Let’s find the biggest ball of string in the world. Let’s cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Let’s splash in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Let’s find the next Taco Bell and get one of those 1lb burritos.
Quests are things to look forward to. Whether it is just to keep the

Quick and Easy to Make American Comfort Food You Can Have Here in Thailand.
Originally posted on February 1, 2015

When I first came to Thailand back in the Middle Ages there was one store, Kasem Store, which still exists BTW, here in Chiang Mai where you could get imported foods.
Now, there are lots of supermarkets and malls where imported foods are available. But just like before, imported goods are quite pricey, and usually highly processes with lots of salt and sugar, so I tend to avoid them. And even though I eat Thai food almost daily I still sometimes crave something

Smog – Chiang Mai’s Angel of Death
Originally posted on March 25, 2013

It is appropriate that Passover happens at this time every year. Another thing that happens in March and April, here in Chiang Mai, is the yearly smog invasion.
It’s like that scene in The Ten Commandments, you know, the one with Charlton Heston.  After Moses has tried everything to make the Pharaoh let his people go, one night this smoke creeps into the town covering everything and entering all the houses, killing all the first born sons except in those houses that have lambs blood painted around its doors. It

So You Want To Start A Business In Thailand?
Originally posted on January 15, 2012
I read this post on a Thai forum the other day:
“I currently live in Viet Nam and am thinking of moving to Thailand. I have approximately 3 million baht and want to start a business in Phuket, maybe a guest house or a restaurant/bar. What do you think of this idea?”
I wanted to just scream at my computer screen “No, you idiot! If I thought for a week I couldn’t come up with a worse idea, or a better way to lose all my money.” Hey, if the

Thailand’s  Scams and Scammers
Originally posted on March 3, 2015
Swindlers, rip off artists, and con-men. They’ve been around since long before P.T. Barnum was falsely attributed the quote “There’s a sucker born every minute.”  Probably each cave had its own Neanderthal con-man preying on cave suckers.

I don’t believe that there are any more con-men here in Thailand than anywhere else in the world.  Wherever people are gullible, ignorant, and greedy, the scammers will be attracted like bees to honey.  But we really do have some pretty good con-people right here in Thailand to take advantage of them.

I’ve been scammed once, in

The Bangkok-ification of Chiang Mai
Originally posted on April 1, 2016

I usually avoid downtown Chiang Mai, especially during rush hour (I also never go downtown on holidays like Songkran, Loy Krathong, and Chiang Mai University graduation days). But I just had my 6-month check up with my trusted urologist and the appointment was for 5pm. Happily, my PSA level was steady and I was good for another half year. I was smiling as I pulled out of the hospital garage but that soon changed. I was quickly reminded why I had set my rule about avoiding downtown CM during rush

The Rainy Season Has Arrived
Originally posted on August 9, 2011

The rainy season has finally come in full force to Chiang Mai. The canal behind our house is almost to overflowing and it has been pouring for the past 48 hours. Sometimes a hard rain like this will fall for a week. Flooding has already occurred in a few towns and lots of the country is flooded.  I am sure there will be more to come. Typically during the rainy season the storm clouds begin to form in the late afternoon, the skies open up with a drenching rain for about

The Temples of Thailand
Originally posted on June 5, 2014

This month I celebrate my birthday. In Buddhist tradition one often makes merit and gives gifts on their birthdays. For this birthday I would like to give the gift of understanding what we see when we visit a Thai temple. Having a fuller understanding of what a temple consists of will bring us a better appreciation and understanding of the Thai culture and Thai Buddhism.
The following is taken from a chapter of my ebook Retired Life in Thailand.
And on this day I wish you all prosperity and the fulfillment of your retirement

The Thai Food That I Eat
Originally posted on July 12, 2012

Warning!  Weight gain may follow the reading of this post.
Before retiring, and when we lived in America, one thing we almost never did was to go to a Thai restaurant. We found that the food served in American Thai restaurants not only wasn’t close in quality to the food served in Thailand, but the flavors were quite different and it was so sweet as to be almost inedible. It was obviously made for the American palate.
And the silly star rating system on how hot the food was made was most

Tips on Moving Overseas
Originally posted on March 21, 2010

When moving overseas it is best to make a plan.  The following are some steps you can take to help organize your move and a checklist that will help you to put those steps in order.
1.  Know your time frame: Know how long you have before your move will take place.  Leave yourself enough time to do the hundreds of things you’ll need to do before pulling up stakes.  If you are selling your house you may not be able to finalize your time frame until the status of your home sale is

What I Do and What I Don’t in Thailand
Originally posted on July 10, 2014

I thought of making the title of this latest series of posts “Dos and Don’ts in Thailand”. But then that would be telling you what you should and shouldn’t do while living here. And that is not what this blog is all about. I usually try to avoid giving that kind of prescriptive advice. We are all different and relate to the world differently. Things that work for one person may not work for another, and vice versa. So instead, I thought I would share what

You Can Get Anything You Want – Almost
Originally posted on January 1, 2017
Apologies to Arlo Guthrie and Alice

When we were packing our 40’ shipping container on our way to a retirement in Thailand one of the things we thought about was what stuff should we ship that we just couldn’t get here in Thailand. We made a long list, went shopping, packed it all up in boxes, and sent it on its way. It turns out that we were way off with our list, and in today’s Thailand you can get just about anything you want or need – almost.