I was hoping to get the 100th story to coincide with my first 12 month anniversary, which was 12 June, but have missed out by a month. As my teachers used to say in my school reports “He could do better if he tried”.
Never mind. I thought I would mark the occasion by looking back over my stories over the last 13 months and comment on those that I enjoyed the most or reflected best the various stages of my time in Thailand. I have to confess that this post is a little frustrating because I have a couple of really great entries to publish about our recent trip to the North of Thailand staying at Mae Salong and Chiang Rai, so I will rush through it 🙂
The first batch of stories dip into my first two week holiday visit to Thailand in October 2012. I had just separated from my wife, she had headed back to Wales to set-up home and I wanted something to brighten up my life. I had been to Bali a number of times and had no wish to return so I looked at other options. I don’t know how Thailand came about. Perhaps it is a logical option for Australians looking for a cheaper tropical beach holiday. I do know that I very nearly didn’t book because I had already been to America for five weeks earlier that year and the budget and holidays available from work were both looking a bit sad. Late one evening I thought “bugger it” and booked and the rest is history.
I deserved the resulting holiday because I missed the flight out of Sydney and getting to Thailand was a nightmare HERE. My first posts were extracted from emails and were more aimed at family and didn’t have many if any photos.
Needless to say the most popular of my early posts in the blog world was one about Thai Bar Girls HERE. No photos again but having re-read the entry I think it still gives a good representation of the topic, not that I have had much additional experience after meeting Gaun!
The majority of posts obviously cover my time in Thailand since I arrived on 12 June 2013 for an extended visit. My first entry talks about the time between finalising my affairs in Australia, and what an intense time that was, and arrival in Phuket for the start of the “holiday” part of my time in Thailand HERE. Photos have started to make an appearance if small in size and limited in numbers. I will make up for the absence by posting a few new ones here to liven up this post.
I hasten to add here that it was pure coincidence that the first bar I stopped at in Nai Harn was mostly staffed by ladyboys. They were a friendly bunch and I tended to head back there for the evening.
If you have been following my stories you will know that we have visited a large number of Wats. They are such an integral part of Thailand that not to explore them is to miss a vital part of the Thai experience. Gaun is also a keen if not mainstream Buddhist so she genuinely has the temple culture as part of her everyday life.
My first detailed Wat visit was at Wat Chalong in Phuket HERE. Also special because it was one of the outings we had with Phillip, a good friend of mine, who was our first Thai visitor. My Brother and sister-in-law were also early visitors as was my step-daughter Sarah.
Although I was mostly happy to be out of Australia and having a great time in Thailand there were a few moments of pure terror when I thought about what I had done – selling my house, cars and most of my belongings. There were a few sleepless nights.
Leaving Phuket early August represented the beginning of my investigative stage, exploring Thailand as a longer term retirement proposition. Gaun had agreed to be my companion at the beginning of this stage and I was pleased to have a constant along for the ride outside of what had become my comfort zone.
We flew straight to Isaan to meet up with Gaun’s family and spend some time in rural Thailand, which I thought would be a good balance to the unreality of Phuket with its emphasis on bars and tourism. I have never been a keen beach person so heading inland didn’t worry me at all. My first Isaan post is HERE and talks about my first impression of a small country town, the local sights and Gaun’s family. Having re-read the post there is not much I would change. It gives a good summary of the topic. Well done Tony!
The next stage involved my “living” in Thailand and I decided that we would try that in Chiang Rai up in the far North of the country. I was very keen to stop being a tourist and settled down to get a better idea of how I would fit into a daily routine here. I also wanted to see how my budget would go as up to this point I had been living a holiday lifestyle, which had proved to be relatively expensive. I had taken leave without pay for 12 months so money out was not being replaced, which was a bit scary too.
I selected a nice looking house on five acres on the edge of a small Moo Baan and booked it for ten weeks. If you want to see what your rental money will get you can find the Real Estate website listing that I used to find the house HERE. Our move to Chiang Rai is covered in this story HERE.
