Great Day Off

Welcome back. I love living in the paradise that is Thailand, but there are challenges when you reside in an alien culture, where everything is fresh and new. It takes time for people to you as more than a foreigner and strange presence. No matter. I persist and move on, adapting as I go. It is all worth it to be in an extraordinary place of scenic beauty and picturesque local culture. Each neighborhood has its special treasures, points of interest that are beyond compare. I have my friends and together we enjoy the climate, the beaches, the towns, and the cities.

Recently, my roommate and I decided to play basketball while using a trampoline. It was a real hoot. You can’t imagine the extra fun playing games on your trampline. I am not sure where I saw it, but my friend was up to speed on the “rules.” A day off jumping about is a great way to relax and enjoy life, one that goes rushing by when you are too busy to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. In Thailand, there is so much to enjoy; hence my decision to move here on a permanent basis. I hope to never leave. Meanwhile, I participate in the local pastimes, enjoy the cuisine which is like no other, and go about my day looking for excitement.

Playing basketball on a trampoline takes skill and balance. Your legs feel wobbly at first until you adjust to the tautness of the mat. You can warm up with any tricks you are able to perform such as knee tucks, straddles, pikes, twists, and seat landings. If you do, the passersby are apt to yell “showoff.”  I am not that gifted on this bouncing menace. It wants to throw me off and mock me as I land on my butt. Nevertheless, we had a rip-roaring time together and spent considerable time laughing out loud. I highly recommend this absurd game if you want to try something entirely new.

After sweating profusely and catching our breaths, my roommate and I set about on foot to explore the area and find a good place to eat. We relaxed and chatted over a beer and local delicacy, recapping the day and vowing to do it again soon. Every day for me in Thailand is a treat and it is all the richer when you spend it with a good friend. The memories I am making are recorded in my brain, if not on Instagram (isn’t that the normal way these days to document your life?). I don’t keep a diary, but I do have this blog to remind me of my time here in the flower of my youth (a phase of adult life that is active and exploratory).  Try a day jumping on a trampoline while trying to make a basket to see where you stand. Ha!

Safe Traveling Advice

Anyone who travels a lot or lives in a foreign country knows that it takes time to adapt to a different culture. There is much to learn about where to go and what sights to see. Usually that takes precedence over anything else when you first arrive. You may need to spend time looking for a long-term place to live and it takes a lot of research and talking to locals. If you make a mistake, you can always move. Meanwhile, you taste new foods and experience a range of customs. There comes a wonderful time when you feel at home. There is a code among expats so you will never lack for friends. While you may gravitate to English-speaking residents, you also want to socialize with the people of the land. Don’t make the mistake of hiding out just because you are intimidated and afraid.

Many people don’t feel comfortable or safe when away from home. I have to say right here that Thailand is not a hostile place. The people are welcoming and congenial. You can ask them for anything from directions to places to shop and dine. They will acquaint you with the local mass transportation and suggest outings all year round. The fabulous beaches will get a lot of attention. Locals don’t want you to go home without enjoying the coast.

If you don’t feel safe, even if you know your neighbors and how to contact the police, you can prepare yourself for unforeseen events. I don’t make a big deal out of it, but I will usually carry something that can be used as a weapon in my backpack when on the road. You never want to provoke anyone by drawing a weapon, but it does provide a good sense of security knowing it is there to use in dire circumstances.

It is more likely that you will lose your passport or money or that it could be stolen. It doesn’t have to be by locals; it could be the fault of foreigners. You want to safeguard your belongings in your bag by hiding things in zippered compartments. You can also find some more tips at https://www.businessbagreview.com/6-safety-tips-keeping-business-bag-safe/.They are there for things like a cell phone, wallet, keys, sunglasses, or snack. In the middle goes the laptop and a bottle of water and/or an umbrella. Each compartment should zip up. Never keep anything important in a pocket on the outside where it can be easily seen. When you have to pull it out during your travels, make sure that no one is watching. They may follow you out the airport door. Not much else concerns me and I have never encountered any aggression or assault on my person. I keep my business bag close to me, even at work. It is not something you want to leave lying around.

This blog should take care of the obvious in regard to personal safety. Keep an eye on your bag when with a group of strangers and you will be fine.

