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Top 10 reasons to live in Thailand

Tim Newton

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Let’s move to Thailand! Many travel to the Land of Smiles and some even stay, drawn by it’s culture, climate, opportunities, cost-of-living or maybe even ‘love’. Here are our top ten reasons to move to and live in Thailand.

1. The weather

Thailand’s weather, north to south, can vary quite a bit but most of the year it’s warm during the days wherever you are except in the far north where there are a few cooler months with cold nights. Thailand seems to avoid excesses in weather. Hot and humid but rarely over 35. Winds usually light to moderate but rarely over 25 knots and there are no tornadoes, hurricanes or cyclones. Rain can be quite heavy during the southern monsoon, even torrential, but the bursts are usually brief. But if warm, humid weather doesn’t suit you then most Thai locations won’t suit you either – it does get hot. Mind you there’s air con just about everywhere in the cities and tourist areas these days so it’s easy to escape the heat when you need to. Also, despite the initial shock to the body, you do acclimatise to the humid weather very quickly.

Top 10 reasons to live in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

More about Thailand’s weather, location by location, HERE.

2. The culture

Thailand is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations. For good reason. As a culture the Thais are truly unique with a distinct culture including influences from ancient religions, past civilisations and a ‘mai phen rai’ (it doesn’t matter) attitude to life. There are plenty of generalisations people use to describe Thai people – polite, fun-loving, respectful – but there’s a lot more to it.

Thai culture is much more complex and nuanced than you will ever know. Even living in the country for many years, as a foreigner, won’t get you much closer to fully understanding the ‘Thai Way’. The best way to at least try and understand Thai culture is to immerse yourself in the festivals, celebrations and family life (when the opportunity arises).

In business, in love, in groups and as friends, Thainess is a long adventure that will equally confuse, enrage, engage and delight you.

Probably the most influential aspect of the culture is Buddhism, practiced more as a way of life than a daily worship, by 95% of Thais. It’s is version of Theravada Buddhism with its roots, as a sect, in Burma but with influences from the sub-continent (indeed Buddha was born in Nepal). A visit to Thailand would never be complete unless you visit a few temples – ornate, unique but, at the same time, ubiquitous and central to all family and community ceremonies.

Read more about Thai Buddhism HERE.

Top 10 reasons to live in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

3. Choices

So you’re going to live in Thailand. But where? The country has many different ‘vibes’ which relate to regional cuisine, language, weather and cultural influences. With direct borders to Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, there’s plenty of regional influences as well.

The easiest move to Thailand is to choose one of the main business or tourist centres where English-speaking Thais will be more plentiful making many aspects of your life easier. If English isn’t your main language then you’re going to need to brush up on some Thai language. Bangkok (obviously), Phuket, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Samui and Hua Hin would be the main population centres where jobs may be easier to find and modern life conveniences at hand.

Bangkok is a big-bustling Asian city, with a soul and outstanding shopping, at all levels. Food is available just about anywhere and there’s plenty of reasons why the city is known as one of the world’s great gastronomic adventures.

Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and is all about beaches and the beautiful surrounding islands. It’s also the jump-off point in the south for Phang Nga, Krabi and the world-famous Koh Phi Phi.

Pattaya is the party capital, easy to get around and less than two hours out of Bangkok. If you want nightlife, Pattaya is hard to beat anywhere in Asia. The more it tries to shake off it’s red light reputation, the more visitors continue to flock to Sin City for its vivid night life. Be assured, no one goes to Pattaya for the beaches.

Chiang Mai is Thailand’s northern city with a unique Lanna culture, surrounded by hills. Natural beauty, more moderate weather and a slightly slower pace make Chiang Mai and nearby Chiang Rai a popular choice for retirees.

Koh Samui, or just plain ’Samui’, is the largest island in the Gulf of Thailand. It’s all about beach life but a little less crowded than Phuket, just a 45 minute flight away. It’s also a jump-off point for people travelling to Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao.