In retrospect going almost straight from Phuket to a quiet rural and non-farang environment was a bridge too far this early in my Thailand trip. I felt a little too isolated and was thrown too much back on myself. In normal circumstances this might have been OK but soon after we arrived in Chiang Rai I was offered a redundancy and felt very alone making a decision that would affect the rest of my life. I was only at the beginning of my time in Thailand so at this stage I wasn’t convinced that it was where I wanted to spend my life. All in all it wasn’t the easiest time.
Chiang Rai is still one of my favourite places in Thailand. It is like a small Chiang Mai and more intimate and slightly rural. Our house was situated on the edge of the Singha Estate, the Thai beer people, and offered some benefits that wouldn’t normally be associated with a Thai rural Moo Baan. Read about it HERE.
The next ten weeks were a mix of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai posts. I was having some dental work done in Chiang Mai and we were doing regular trips between the two places, staying overnight. We took the opportunity to visit the highest mountain in Thailand about two hours South of Chiang Mai and this colourful trip is covered HERE.
For a coffee lover no stay in the North would be complete without visiting Doi Chang and the Doi Chaang coffee centre HERE. It is a story I still enjoy reading and the photos were some of my better efforts.
The final chapter of this part of my Thailand story was our move to Chiang Mai in November 2013. Having made a decision to take the redundancy, retire early and stay in Thailand I wanted to move where I felt more “secure” as a newbie expat still slightly struggling to find his feet. Chiang Mai offered a huge expat resident population when compared to Chiang Rai. It had an Expats’ Club which offered the possibility of meeting people and making a few friends. The place was chockers with cafes, restaurants and places of interest to explore. A good place to more comfortably settle into living full-time in a new country.
We were lucky in finding a beautiful house to rent for twelve months in a quiet, garden setting HERE. It has been a wonderful base and feels like home when we return from one of our many trips away.
Buying the block of land in Isaan HERE happened in November 2013 and represented a very firm commitment to both Gaun and to Thailand. It was a decision with longer term outcomes as we count down to the day we leave Chiang Mai at the end of October this year and move to Isaan to start building our family home.
My first six months in Thailand came and went. My detailed assessment is HERE and is a useful resource for anyone contemplating moving to Thailand.
Chiang Mai has provided me with a large number of topics to write about. Almost every day provides something new to comment on or record on “film”. My love of gardens is equally shared with Gaun and there are many posts describing just about every garden in Chiang Mai I think, such as these HERE.
The absolute highlight of my stay in Thailand was my marriage to Gaun on 14 February 2014. It was such a delightful and fun time shared with my brother and sister-in-law plus my good friends Gaz and Saskia who flew over for the occasion.
In February and March Gaun and I travelled to Australia and had the best time visiting friends and family. The days we spent on Sydney harbour ranks up there with the most outstanding experiences of my life and you can read about it HERE. Sharing Australia with Gaun and seeing her enthusiastically and successfully fishing in Sydney harbour is one of the most extraordinary moments of my Thai life.
I continue to write regular posts about our life here in Chiang Mai and visits to Si Bun Ruang in Isaan. We have just returned from a three day 800 km drive through the far North of Thailand and some gorgeous countryside and it is trips like this plus the everyday that supply seemingly endless stories to share.
Our time in Chiang Mai draws to an end and the next chapter will be written in Isaan at Gaun’s family home, once I get the internet installed! A very different lifestyle again and centered initially on building our house and establishing the garden. All in all a complete unknown but much of Thailand has been like that.
My 100 blog posts have been an attempt to record not just the BIG tourist sights and events, which are limited in number and scope, but detail the small day to day landscapes, activities and drives that make Thailand what it is for me. I wanted to give readers a sense of what it would be like for them if they ever decided to make Thailand home. If nothing else I hope it gives you a taste for one person’s experience in a completely different culture and lifestyle.
For me this journey from a Canberra public service grave to waking ever day feeling so alive is the biggest miracle. In some ways the start of my life happened 100 stories ago.
“The paths taken and the journey travelled brings me perfectly to this moment”
Finally a review of my 12 months in Thailand can be found HERE.
Thanks for reading.