As the entire world reels from the repercussions of the COVID pandemic, maybe now is a good time to take a breath and appreciate the good things around us and the positive aspects of our communities and the people who live in them.
Nearly ten years ago, during the height of the last financial recession, my family made the leap of faith to move to Thailand, leaving the West behind with its overwhelming debt burden and the constant low buzz of anxiety permeating our lives. We collectively made a change to live a better, healthier, and happier life…Almost a decade later, I can say without a shadow of a doubt, moving to Thailand was the best decision my family ever made. If you have been contemplating making a change in your life, maybe now is the perfect time to do it.
Throughout my early childhood, our family had visited Thailand many, many times. Each time I came to Thailand I fell in love with the sensuousness of the country….and by sensual, I don’t mean sexual. I don’t have any prudish or puritan hangups about Thailand’s reputation for the sex industry as a whole, but I’m talking about the way Thailand ignited all my senses. It was a sensory overload….an explosion of noise, color, smells, & flavors.
I loved the lazy and endless, hot and sweaty days walking around Bangkok in the 1970s and 80s; cooling off with fresh-cut, ice-cold sugar cane stalks or cold beverages served in plastic bags along some dusty, unpaved road. I loved the smell of braided jasmine flowers hanging off a rear-view mirror; the sight of lumbering elephants walking alongside the bustling Bangkok traffic; the small television sets in every restaurant playing campy ghost movies; and the hypnotic sound of traditional Muay Thai music before each match.
There was the constant smoke of burning charcoal in the streets, and the strange and delicious smells from the throng of street vendors crowding the sidewalks, forcing you to walk in the road; the colorful spices and aromatic curries; the beautifully and carefully displayed pyramids of tropical fruit; the swarms of flies buzzing over the unrefrigerated, freshly slaughtered meat; and even the occasional pungent smell of open-air sewers that nobody seemed to notice. These constant stimulations enveloped me every moment of the day, from morning until night, on every street corner. From the fantastical temples adorned with giant serpents slithering their way up mountainside staircases to the languid women on walking street playfully teasing with invitations and hungry, sultry eyes, everything about Thailand is sensual and demands an intentional acknowledgment of life.
As a child, I relished sitting along the river sharing a plate of Phad-See-Yu noodles with my father and watching the long-tail boats race by, churning up the dark waters of the Chao Phraya. As a young adult, I observed the deep orange sunsets over the dirty city and mountains of Chiang Mai. Today I love waking up in the early morning to the sounds of tropical birds and the not-so-distant roosters in our small village nearby. When my mother wants to make a new dress for her granddaughter, she wanders through the endless, maze-like passageways of the Phahurat Market (Little India) searching through the vibrant colors and textures of Thai silks and fabrics, each one begging to be lightly caressed.
Everything in Thailand is designed to overwhelm your senses, tempting you to experience life to the fullest, to eat the ripe mango from the tree of knowledge. Whether it’s the beautiful woman inviting you to share a drink at the next whiskey bar, or the sweet and savory grilled satay wafting on every street corner, this is the way we are meant to experience life: fully and in our faces. I love Thailand. I love seeing that 80-year-old man teetering on the arms of two gorgeous ladyboys. Would it be better for him to rot away in a retirement home somewhere cold and miserable, his inattentive family waiting for him to die so they can fight over his assets? Or should he enjoy his final days with the money he spent a lifetime acquiring? Better yet, why wait until 70 or 80 years old? Live your life now.
My father moved to Thailand just shy of his 70th birthday. At the time, he thought that he and my mother had only a few more years to live. My parents weren’t healthy and didn’t lead particularly healthy lifestyles back in the US. However, after moving here, it’s like they found a new lease on life. Both my parents began exercising, something my father had rarely done before in his life. My dad has lost an impressive amount of weight, has become physically much more active, and he looks and feels younger now than when he moved here.
My father enjoys his constant interactions with locals and ex-pats and has a vibrant social life here. He had felt isolated and lonely in the US, and I think he had been suffering from mild depression. One of the beautiful aspects of Thailand is respect towards older people and the lack of stigmatization for the elderly. They are less relegated to the corners of society like in the West and are encouraged to participate more actively in society.
I am afraid of having to return to my previous life in the US with all the anxiety and pressures, societal expectations, financial uncertainty, and high cost of living. I don’t think I can easily go back. Nah, I prefer it here in my rural Thai village where I walk to the beach, passing the skinny Brahman cows along the way each morning, drinking tea at the local beach cafe, and revel in the country that still continues to delight and enthrall me all these years later.
If you’re thinking about moving to Thailand and are curious about the ex-pat life in Hua Hin, drop us a quick email. We’ll get you started off on the right foot and can answer any and all questions you have about moving and living here.