Hua Hin has been a favourite weekend break for Bangkokians for centuries and is now gaining favour with a growing expat crowd. A long stretch of beach and an increasingly popular hinterland, Hua Hin has everything you need for a break or a new life with the convenience of Bangkok, an easy three hour drive away.

Then there’s Esan (or Isan), Thailand’s north-east with the growing hubs of Ubon Ratchathani and Khon Kaen. Different festivals, different flavours, the Esan region is becoming a popular destination for tourists looking for more than just beaches and nightlife.

No matter where you choose to live in Thailand you will likely have an international airport at a nearby city and options to fly to all sorts of exotic locations in Asia and Europe with direct flights, particularly airports in Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya and Chiang Mai.

Top 10 reasons to live in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

4. The food

It’s hard to think of many other world cuisines that get people as excited as they do about Thai food. It can be spicy, pungent, exotic and an adventure in every bite. There is no single Thai cuisine, there are just hundreds of dishes that are all different. Opening up a menu in any Thai restaurant – and there is a Thai restaurant just about anywhere there are people or electricity – will provide you the most astonishing selection of choices. No matter whether it’s street food or fine-dining in a fancy restaurant, you will be hard-pressed to find ‘bad’ Thai food. Although the prices will differ, be assured that the street food will, most times, be equally amazing as the higher-priced options. Spicy? You bet!!! If you are new to Thai food, even asking for ‘mild’ spice may blow your socks off. And be warned, the Thai food you’ve been eating at Thai restaurants around the world is quite different to the local stuff which is likely to have much more zing and spice.

Relative to the cost of food in other countries, eating in Thailand can be very cheap, depending on where you live and how fancy the restaurant.

Top 10 reasons to live in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

5. The Festivals

Fireworks, colour, smoke, noise, costumes, absence of occupational health and safety. That could describe any of the many, many festivals held around Thailand each year. Different regions, different festivals. Some reflect an ancient culture and a rich history, other make absolutely no sense but we enjoy them anyway. We’ll go through some of the main ones and a few you’ll NEVER see anywhere else in the world.

We’ll start with Songkran because that’s the start of the Thai new year. It’s held on April 13. Having already blown most of the budget on fireworks for the western new year on January 1 and the Chinese New Year festivities, this time they use water as a means of ‘purification’, saying goodbye to the country’s hot season and welcoming the monsoonal rains. It involves a lot of water. In the past it was a gentle festival held at temples washing Buddha images. Somehow it’s morphed into a huge water fight, in some places, running over many days up to week (in Chiang Mai and parts of Pattaya). Ladeling water gently onto Buddha statues has been replaced by all-out water fights, loud music, foam and a party that has no rules. If you’re outside during Songkran, especially in the main tourist zones, you WILL get splashed, probably drenched. The more the authorities try and play down the fun in Songkran the more tourists arrive each year determined to party in an event that’s somewhere between a video-game and the last half of ‘Titanic’.

Top 10 reasons to live in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

And that’s just ONE festival!

The Vegetarian Festival, principally held in Phuket with it’s Chinese heritage connections, is an assault on all your senses. Parades are held around the island by various community groups with participants wearing white and followed up by either one or many mah-song. These mah-song have been ‘possessed’ by a spirit and display tourettes-like ticks, grunts and choreography that suggests their claims may indeed be true. If it’s all an act, it’s a very convincing one because, apart from all the cavorting down the street, they also have their cheeks and other parts of their body pierced – not by an earring or something tame like that – we’re talking spears, swords, petrol pumps, guns. It’s insane! These days there’s an ambulance following behind and probably more mah-song succumb to blood loss than is ever reported.

Top 10 reasons to live in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

Phi ta khon (or Ghost Festival) is held in the Dan Sai district of north-eastern Thailand (near the Lao border) each year and usually follows a parade of people dressed up in rags with ghost masks. OK that’s colourful and fun enough. But they also carry with them large phallic axes which are meant to reflect… oh, Google it.