Full Moon Party

I have Thailand adventures to tell. I will hopefully get around to all of them over time to fill this blog. My love for this country must be apparent by now. I feel a need to spread the word and encourage others to visit and explore for themselves. There is much to see and do. Today, I want to devote my time to a Full Moon Party I hosted with a friend because it was a lot of fun and typically Thai. I followed the protocol but also made it my own.

The food was the best the local cuisine had to offer, and I must confess that I had to get some help. I had “catered” the Pad Thai noodles with bean sprouts, shrimp, and chicken; Khao Soi (crispy duck served on a bed of egg noodles in a curry base sauce, garnished with sliced red onions, lime and pickled vegetables); and the grilled salmon served under chopped red onions, cilantro, bell peppers in our homemade tangy sauce. I provided beer and wine, jasmine rice, fried oysters, and Purple Blossom dumplings. I had learned a few dishes over the time I have spent in this glorious place.

It was to be a veritable feast for everyone I know in the region and I didn’t want to fail to impress. I had been invited many times to other parties and I wanted to pay all the hosts back. It had taken some time and thus I planned a spectacular evening. Of course, I had to wait for the correct date. There were lavish decorations that my friend and I made from art paper, colored lighting, and flowers. There was a lot of prep involved and I was grateful to have my friend as co-host. We had barely enough time to select the right outfit with lots of bright neon and even colored socks. We used soccer socks because they’re really long – see https://www.topcornermag.com/best-soccer-socks/. Fortunately, we had green and orange.

It is ideal to have a full Moon Party on the beach and so we chose one with a beautiful view of the moon. This is of the essence. The party begins at dusk by tradition at which time the round yellow moon makes its appearance lighting up the sand with its formidable glow. Our lamps were lit just in time to provide visibility for the group of tables I had set up. After we ate, it was time for dancing. I hear that it becomes a frenzy in some locales, but my group remained low key. We didn’t have live bass and drums as others did. It was a bit beyond my means. Maybe next year.

We had a wonderful time and people couldn’t stop talking about the food and after-dinner fun. I surprised everyone after a few hours by hiring a fire eater to visit. It was the highlight of the evening and we didn’t feel like going home until it began to grow chilly.

Best Cures for Jetlag

Jet lag is so prevalent and annoying that I want to devote this blog to the subject. I went home for a visit and was determined not to let jet lag ruin the trip. I have experienced it many times before and it obliterates me for at least a few days. It is a total waste of a vacation.

We all know about jet lag, but not always how to deal with it. It is simply a time zone change syndrome that occurs when you travel from east to west, or west to east in an airplane. It is a physiological condition that seems to happen to most everyone. It upsets the body’s daily circadian rhythms and is seen medically as a disorder. What I didn’t realize is that jet lag symptoms are more severe when a traveler takes a voyage from the west.

Even the most experienced road warrior who has racked up thousands of frequent flier miles has suffered from jet lag. The farther you venture from home, the greater the symptoms. Basically, it interrupts sound sleep. It is not a state of mind and needs a remedy. Your natural biological clock goes haywire when your trip takes you to different time zones. To create a realistic picture, let me tell you that the rhythms of the bo9dy entail rise and fall of body temperature, plasma levels and those of certain hormones. It is a real biological condition. The amount of sunlight you get in a 24-hour cycle matters.

If you have jet lag and can’t fall asleep or wake up at your regular time, you need help. Some people take medications like melatonin and others like me use a sunrise alarm – you can see them at https://www.berightlight.com/. I try to be careful with my flight schedule, but sometimes I don’t have a choice. It helps to nap on the plane if you can. I read that you should arrive in the early evening and stay up until ten local time. I also don’t drink on the plane or indulge in coffee at least three to four hours before normal bedtime. They are known stimulants and harm your ability to fall asleep. It helps to change my watch to the new time zone when first boarding the plane.

When I arrive at my final destination and am in my hotel, I set up the sunrise alarm to gently wake me up at the right time in the morning. Most people resort to blaring alarms but I find them too aggressive. Arising to pretty colors that simulate the most beautiful sunrise is a better choice by far. I can also choose natural sounds like birds, waves, or waterfalls. You can program your favorite music as well. I usually do this once I have acclimated in my new location. Among all the professional suggestions for coping with jet lag, a special wake up alarm light is the one to heed first and foremost.

