Why Thailand?

None of us can be sure of what the future holds. Given the situation in our country with inflation, debt, politics, etc. and in the world with violence, protests, terrorists, etc. and then throw natural disasters into the mix and it feels very good to me to know that if my wife and I are in Thailand, we can exist because we can grow our own food, our property has lots of water and we are not near any kind of large city where violence can break out. We are not in a Hurricane zone or flood zone, there are no volcanoes in Thailand and we are not subject to freezes. There is no fault line under Thailand so the only earthquakes experienced are some mild shaking from those that may occur in Myanmar (Burma) and our farm is a long way from Burma. We could potentially suffer from drought at some point but with our farm having water on three sides we are in better shape than many farmers to survive that. For whatever reason tornadoes do not occur in Thailand. We are nowhere close to an area that a Tsunami can reach and this is a capitalist society with lots of entrepreneurship and a population that believes in democracy. Unlike the United States Thailand is not a target for any radical group other than islamic extremists in the far south near the Malaysian border.

Taxes are very low here. Most of the government money comes from a value added tax (VAT). We will pay almost no property taxes or income taxes. When you go shopping there is no sales tax so the price that is posted is the final price . I really like that. Health care is excellent and cost very little. Food, utilities, clothing etc. are very inexpensive here. Gas is about the same price as the United States but we can use our motorbikes most of the time. The infrastructure is very good. Roads for the most part are good and well maintained. We have running water and electricity. In my two months here we have only lost power once and that only lasted a couple of hours. We have great cellular service and high speed internet. With todays technology we can communicate with anywhere in the world and do all our banking and bill paying electronically

Many of you have heard about the protests that occur on occasion in Bangkok. They are usually isolated to a small area. For us to worry about the protests in Bangkok would be like someone in Iowa being afraid of being hurt by protests in Washington DC or riots in Detroit. 

Thailand is 95% Buddhist which is a peaceful “religion” and it is practiced openly on a daily basis, including in the schools. Kids here are taught the Buddhist way daily and even in public schools Buddhism is practiced. Children here are taught respect for their elders. That is not to say the children never get in trouble or cause problems but they seem to be minimal. Parens are till allowed to punish misbehavior here. It seems the older you are, the more respected you are. The elders in this village are considered an asset not a hindrance. The younger generations respect the wisdom and experience of the older generation. Each day before leaving for  school and when they arrive home from the school each of the kids gives me a Wai (hands together as though in prayer) and a bow to show respect. They do that for each elder present at the time. If they forget, the parents/grand parents are quick to remind them.

I found some amazing information on the internet. It is a series of articles written by a Cassandra James for a publication called “Asia Travel Examiner”. While I cannot reproduce the content due to copy write law I can provide a link and if you have an interest in learning more she is a wonderful writer who came to live in Thailand years ago and never left. Here is a link to one of her articles:

Continue reading on Examiner.com: What do Thais really think about their families? - True 'family values' not the American version - National Asia Travel | Examiner.com

Add to all this the fact that the Thai economy makes ours in the U.S. look sick. Here are some of the stats for you:

  • Thailand is the second largest economy in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia.
  • With regards to social and development indicators, Thailand is recognized by the World Bank as “one of the great development success stories”.
  • Within 22 years, the percentage of the population living below the national poverty line decreased dramatically from 65.26% in 1988 to 13.15% in 2011.
  • As of the first quarter of the year 2013, its unemployment rate is 0.7 percent, making Thailand the country with the fourth lowest unemployment rate in the world after Cambodia, Monaco and Qatar.
  • The headline inflation rate as of the first quarter of 2013 remains controllable at 3.09% with the policy interest rate of 2.75%.
  • The 2013 ROSC, a formal assessment of the OECD Principles of Corporate Governance, confirms that Thailand has emerged as a regional leader in corporate governance with a relatively comprehensive framework and has achieved high levels of compliance in a number of key areas. Annual reports from Thai companies not only have complete financial statements, but a range of other information often not found in other countries, like details on the compensation of individual board members and the CEO and statements on risk and risk management that go beyond standard “corporate boilerplate”. Information on companies is readily available in English and Thai from a range of sources. Similarly, Thailand has a both a strong legal and regulatory framework for investor protection and a robust culture of board professionalism, with boards of listed companies embracing many of the best practices found in the most developed economies.