Top 10 reasons to live in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

In Esan and around the Laos border areas there are many rocket festivals each year around May to June. Probably the biggest is the Yasothon Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival. Imagine groups building their own rocket with the winner able to fire their rocket to the highest altitude. Like Songkran, the idea is to welcome in the forthcoming wet season (by piercing the sky to encourage rain). The rockets used to be made out of bamboo but are more likely to be constructed out of PVC pipes these days and powered by ‘black powder’ which is regulated by certain rules (we doubt this claim!!). So there’s gun powder, loud music, alcohol and men in competition to fire home-made rockets high into the Esan sky – what could possible go wrong?! Some of the rockets reach heights of several kilometres and can travel a lot further down range.

Read more about the rocket festivals HERE.

Chinese New Year is big in China and it’s also huge in Thailand. Partly because there are many ethnic Thai-Chinese born in Thailand but also because there are so many Chinese visiting the Kingdom these days. The Chinese New Year festivities stretch from shopping centre sales to regional street parades to ceremonies for families and businesses.

For a Buddhist country, Christmas is ironically enthusiastically celebrated. It involves presents, eating, celebrations, coloured lights and people spending money so it was always going to fly in Thailand. Thais remain completely bemused by Santa Claus, ‘baby Jesus’ and Christmas carols but, commercially, they’ve certainly embraced it now. I have never seen better decorations or a celebration of Christmas than I have in Bangkok. My best Christmas moment was when I found a statue of Santa Claus nailed to a cross – a slight cultural faux pas where they’d confused Easter and Christmas and come up with a perfectly ‘Thai’ Christmas decoration.

Top 10 reasons to live in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

6. The kids

Thai children are genuinely cute, polite and always smiling when out in public. Somewhere between the ages of 7 and 8 up to 18 years, however, they become less cute and polite and, like teenagers just about anywhere else in the world, they become feral. Thai kids have the concepts of sanook (fun) and mai phen rai (it doesn’t matter) totally ingrained into their psyche and it must happen at an early age. They are truly delightful to interact with. Sometimes quite shy they can become very cheeky once you get to know them. If you’re having a bad day just say hi to some Thai kids and enjoy the smile.

Top 10 reasons to live in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

7. Thai time

Physicist, Stephen Hawking, probably better than other scientists, was able to describe the concept of time for our generation to grasp. None of this information has reached Thailand where time is truly elastic and changeable. Make an appointment with a Thai and be ready for an exasperating experience where ‘early’ means up to 30 minutes after the agreed time or ‘late’ can mean tomorrow or some time after that. This elasticity reflects just another aspect of ‘mai phen rai’ and ‘sabai sabai’ (relax). Whereas some westerners can get easily flustered by punctuality issues, Thais just see, generally, other things as being more important – family, eating, earning money for the day, eating, getting their hair cut or eating. The situation is slowly improving, especially in a business situations, but beware that making appointments in Thailand could lead to health issues and stress. At the same time the Thais are probably the smart ones and not letting punctuality get in the way of enjoying their family and the other important things in life.

Top 10 reasons to live in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

8. Flexible visas for a long-term stay

If you’re already an expat or frequent visitor you’re probably already on the floor in fits of laughter after reading a heading ‘Flexible visas’ in a list of reasons to move to Thailand. Hear me out…

There are lots of different visas for living and working in Thailand. This article is far from an exhaustive list. I’ll use the nicknames to describe the visas. To start with there’s the Retirement Visa (Geeza Visa) which allows citizens from most countries to live and retire in Thailand if you’re over 50 and have a minimum monthly income. You can’t work legally in Thailand with this visa but your earnings could come from outside the Kingdom and, mostly, the conditions aren’t too onerous.

For businesspeople you will need a Non B visa. You can also open a Thai company, a company bank account, hire Thai or foreign staff and conduct business in the Kingdom, under various restrictions.

