Friday, 24 February 2017

Eight years in Thailand

Thailand

It's with mixed emotions that I sit here in Don Muang International Airport in Bangkok with all my worldly belongings.

I first visited Thailand in October 2006. A short flight from Kunming, China. I was 32. Young, dumb and full of cum. Twas my first time south of the Tropic of Cancer. The metallic snow-capped mountains of Yunnan had given way to the luscious jungles of Chiang Mai. Talk about contrast. Exotic palms towered over alien looking banana trees. The stuff of postcards.

I spent a further two months in Thailand in 2007 followed by another two in 2008 as part of my travels around Asia. I moved there permanently in March 2009. Suddenly it’s 2017 and 8 years have elapsed. I’m sitting here reflecting on those initial fumblings with amusement. Lad, I was green.

Since then I’ve learned to read and write the lingo, become a qualified teacher, retired, lost $250,000, un-retired, rolled with STDs and dengue fever, crashed motorbikes, lost count of women, spent time as a monk, lived with hill tribes, quit smoking and drinking, failed, quit again, visited every province, motorbiked from Singapore to China, ran marathons and generally had a blast.

I lived in Trang (1yr), Phuket (2yrs), Pattaya (3mth), Bangkok (1yr) and Chiang Mai (3.5yrs) spending the rest of the time travelling. It’s safe to say I’ve ‘done’ Thailand. No regrets. However, I’m about to leave it all behind and start a new life in Xi’an, China.

I still love Thailand but what drew me here has lost its shine. I’m 43 and beginning to realize (as testosterone levels ease off – thank God) there’s more to life than birds, booze and bikes. I’m now into clean living (2017 will be alcohol/nicotine free), fitness (cardio and weights), spirituality (currently reading Jack Kornfield and Alan Watts), language (Mandarin), minimalism (as ever) and financial independence (again).


Salary

To achieve the last point, financial independence, requires a look at saving rates. Teaching in Thailand is not very lucrative given the investment of time and money required to obtain the necessary qualifications. These were my salaries ($1 = 35bt):



Where
School Type
Curriculum
Monthly Pay (net)
Saving Rate
Perks
Taiwan
2007
Private
Maths/English
$2000
25%
No
Trang
2009
Government
M1-M3 Maths
$815
30%
No
Phuket
2011
International
IGCSE Maths
$1700
40%
No
Bangkok
2013
International
IGCSE/A Level Maths
$2000
50%
No
Chaing Mai
2015
International
A Level Maths and Physics
$1500
60%
No
Xi'an China
2017
Government
UNSW Maths foundation course
$3100
80%
Free apartment, $1500 bonus (for flights).

I managed to save everywhere I worked – even in Trang. The saving rates improved as I honed my minimalism skills. However, it’s clear to see China offers a vastly superior opportunity. It's more than double the last job. As a minimalist, with no accommodation or any other outgoings, I aim to save 80%. It’s difficult to even earn that in Thailand. Given that I can live happily on $500/month in SEA, one year in China equates to four years of stress-free chilling on a Cambodian beach.


Toilets

There are things I’ll definitely miss about Thailand. However, the main thing will be the humble bum gun. The fact England doesn't have these puts me off going home. The thought of going back to toilet paper is disgusting. Merely redistributing the shite around your crack - urrgh. Moreover, the bogs in China are no laughing matter as I remember from 3 months there in 2006. So, yeah, I'm gonna miss Thai shitters the most. I'll likely miss the lingo, weather, people and food too.

Things I won’t miss about Thailand? Tourist towns. If I ever come back here to live, it will NOT be in another tourist ghetto. I should be grateful as I've taught the kids of expats who depend on tourism. However, I've had my fill. I'd like to live in a more traditional setting next time - somewhere like Isaan.

Brendan

Spent a canny bit of time with my American buddy.

Hitting the temples of Lamphun.









The fish farms of the Ping River.












Building hydroponic systems in his school gardening club.













Marathons and gyms

Regretted not participating in the 2016 Marathon but went along to cheer. There were loadsa Chinese.










Started going to a local gym for 40bt/session. Over the moon with 2.4km in 10m44s. As fast as the youngins. Not bad for a 43yo who's smoked for 27 years.

Also started weight training - seeing some modest muscle gain and bodyfat loss. Early days. I've learned that diet is just as important as the time spent in the gym. I've never given a shit about what I eat before so this has been eye-opening. The budget has gone North as a result of increased protein intake - mainly tuna and chicken. Mint. Wanna be ripped for China ....... coz the free apartment is on a University Campus .....

Apartment

Gonna miss this little abode. It even had an attached bog. Luxury. 3,000bt all in. I won't miss the dribbling shower and rock hard bed though.

I've lived in places like this (and worse) for years. I'm so used to it. Basically anything's better than a submarine or tent.

In contrast, the free apartment in Xi'an has bedrooms, sofas, kitchens, TVs, fridges and even a working shower. Woah! It's gonna seem palatial by my standards. I'll be binning the TV - ain't watched one for over a decade.


Coffee

Arminski introduced me to a coffee shop on the moat. Swedish Sven was good crack. Reminded of Swedish Eric who sadly passed away :( Along with Kiwi Don :( Both lads I knew from Trang.


















Is this what feminists mean by man-spreading? Armin showing that you CAN wear boxer shorts in public.
















Views

Sat on the back of Malcolm's 500cc for an offroad marathon to his Lisu wife's hill tribe village. He asked me to translate for the blokes building an irrigation system on his (well, his wife's) land. Twas a fun day.

One of the rice fields on the way. Lush. Like a snooker table.

A New Year's Eve (pre-BBQ) view near Brendan's house in MaeRim.