Great Time Last Night!

When you entertain, you are always looking for new ways to host your guests and give them a surprise or two. It can be the food that beckons, but recently it was the balmy summer night air. I decided to make use of my home in a novel way and have a rooftop party. The question was how to make it memorable. In Thailand, celebrations and events often take place out of doors. If you are lucky enough to have a sturdy flat roof, so much the better. There is something about being up high that makes you feel elated. The beverages and edible treats seem to taste better and conversation flows. The next time you have friends over, take my lead. I promise that everyone will have a good time.

My rooftop is spacious enough and has been constructed as an open-air patio. One section has a wood trellis and a pergola. It is a terrific shade system and quite picturesque when decorated with outdoor lights and plants. Even when you don’t need shade, it adds to the ambiance. It helps make for a memorable evening. What also adds to the fun is to show a movie once the party has wound down. When people want to sit quietly and look at the moon and stars, it is time to set up the white sheet as a makeshift movie screen. You need nothing more elaborate. But you will need an outdoor projector and a fun cult classic film.

I went all the way and told my invitees to dress up as their favorite old movie characters. It looked like a rehearsal for Halloween. As you can imagine, there was Superman, Bat Man, Frankenstein, the Hulk, and many more. Wonder Woman is a new hit and was the costume choice of the women. One looked better than the other. The men got imaginative and appeared as Spiderman, the Fly, old West heroes, the Green Hornet, the teenage werewolf, and Captain Kirk. Star Trek figures abounded. I felt like taking everyone downstairs to parade around the neighborhood. I thought better of it when I envisioned the reaction of frightened residents. Not everyone has a good sense of humor.

We did take hundreds of photos to document our fun on Facebook and Instagram. I got such a good reaction that I vowed to do it again next year. People who had missed the party begged to be invited. I wrote down all the names. Would there be enough room on the roof? I might have to have an extension of the festivities in the backyard. I could select a new theme and see what happens. People get inventive when asked to express themselves. I could do fantasy films like Beauty and the Beast. The guests could go hog wild with creativity. The beast can be interpreted in a myriad of ways. Cinderella can be pre and post-ball giving the woman two options. I expect them to opt for the glamorous version.

Starting a New Life in Bangkok

The thought of moving to a new country was thrilling. Many times, I thought wouldn’t I make it on my own. Being on your own would be quite lonely, and that’s why I decide to invite my friend Theodore. Before moving to Thailand, I resided in New York City, and I was working as a journalist in one of the media stations. My job had given me the opportunity of traveling all over America, and this is how traveling became one of my hobbies. I was frequently asked to cover stories in different places at least once in a week. Nevertheless, after doing the job for eight years, I felt like something was missing in my life.

I often wondered if that’s all there was to life; waking up, going to work and sleeping at the end of each day. Few things excited me and I did try to start over as many times as possible. I did ask for transfers hoping that settling in a new place would be a bit thrilling. No place seemed to excite me, but I never gave up on the quest of searching for the best environment.

One day, I came across a brochure about the ‘damnoen saduak floating market’. It caught my attention and couldn’t help but think how amazing it would be living in a country with hundreds of islands. The idea was fascinating. I would find myself checking up the country on Google. The country was so much different from the US, coming from the information I got online. I became hell bent on moving to the country. It almost felt like something was pulling me towards that side of the world. My greatest fear was starting a new life because I was born and raised in the US. Was I to leave it all behind? I was so stressed. Fortunately, my friend Theodore was up for the idea of moving to another country only that he didn’t plan on staying there for long.

Within a month I sold all my property and had just the enough amount of money to start a new life. We chose to reside in Bangkok the capital city. On arrival at the airport, I could feel the rush in my body. It was so long since something excited me as much. There we were, two Americans with no clue on where to start. The language was new to me, and I could only speak basic words. If you intend on starting a new life in Bangkok Thailand, you should know the following;

  • Life is relatively cheaper.

Comparing the lifestyle in Thailand to the one in America, the latter was so expensive. With me, I had carried some few dollars and how pleased I knew 1 Thai Baht equals 0. O3 US dollars.

  • It has beautiful sceneries.

On our first few days, we were able to visit the ‘Phuket’ beach and the ‘Chiang Mai’ where you can see a range of mountains. Although Theodore was scared of mountain climbing, we did enjoy relaxing on the sunny beaches.