There’s the new Smart Visa which is a four year visa and includes spouse and children. You will need to be earning more than 200,000 baht per month and this visa is for only certain occupations in the start-up, industry, medical and tech fields. There are also tourist visas, education visas and a few other variations. The bottomline is that the visas to live and work in Thailand are not expensive and relatively easy to get (if you fulfil all the conditions).

More about the Smart Visa HERE.

The problems arise in the lawyers used to get visas (some that call themselves immigration lawyers, aren’t) and the ‘flexible’ (some say haphazard) way some immigration officers apply the regulations. Around the Kingdom there also seems a shortage of immigration officers to keep up with the popularity of people wanting to live and work in Thailand. The 90 day reporting on most visas is also seen as onerous by many with the best attempts at putting the reporting online ‘patchy’ in their success.

Our only advice in all this is to find a reputable, professional lawyer (and hopefully recommended) and don’t try and take short-cuts. Immigration transgressions are not treated kindly by police and immigration officers.

Read more about visas in Thailand HERE.

Top 10 reasons to live in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

9. Safety

Thailand is a safe place to live. Yes, the road toll in Thailand is horrendous and there are all sorts of unlikely accidents in the tourists regions. But with 34 million visitors each year (2017) and more to come, there will always be headlines of tourists behaving badly, scams and incidents. But walking around the streets of Thailand should be considered safer than many other countries. This writer wouldn’t hesitate to walk just about anywhere at any time in Thailand. If you use common sense in your choices, especially when on Thai roads, you should be able to feel quite safe living in Thailand.

Top 10 reasons to live in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

10. Find a ‘friend’ or even a partner

There is no denying that many have travelled to the land of smiles to partake in the relatively available ‘pleasures of the flesh’. Pattaya became popular after the end of WW2 and then had its credentials enthusiastically confirmed during the Vietnam War and in the years following, as a centre for R&R. The troops were encouraged to head there for a break from the toils of war, and they did. And so Thailand’s reputation as a ‘place of sin’ was started.

The World Health Organisation has estimated that there are up to 30,000 prostitutes working in Pattaya alone. You’ll also see many older, sometimes overweight, westerners walking hand in hand with young Thai girlfriends or partners. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand that most of this is just ‘prostitution’ wrapped up in Thainess, in a country where, officially, prostitution is illegal. Of course there are many, many lovely Thai woman who marry overseas men and find long-lasting happiness. It’s rare though. The same situation exists for older western men and younger Thai men seeking a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Men Behaving Badly will continue to be a category of tourist coming to Thailand, in amongst all the other types of visitors, for the foreseeable future. Pattaya (along with Patpong and Soi Cowboy in Bangkok and Bangla Road in Phuket) are red light districts elaborately decorated and designed to extract money from paying customers, mostly for alcohol, but for anything else they may care to buy. Whilst the Thai government plays down this aspect of tourism in Thailand there’s no denying that it’s plainly available and no shortage of supply equalling demand.

On the seedy side, paedophiles and human trafficking are long term issues in Thailand that recent governments have been trying to vigorously address and clamp down on. Both are serious crimes in Thailand and perpetrators are caught often, tried and jailed.

Top 10 reasons to live in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

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Find more Thai Life top 10s and top 10s in Thailand on The Thaiger.

Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 450 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now the General Manager and writer for The Thaiger. He's reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue.

Business

Future of Thai department stores is being redefined

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Future of Thai department stores is being redefined | The Thaiger

While department stores have been a familiar destination for Thai people for many decades, CBRE, an international property consultant, is witnessing a decline in popularity and stunted growth, particularly in 2020 when Covid-19 adversely impacted the sector. CBRE believes that to adapt to e-commerce disruption and the changing consumer behaviour, department stores in 2021 (and beyond) will have to fine-tune their business model in terms of customer shopping experience, inventive activities and value-added programmes to continue their status as the second home for Thai shoppers.

