Return to Thailand – Did I always know it would come to this?
I’m back in Thailand! The last time I was here it was July of 2014 and I wandered around this country for about a month. Half of that was on my own and half was with my little sister Molly. Since then, I’ve travelled quite a bit, but Thailand has always been in the back of mind as somewhere I would return to if I had a lot of time and not a lot of money… Or to be more specific, no job, some online businesses generating a trickle of income and the need to figure out the next step in my life.
Strangely enough, I found myself in just that situation. So here I am.
Part of me wonders if I always knew it would come to this?
Thailand is kind of perfect for someone in my shoes. You can get most of the comforts of home here that are needed for everyday life in my opinion: good coffee, fast internet, all the amenities of the modern world and absolutely wonderful, impossibly cheap food. Not only that, but the weather is nice. It’s January and I’m working hard to avoid a sunburn. That’s worth something to me.
I had dinner with an expat friend of mine last night who lives here on $25/day. That’s half of my backpacking budget! He lives comfortably and does what he wants. He has a condo, a motorbike, and is self-employed. Just imagine, if you can make $25/day, you can support yourself in a beautiful climate. It’s really not a bad way to go.
Seriously, $25 a day?!
Thailand is known as the center of the backpacking universe. Last time I was here, I did a lot of the sight-seeing and hostel hopping thing. It was good. I wasn’t in love with Thailand but I liked it a lot. Suprisingly, coming back is better. I’ve already been there, done that, so I don’t feel the need to see everything on the Lonely Planet website. I can just chill and enjoy where I am. It’s given me a different view of Thailand than before and maybe even a bit more appreciation for the fabric of the country rather than just the most important landmarks.
Thailand used to be a huge free-for-all. A no-rules-anywhere type of destination, but it has since matured into more of a wild and fun beach party hangout for the young and unencumbered or the old and uninhibited. There’s a seedy side of Thailand and a certain understanding that although some things are not implicitly legal but the other cheek will be turned and a bribe may be made to appease local law enforcement.
As an example, you shouldn’t rent a scooter or a motorbike without an international license. However, my credentials aren’t going to be checked at the rental shop or likely on the roads. There’s a stop near a temple I’m going to today where everyone knows in advance that the police will ask for your license. When I can’t produce one, they’ll fine me about the equivalent of $8 USD and let me continue on my way. It’s not going to stop anyone from renting a motorbike and it’s going to generate some revenue for the police force. This is just accepted as the way business is done.
Today along the road, a friend told me he saw the police stopping every westerner and writing them a ticket. Is it a hassle? Yes, but it’s the way life runs here. It’s got it’s good and bad points just like anywhere else.
Driving without a license? Yeah, that’ll be $8.
When I was here the first time, the overall lawlessness got on my nerves. Traffic rules were suggestions, drugs were everywhere but are illegal (seriously, a sign advertising mushroom milkshakes?! Is it legal or not!?), and then there’s the sort of gross, old, pervy vibe of the middle aged and beyond white men who pray on young Thai girls and ladyboys. Although the last two still are weird to me, after being in a very regulated industry for a long time, the casual approach to rules in general is both shocking and exhilierating.
For example, if I want to ride in the bed of a truck down the main road in Bangkok, no one will care. If I want to sell t-shirts on the sidewalk, no one is going to ask for my business license. What’s different is, that if I make a bad choice, that’s on me. No one is going to blame the power system if I am walking and am electrocuted by a downed power line, that’s life. Life is cheaper here but also more free in some ways.
So here I am now, back in the fray of it, surrounded by partying backpackers and old white guys. Not one or the other but in no way the odd one out for it. There are so many Westerners in Thailand that there is a place for anyone.
And as of right now, this odd little place in the world is right for me.