In my opinion Thailand is, in many ways, more free than the United States. It is not a Nanny State. Now with the freedom comes risks. The Thais take the approach that if you want to do something dangerous you have the right to do that and you suffer the consequences. While there are seat belt laws (only for the driver and front seat passengers), and helmet laws for motorbikes those laws are seldom enforced outside of the major cities. You want to drive your motorcycle with 4 others on it? Go for it. You want to drive your pick up truck with a dozen people riding in the back. Go for it. You want to pile goods in your truck so high if you go faster than 20 mies an hour around a curve you will tip over? Go for it. You take the risk, you pay the consequences. 

Is this a utopia? No, far from it. It is extremely hot and humid during the spring. During the rainy season there can be localized flooding. The roads in Thailand are some of the most dangerous in the world. Here you have to practice 360 degree driving. Things can come at you from any direction. Thais pass other vehicles on the right and the left. Vehicles often go the wrong direction because they want to shorten their distance to the next turn. Red lights do not mean stop. Green lights should mean go but you better aware that drivers crossing your path may not stop for the red light. Many vehicles drive on the shoulder of the road. Drivers will not let you in. We were coming out of a business driveway trying to get across to the Westbound lane. The traffic in the Eastbound lane was backed up due to a traffic jam ahead. At least 20 vehicles would simply pull forward and block us as traffic crawled even though it was clear going the other direction. It would not have cost any of them any time to pause for us to cross before pulling forward. Finally ten minutes later it was clear enough for us to make a dash across and go on our way. Drove me crazy. Move out of the way for emergency vehicles? Forget it. The drivers just continue driving and it is up to the emergency vehicle to make their way through traffic. Want to drive the main highways at night? be aware that the truck drivers and bus drivers may not have had much sleep. Many bad accidents here are do to drivers dozing at the wheel. In fact, I prefer to fly or take the train rather than travel by bus at night. 

Back to the positives:

  • Beautiful Beaches
  • Gorgeous Mountains
  • Exotic forests and jungles
  • Amazing Temples
  • Accommodations at prices you will not believe until you come here. Great hotels in fantastic locations with prices like a motel six.
  • Bright colors everywhere
  • A smiling, happy population
  • Respectful youth
  • Incredibly low cost of living
  • Great food that is healthy (we buy are food fresh every day)
  • Freedom there is almost an absence of rules in Thailand. Despite this, people generally go about living their life making responsible decisions and being kind to one another.
  • Fun - The Thai word for fun is “Sanuk” and Thais believe if what you are doing is not Sanuk, why do it? That applies to everything including their jobs and interactions with others. They love to laugh, joke and party. Very rarely will you see a Thai display anger in public. Thais find it offensive to display negative emotions in public. 
  • If you are a man and single and come to Thailand be prepared to fall in love. The women here are amazing and very different from their western counterparts. (I will address this in another article later because you do have to be careful).
  • Animals. Where in America can you walk down the street and have an elephant ask you for food, then bow when you provide it?
  • Shopping. Thais love to shop just like we do in the U.S. The difference is the diversity of goods available and the low prices make shopping here a real adventure. Also, outside of the major malls, be prepared to bargain. Thai merchants will actually be disappointed if you accept full price with bargaining because to bargain is part of the fun. Phai is an expert at it and I don’t do too bad myself. No matter what price I am quoted I always act shocked like I never heard anything so ridiculous. They always laugh and from that point the game is on until they come to what I believe is the best price I can get. I have been known to walk back and forth between two merchants and pit them against each other. They seem to love it and I save money. 

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