Jariya Thumtrongkitkul, Head of Advisory and Transaction Services – Retail, CBRE Thailand explained… “While department stores offer shoppers convenience, saving them time with many varieties of goods grouped in different departments and allowing the shoppers to find and compare products and choose what they want, the traditional department store model does not fit the needs, lifestyle and behaviour of its shoppers anymore, especially the new generations.”

According to CBRE Research, the total retail supply in Bangkok as of Q4 2020 increased to 7.8 million square metres, a 1.16% increase year-on-year. Out of this, only approximately 3% was reported within the department store format. The department store market in Thailand is mainly dominated by two domestic retail giants, with Central Group and The Mall Group holding the largest market shares. They do not only concentrate in Bangkok, but have also opened department stores in many major cities throughout the country which allowed them to build bigger networks and grow their customer base.

In the past few decades, Japanese investors had also shown interest in entering the Thai market and offered local features that are well-known in Japanese department stores: simplicity, premium quality and services. However, with strong competition many Japanese department store operators have ceased their expansion plans. Some have exited the country due to the fierce competition against the local players, their performance in Thailand and the shrinking Japanese department store business, especially in overseas countries.

“The department store concept as a one stop shopping place is still in demand for certain groups of customers. However, with the e-commerce disruption and changing consumer behaviour, department store operators need to adapt their models, offerings and value-added services to their customers to cope with the challenging economic and market conditions.”

Adaptability of department stores can be highlighted into 3 main parts: customer shopping experience, inventive sales and marketing activities, and value-added programmes. While more and more younger generations prefer to shop online to save time and money, the brick-and-mortar store is still believed to be the second home for Thai shoppers. Department stores should be more agile in the era of e-commerce and adopt some technological innovations such as in-store automation and mobile payment solutions to reach the younger crowds.

Design is another aspect that plays an important part in customer shopping experience. Department stores can be more creative in remodelling traditional department store space into some ingenious and interactive space with a great design and right product portfolio mix for their customers.

The Mall Group, for example, has launched its first “Lifestore” concept at The Mall Ngamwongwan at the end of 2020 by redesigning and renovating its traditional department store space to enhance customer shopping experience and enjoyment.

The second part to be considered for the adaptability comprises inventive activities related to sales and marketing. The prices of products being sold in a department store are normally set high to cover the higher establishment and operating costs by operators, narrowing their target to only upper- to high-income customers.

Brand offerings may also no longer meet fast-changing customer needs since today’s shoppers have more choices in buying products online, not to mention the declining footfall due to the growth of e-commerce. CBRE Research has seen domestic players pushing hard to drive sales growth via numerous promotions, marketing campaigns and activities and collaboration with credit card companies during seasonal sales.

The third part consists of value-added programmes such as personal shopper, customer loyalty programme, on-demand solution and service personalisation, which have become a new trend as customers, including the aging population, are now more sophisticated and demanding.

The retail landscape has changed drastically in the past few years from various factors like technological advancement, consumer behaviour and preference as well as Covid-19. Cookie-cutter strategy will be a thing of the past, especially for department stores where the format and offerings have remained the same for decades.

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Can you survive 10 days of no talking, no phone? The Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat | VIDEO

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Can you survive 10 days of no talking, no phone? The Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat | VIDEO | The Thaiger

Thaiger team member Jett tells of his experience at a 10-day Vipassana Meditation Retreat in Phitsanulok Province in central Thailand. No talking, no phone, vegetarian meals, and 12 hours of meditation each day. Transformative experience or sheer insanity? Tim finds out the answers!

Retreat location:

https://goo.gl/maps/AuovZvEVPRkxMshy7

Learn more:

https://www.dhamma.org

https://www.youtube.com/user/VipassanaOrg

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The ‘office’ is SO last year. Say hello to more remote working.

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The ‘office’ is SO last year. Say hello to more remote working. | The Thaiger

Do you work from home? Or anywhere you have your laptop and wi-fi? You’re part of a growing trend in modern work practices as the fancy city office becomes an expensive relic of the ‘old normal’.