One day I was riding around Nakon Nowhere when the ignition key snapped off in the seat lock. I was f*cked. This bloke managed to fashion a new key from a blank using only a wire, a marker and a file! I was amazed. Took 20mins and 120bt. Tipped him a big Leo. Life saver.


Failure

Was close to tears one Friday night. Was walking past an opticians when I remembered that I'm slowly going blind. They offer free eye tests and the sales lady confirmed my suspicions.

"Yes Sir, your eyes are shit. You need reading glasses."

I stood, dismayed.

"What's wrong?"
"It's the first thing I've ever failed."
"It's OK. How old are you?"
"43. My eyes have always been mint."
"MaiBenLai. It's completely normal. Most people's eyesight deteriorates in their 40s."

Deteriorate? I'm not immortal? I guess it's time to embrace one's post-peak decline. There are three landmark life events I can vividly remember:

1. First Pube.
2. First grey hair.
3. Glasses.

The first one marks one's entrance into manhood. The next two mark one's exit from one's physical peak. I noticed the first grey hair while getting a haircut in Chiang Mai aged 40. There's a lot more now but short blonde hair does a good job of hiding em. The glasses are like the final nail in the coffin. What's next? Grey pubes and Zimmer frames?

Perhaps this explains the new mid-life-crisis gym obsession? Fight the very DNA that's causing grey hairs and blindness.

Anyway, the lass told me the reading glasses in the shop are 8,000bt. Bollicks to that. I remember seeing them in ASDA in the UK for less than a fiver. So I rode to Tesco and bought a pair for 199bt. Just try them all and see which magnification works best. No doubt I'll be back for stronger ones as the deterioration accelerates.

I'm wearing them to write this. The shame.



A House for Heinz

Heinz has been trying to rent this house from an elusive landlord. We've been back and forth a few times to see if it's possible. It's not. Fantastic location on the edge of the city.








Tunnel Temple

Finally found Wat Umong. Umong (อุโมงค์) = Tunnel.

Tunnel Temple? Curiousity aroused.

There's a labyrinth of religious burrows to explore.

I like this message about living in the present.







Visa BS

Finally got it. Took four months. FOUR months! Let that sink in. Four months to get a Chinese Z visa. Unluckily, just as I got it, the school closed for Chinese New Year. So, all in, I've had a 5 month holiday. Five glorious months of chilling in Chiang Mai. I'm not complaining.

However, as with all government bureaucracies, the Chinese Consulate was far from plain sailing. They rejected my first application because the invitation letter was addressed to the Hong Kong Embassy. Two months later they rejected my second application because of the photograph on the left. Reason? The background wasn't white enough.

What? You're f*cking joking right? No? You're serious? WTF?

Unbelievably, I managed to remain calm and set off for some whiter photos. I told the cameraman the background needs to be so white it can only be viewed through welding goggles. I then had to wait in the queue all over again. Remaining calm in such ludicrous circumstances is testament to 11 years in Asia.

For the record the original photo has been white enough for passports, driving licences, work permits, other visas, medical checks and all other bureaucracy over the last 6 years. But not white enough for China. The right photograph is fine though. The mind boggles.

I'd like to thank the admin staff at my old school for not cancelling my visa. It allowed me to enjoy a 5 month holiday in Thailand with no border runs or visa issues. Mint.

Budget

I spent 80,000bt during the 5 month break. A single month's savings in China. I wanted for nothing. This includes food, accommodation, buying a motorbike, a girlfriend (for a while), petrol, beer/tabs (before quitting), cinemas, coffee shops, internet, special oil massages, saunas, gyms, medical checks, three nights in Bangers, a Chinese visa and a flight to Xi'an. Not bad eh? It doesn't take much for a man to live a fulfilling life. Minimalism is the key. Less is more. To be fair I did supplement the spending with some tutoring income.

Tutor

I'll miss the three families I've been visiting every Saturday. Helping the kids grow in confidence was a highly rewarding endeavour. I tutored Owen for three years and saw him transition from a boy to a young man. However, he still harbours an irrational love for Nottingham Forest despite his Sensai's advice otherwise. He gave me these posh pens as a gift.

Off the piss

So this was my last night on the lash. Thursday 22nd December 2016. It started with 3 small Leos at Malcolm's house. Then 3 bigs at Sai's shop. Followed by 3 bigs with Paddy at Nui's shop. Followed by 4 bigs at the bar until they kicked me out at closing. Followed by 3 more bigs in my room. That's the equivalent of 15 big bottles of Leo (or 17 UK pints) and 60 tabs! From 6pm to 9am.

I woke at 6pm Friday night feeling like shit. Everything was a blur. What was astoundingly clear, however, is that I have a problem with alcohol. I decided to quit there and then and haven't touched a drop since. I've since discovered a new mathematical equation:

(No piss and tabs) + (weights and cardio) + (balanced diet) = Better life.

Feeling better.
Looking better.













One of the things I miss about drinking is the creative spark it gave me. I wrote this poem during the final night of inebriation. It was inspired by the intolerance shown to Trump supporters by liberals who are always espousing the need for tolerance.

Tolerance

I've been tolerant
Of that I've been told
It's a wonderful thing
A thing to behold

Stand up for your beliefs
Unless they're wrong
Then you must sing
A different song

Sometimes I like things
Others may disagree
Does that make them intolerant?
Not as good as me?


Who gets to decide
The things we hold true?
Our moral superiors
Me or you?

Tolerate the intolerable
Can it be done?
Reach a consensus
Or use a gun?

History tells us
We refuse to learn
It's written in time
Watch it all burn

2 comments:

  1. Keep the blogs up in China, if their gov. lets you.

    Rob stoker

    ReplyDelete

Please be nice.