  • Lots and lots of foods.

Thailand has fertile soils, so there was always lots of foods available. You would find so many fruit vendors along the busy streets selling mangoes, apples, and bananas. One time I remember buying a dozen of bananas at ‘sip baht’ which is equivalent to 20 cents in the US.

  • Friendly people.

All my life I had never interacted with Asians. They are the best, so helpful and kind. At first, I was so cautious when walking around the streets. Within a week I would roam the streets even in the wee hours of the night.

The first two weeks was proof enough that I had found the change I needed. The city gave me so much comfort, and I had a feeling of belonging. I did fit in faster than I expected, and made lots of friends at the hotel we were staying.

Making Our New Place Feel More Like Home

I started this blog to share some of my new life experiences with readers who might be moving to an exotic country like Thailand, where I now reside. I want to spread the joy but also some of the problems you might encounter by living within a different culture. It is always rewarding but it is also a challenge. While I live in a big bustling city—Bangkok—it does make life any easier. It is still complex. You have to learn your way around. This takes a lot of exploration and time. As you dig deeper into a new way of life, you come to understand the people in a way you never did before.

There is a huge difference in climate for most expats, but I wouldn’t have moved here if I didn’t love it. I relish every day in this extraordinary world. I often frequent the local street markets as they are so colorful. I always find something unique. I have decorated my living quarters from art objects fashioned deftly by local artisans. If I return home, they will be wonderful reminders of one of the best times in my life. I can spend days surveying the scene, buying unimaginable foods and acquiring wood carvings and woven fabrics. The patterns and designs in Thailand are exquisite. There is jewelry, simple fashion, footwear, and paintings and sculptures.

Immediately, upon passing by a demonstration of metalwork, something caught my eye. It was a small wall hanging, but big enough to be imposing. The intricacy and craftsmanship were astounding. I watched the artisan work on another project with a plasma cutter from Rate My Welder, but my eyes wouldn’t leave the wall hanging. It was no doubt also a product of the cutter. It seemed like such a large and modern machine for a local vendor. But there it was—creating all kinds of wonderful works of art. The effects of using such a device were beyond compare. I didn’t consider the work to be machine made, however. It is still done by hand. It is just that the hand had some very modern tools.

This is what I like about Thailand. It is an amalgam of the old and the new. Bangkok is cosmopolitan in many ways, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but old-fashioned in others. I like that blend. I wouldn’t chose a place to live that was too much like home. This means that you get all the modern conveniences that plumping and electricity provide such as modern toilets and central air, but you still see architecture that reflects the past. It is the best of two worlds.

The wall hanging looked stunning when I got it home. It sits as a testimonial to what this country has to offer in just one simple and small object. I love to invite people in for food and drink, and I can’t wait to see their reaction. I know it will be positive.

The Job Search Continues

My savings would not feed me for my entire stay in Thailand. Plus, I also had to pay my bills. I had found a place to stay and it was time to begin immediate searching of a job. I had a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication and I was so sure that I would find a position in the field of communication. At that point, I was not that familiar with the local language. I could communicate but not effectively. At least my interactions with the locals did bear some fruits.

I was stuck in between choosing a job as an English teacher or as a tour guide. Okay, teaching English wouldn’t be a problem because I was a native English speaker plus my degree in Journalism would aid in proving that I could communicate effectively. Being a tour guide was also another option. I had never thought of myself being in such a line of work. As a tour guide, I would not only earn some cash, but I would also travel the entire of Thailand seeing its magnificent sceneries. The two jobs were fascinating, but I needed to make a quick decision.

Being an English teacher had a requirement that I should have a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) certificate. Unfortunately, I didn’t have this certificate, and it was a mandatory requirement so as to get a well-paying job. I had to, therefore, look for another alternative or to engage in a TEFL course, so as to get that certificate. When comparing the two jobs, teaching was more favorable than being a tour guide. I was tired of moving from place to place, and TEFL had only one requirement. Teaching would give me the opportunity to interact with more students.