2020 became the year of people working from home. In same case, it was the year of being told to stay home so there wasn’t much option. During Thailand’s lockdowns in April and May, offices were closed and employers had to scramble to find alternatives to the “office”. With the rise of Zoom and other video conferencing software, ways of tracking time-on-keyboard and hundreds of other monitoring apps, employers suddenly discovered they could actually run their businesses without an office. There were certainly new dynamics and unforeseen challenges, but for the most part, it worked.

Companies had worked from central office locations for a hundred years. The remote/work-from-home option was a new test for everyone involved but many early wrinkles have been ironed out after an accelerated learning curve due to the Covid-19 situation.

In the early days, most companies weren’t ready to close up the office and send their workers home claiming that some basic operations such as accounting and invoicing were not yet able to be done online (Thailand has a love of hard-copies and paperwork).

Team meetings were also more clumsy online. There were even companies that told their staff to keep coming in to the office as there was no legal barrier preventing them from doing so. But many smaller and less digitally-savvy firms required workers to come in and risk contracting the virus.

In the US, the Bureau of Labour Statistics found only 29% of jobs in the US could be completed from home, while in Thailand (a far less digitised and service-based economy) the percentage was probably lower.

But larger Thai firms, such as Unilever and True Digital allowed nearly 100% of their white-collar employees to work from home early during the lockdown phase. Other companies adapted quickly and found that working remotely, or from home, allowed their businesses additional flexibility. Many workers also say they enjoyed the lack of office interruptions too.

While Unilever was unable to send its factory workforce home, it was able to shift all sales and executive personnel fully online to avoid possible Covid exposure finding hitherto unknown improvements in the firm’s e-commerce presence.

Thai startups such as Eko (“your complete employee experience platform”) was able to capitalise on the rise of work-from-home with its “work anywhere” employee application. Eko experienced 200% year-on-year sales growth in the first half of 2020 as companies looked for solutions to connect employees from home.

Teleconferencing juggernaut Zoom was trading shares at US$88 at the start of 2020, to rise to $568 by mid-October, only to trail off to $337 by the end of the year – the fickle nature of a fast-rising tech start-up.

Employees, generally, prefer the shift to working from home and the flexible hours. It doesn’t suit all businesses or all employees, but it suits many. A study by by recruitment specialists Robert Walters Thailand found 75% of workers want opportunities to work-from-home and only 25% want a return to full-time work at the office.

Last month the police and the Bangkok Metropolitan Organisation police urged businesses to allow employees to work from home at least once a week to cut down on traffic-induced pollution.

The Covid-19 pandemic also forced countries to rethink their supply chains and reliance on foreign goods. China, for example, responded to the outbreak by shutting down factories, some of which other countries relied on for medical equipment needed to fight the virus, and vital components needed for manufacturing of goods in China and other countries.

Whilst there was an initial push-back on China, the international supply chain has become so entwined with Chinese businesses and manufacturers, and China with other countries, that it would take decades to unwind.

One of the biggest winners this year has been the rise of the delivery services. Grab Bike, Food Panda, We Serve and Line Bike are the best known but there are start ups making inroads into the growing delivery space as well as many smaller and larger businesses that have their own deliveries.

These businesses have been able to thrive on the ‘new normal’ stay-at-home culture. Eat at home, work at home, shop from home, watch movies at home – the trend is growing as people realise that they can get almost everything delivered, timely, efficiently and at little additional cost, usually free.

The big test will be once the Covid situation settles down, whatever that means and whenever it happens, and companies look back at the successes and failures of their employees working from home. But there’s no doubt the pandemic and the imposed restrictions ave accelerated the need to develop new ways of allowing employees to work safely, remotely or from home.

The successful transition of some office work to work-at-home will also put continued pressure on the commercial real estate market. Many employers are looking at their monthly office rental outgoings and starting to measure the return on their investment.

The rise of the work-at-home phenomenon and the digital nomad will be the main trends for office work in 2021.

This article was written laying on a couch, at home, at 6.15am in the morning, because we can.

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