I enrolled at Chichester College which is in Bangkok not far from my apartment. The college provided 120 hours of training in the classrooms and an additional 6 hours of teaching practice. An added advantage was that after completing the course, they could employ you as a teacher. I saw it as advantageous to train at an institution that will offer future employment. The course was too easy, mostly because they taught the basics of the English language. The lessons that were helpful to me were on how to present yourself as a teacher. The course was beneficial, and I was able to learn the following;

  • How to plan my lessons.
  • How to engage my students in meaningful conversations.
  • How to ensure there is total discipline during classes.
  • Being confident while conducting lessons.

Once I was through with the course, I put together all my credentials in my curriculum vitae. I did apply at Chichester College, and I was confident I would get a chance. During my time there I did notice that foreigners who spoke native English had a higher chance of getting jobs quickly in most institutions. Plus having a previous experience as a journalist in the US was an added advantage. I got a five-year contract at the university with a $2000 monthly salary. Teaching was an excellent experience for me. I was able to interact with my students and got to learn more about Thais.

The Thai Cuisine

Thai cuisine is among the most popular dishes worldwide. While I was moving to Thailand, I was so excited about Thai foods. Back in America, I had once eaten some sweet, spicy basil chicken in a Thai restaurant. My appetite towards Thai meals grew tremendously after moving to Bangkok. Five tastes accompany Thai meals which are a mixture of sour, bitter, sweet, salty and spicy. They properly balance and blend the five flavors giving the meal a unique taste. I was able to try out a variety of delicacies. I began preparing Thai meals on my own, although this was challenging. Another advantage is that the meals are so affordable. With just one dollar you can buy a classy meal at Thai restaurants. It’s possible because the country is fertile and there is adequate rainfall. Such a combination guarantees affordable food prices.

The following are some reasons why I would recommend Thai foods

  • It’s rich in culture and flavor.

The surroundings profoundly influence Thai foods. I did conclude that foods from particular areas had different unique tastes. For instance, in a place such as Isan, chilies are served in almost every meal whereas Southern Thailand uses coconuts in most of their meals.

  • The meals are highly nutritious.

Moving to Thailand made me gain some weight. Many people find it to adopt the meals of a foreign country. I assure you that this is not the case. Thais highly use natural ingredients such as lots of vegetables.

  • You get lots of health benefits.

These dishes can provide you with lots of health benefits. Most of their meals consist of fruits that aid in digestion. Not to mention how nearly all their meals contain vegetables.

For the time I have been in Thailand, I have been able to change my eating habits. I was a fan of junk foods, but ever since I moved here, I rarely eat fries and burgers. Rather I would have the following Thai meals which are very sweet and attractive;

  • Pad Thai.

Also known as fried noodles, this is a very popular dish available even in the US. It’s so tasty and comes with a variety of seasonings that can flavor your meal. There are two types of Pad Thai. The classic one which contains eggs, chili pepper, and some tofu. The other is rather dry and doesn’t have a lot of flavors.

  • Tom Yam Goong.

It is one of the best soups I have ever come across. It’s spicy and a bit sour. The soup contains herbs such as galangal and tamarind. This meal also comes in two styles; one is a clear soup while the other is thick, though they are both spicy.

  • Fried Rice.

In Thailand, fried rice as a meal on its own, unlike in other cuisines. It sounds a bit weird, but this rice is sweet. It comes in so many flavors. Therefore, you can’t get bored with it easily.

There are hundreds of Thai dishes. I did find out that there were so much different from what I ate back home. The meals were more nutritious, unique and sweet. Due to their many meals, you can order different varieties from the restaurants at affordable prices.

Apartment Hunting

After a month, it finally hit me that I was not there for a holiday. Plus staying at the hotel was a bit expensive, so I had to look for an apartment. I wasn’t a fan of living in huge mansions and only needed an average sized apartment. Bangkok is similar to other urban cities in the US such as Washington, so I didn’t think that it would be so difficult in locating an apartment in a serene environment. Theodore and I saw it fit first to get an apartment before we begin a job hunt because we were slowly getting broke. Trust me, Thailand is so full of fun. If you aren’t careful, you can get broke within a week.

I did ask a housekeeper working at the hotel how I could get an apartment and he gladly referred me to two common search engines used in Thailand. They were ‘Nine Apartments’ and ‘Mr. Room Finder.’ The site was helpful and gave us several options and locations where we could find a decent house. Most apartments we came across were single rooms with washrooms but funny enough; they had no kitchens. I couldn’t judge anyway because cultures are different. However, I did notice that they don’t equip the houses with much furniture, you only get a bed, a table and some few other things.

Nevertheless, the pricing was also very affordable. I did see some apartments going for as little as $50 a month, although they were too small for us. The houses that caught my interests cost from $200-$300, which was a bit fair considering their location and furnishing. Such apartments would have 2 or 3 bedrooms with a kitchen, gym, and a swimming pool. I didn’t fancy living in a mansion, so the size was enough because of each of us would get to have a private bedroom.

I was a bit reluctant when choosing the location because I wanted an apartment not far from my place of work. In Bangkok, you can find apartments anywhere, be it near the train lines, around the train lines or on the outskirts of town. During my search, I did find an area known as Sukhumvit which is along one of the major roads in the city of Bangkok. The area was more suitable, mainly because my assumption was that I would find a job around town and I could easily commute from such a place. Other than that the location had so many restaurants and had a large population of Thais living there. Plus, the site was full of recreational facilities. At least during the weekend, I wouldn’t have to stay indoors, I could go out for a drink and interact with people. The area was secure, and most houses had guards on the front door.

Finally, I found a suitable apartment, and there were a few requirements such as providing my personal details and signing a contract of renting for not less than four months. Having decided to settle in Bangkok that was not a problem for me. They did ask for a one-month deposit. The apartment was beautiful, and my water and power bills were so cheap ranging from $5 to $10 in a month.

Searching for an apartment in Bangkok was hectic. Theodore and I had to walk for long distances, even though the websites came in handy. Communicating with the caretakers was also a challenge, only a few people speak English. However, it was a success.

 

Coping with Culture Shock

The people of Thailand had an entirely different culture. Being my first time in a new country, everything done by the Thais was strange. I knew that adopting to their cultures wouldn’t be easy. As time went by I became more familiar with the culture. My first few weeks after settling was when I began noticing the changes. I couldn’t have seen any changes in the first one month, mostly because of the excitement. To fit in, I had to try as much as possible to emulate the behaviors and everything else the Thais did. It was quite challenging.

Some of the culture shocks I experienced in Thailand

  • Time Zone Shock.

Traveling from the far west to the east took so much time. The journey was quite long, and due to the difference in time zones, I landed in Thailand nearly the same time I left home. I couldn’t keep track of time on the first day but I slowly adopted.

  • Language Barrier Shock.

The biggest problem of moving into a foreign country is the language barrier. Residing in the US for over three decades I only spoke plain English. I had never taken the initiative to enroll for a course in a new language. The little Thai I had learned online didn’t help me out. Most of the Thais spoke too fast, and I could only grasp a few words. It is hard to find someone who spoke fluent English in Thailand. As a matter of fact, only fellow foreigners from English-speaking countries such as the US and UK spoke good English. The rest of the locals spoke broken English, but at least we could understand each other. The good thing was, after enrolling at Chichester College I was so able to learn Thai. Up to date, I am still a learner, and I do take the time to grasp some new words whenever I get the chance.

  • Vehicle shock.

In Thailand most cars have a driver’s seat on the left side, this was so different from the US where driver seats are on the right side. It was funny, and I never thought I would be able to drive around Bangkok. Plus, in that country, there were no speed limits, and I often wondered if driving was safe. Nevertheless, the Thais were used to this culture and as a new member of the country I had to learn and embrace it.

  • Food shock.

As I explained in an article above on Thai cuisine, I was familiar with some Thai food. The problem was that I was used to the foods from the US. Unfortunately, in Thailand, the meals were so different and so was the ordering of meals from the restaurant. I had a hard time understanding the menus and most of the times I couldn’t even communicate effectively with the waiters.

  • Weather shock.

The weather in the US was different comparing it to Thailand. The foreign land had a tropical kind of climate. There was no snow, although I had carried many warm clothes because I thought the weather pattern was the same.

  • There is little use of Debit or Credit cards in Thai.

I was fond of using credit cards in the US. The idea of carrying money in bulk was new. I always thought that some goon was following me every time I left a bank. However, I came to realize that Thais were a good lot of people who were very genuine.

Thais have a very different culture, but I became familiar with it. Even up to date, I do see new and strange things. Luckily, I had a positive attitude and was ready to embrace the new culture.