Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Living in Thailand

In March I moved back to Bangkok - the city that I previously called home.

I had originally settled in Thailand in early 2011 but by the end of 2012 I had to make a tough decision between staying in Thailand but losing my PokerStars contract or moving back to the UK immediately and keeping it.

PokerStars had decided that they needed their Team Online representative from the UK to actually live in the UK and physically be there for most of the year, which although I wasn't happy about it, was a reasonable enough request. It was a tough ultimatum for me though as I was very well settled and happy in Thailand, but I also very much enjoyed being part of the PokerStars team.

I decided that it was worth making sacrifices to remain in the team, so two weeks into the new year of 2013 I cancelled the lease on my Bangkok condo and flew 6,000 miles to Edinburgh on a one-way ticket with all my belongings.

It was kind of sad that I'd been away for two years and there was nobody to greet me at the airport, but that's what happens when you don't keep in touch with anyone. Instead I was greeted by a blizzard and a ride in a taxi that was 10x the price of the same length of journey in Thailand. Welcome home Dale.

I had been back in Scotland for less than half an hour and was already experiencing a massive culture shock, as if I was a foreigner visiting for the first time. I love my country but the term 'rip-off Britain' didn't come from nowhere and it's just not a place to be when the weather is awful. Problem is that the weather is awful most of the time.

The great comedian Billy Connolly once said that there are two seasons in Scotland - winter and July. The big yin also said that there's no such thing as "bad" weather, there's only the wrong clothes. And there I was, in the middle of a Scottish winter with a suitcase full of shorts, T-shirts and not much else.

I never did go shopping for the right clothes. I just ended up basically hibernating for a few months. After living in Thailand for two years I found it just too difficult to adjust to being back home in Scotland. I went from being happy, social and healthy to the polar opposite. In Thailand I was outside jogging almost every day - followed by a massage, eating healthy delicious food, and dating very attractive girls. Back in Scotland it was too cold for jogging, healthy eating was more of a struggle and even unattractive girls looked at me like I was dirt.

I could have made a better effort of dealing with the situation like actually going out and buying winter clothes, trying to get in touch with old friends, making new friends and joining a gym but the misery I felt was so overwhelmingly crippling that all I could do was sleep all day and stay up all night eating junk food and playing online poker.

After those first few months of hibernation things did get a bit easier. About the same time that the weather got milder I re-discovered my favourite place in Edinburgh - Arthur's Seat. A dormant volcano that is a great place to exercise and get a healthy dose of fresh air and beautiful scenery. I had gained a whopping 10Kg in weight and barely seen daylight since the start of the year so it was about time for me to get outdoors and work up a sweat.



I had also decided to make the most of being so close to European countries that I hadn't had a chance to visit yet. I made my first ever trips to Croatia, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria.

It was a fun summer, but it went by so fast. Winter came back around and again I became miserable and introverted. It's amazing how a change in season can have such a massive affect on your mood and your life.

Thankfully the location requirement was taking out of my 2014 agreement with PokerStars and instead I agreed to play in 5 UKIPT events during the year as an alternative location restriction.

This gave me the opportunity to move back to Thailand and make long haul commutes to the UKIPT events. Even though flights, hotels etc. would cost me more than the value of the tournament buyin and I'd lose at least another 2 full days from long haul flying each time, it was worth it for me to actually live where I wanted to live.

I didn't waste much time before packing up my stuff and flying to Bangkok, where I settled back in really quickly. I moved into a hotel with a room overlooking the BEC Tero football stadium and re-arranged the furniture so that I had a nice view while I played online poker.



I stayed in that place for a couple of weeks while I casually looked around for a place that was away from the main tourist and expat areas. I think those areas are good if you are visiting Bangkok as a tourist or just for a few months but I wanted to live somewhere that was a bit quieter, much more real and way less expensive.

Anywhere that there's a lot of tourists the price of accommodation and food is high (by Thai standards) and there's a lot of crap to put up with like taxi drivers who won't turn on the meters or not being able to walk down the street because 90% of it's been taken over by shitty market stalls selling shitty tat to shitty people walking at a snails pace in their flip-flops and Singha vests. /rant

I know enough about Bangkok and speak enough Thai language that I can get around easily and do stuff like explain to a taxi driver how to go to some place that he doesn't know or eat at restaurants where the staff don't speak English.

I ended up finding a small hotel in an area that has a population of 98% Thai people but is still really close to a massive modern mall and a subway station, so great amenities and transport. Every mall has about two floors of restaurants and as long as you live close to a BTS (sky train) or MRT (subway) station you can get around Bangkok quickly, cheaply and easily.

It might sound crazy to some people to live long term in a hotel but living on my own all I really need is one big room and in Thailand long term hotel stays can certainly be affordable. For my room I'm paying 9,700 Baht (£176 GBP / 223 EUR / $302 USD) per month, excluding utilities. I could also find an apartment nearby for the same price but the hotel has the advantage that I can check out whenever I want, rather than sign a 1 year lease.

The hotel looks like nothing special. The furnishings are outdated and a bit worn but everything is very comfortable, super clean (never seen a single insect) and the location is simply perfect for me. Best of all is that the hotel has a restaurant open from 6:30am - 2am and sells Thai meals for 40 - 80 Baht (£0.73 - £1.45 GBP / €0.92 - €1.84 EUR / $1.25 - $2.50 USD). They even bring it to your room with zero service charge and no tip expected.

That was one of the main things I missed when I was back in the UK, real authentic Thai food that costs pennies. I actually went to Thai restaurants in Edinburgh a couple of times, but it just wasn't the same. It was probably paying 20x the price that I'm used to that left a bad taste in my mouth.

Fortunately I returned to Bangkok just in time for Songkran, the Thai new year. Songkran is celebrated with a water festival lasting 3 days. Basically the entire city turns into one massive water fight during those three days. It's an awesome event. I believe the tradition started off many years ago with people splashing water over each other to wish them good luck or clear their badness for the new year, or some superstitious nonsense like that. Now it's just escalated into total water fight degeneracy.

During the Songkran festival you can't simply live your life as you normally would and not participate. If you try to walk down any street someone will pour a pale of water over you or give you a good hosing down. You either need to embrace it and give as good as you get, or stay indoors for three days. No surprises what I did.



I hired a tuk-tuk for a day to drive me and two girls that I'm friends with around Bangkok so we could do drive-by shootings with our water guns. It was crazy, we'd have people on the backs of motorbikes shooting at us and every time we got stuck in traffic there would be kids with buckets of water running into the road to drench us.

And it's not just kids that take part in this. It's everyone. There's grown adults everywhere with buckets of water and water pistols splashing around having a whale of time.

Songkran was a great welcome back to Thailand. I'm now well settled here again, but I still love to travel and Bangkok having a massive international airport is a great base to do that from. Since coming back to Thailand I've made trips to Seoul, Hong Kong, Helsinki, Marbella (wish I skipped that one tbh), Chiang Mai and tomorrow I will go to Penang Island in Malaysia for the first time.

I plan to stay in Thailand for quite some time but doing it on back-to-back tourist visas will no longer be an option as new immigration policies are being introduced. My plan is to join a Thai language school full time (4 hours a week, lol) in order to get an education visa. That way I'll be living in Thailand more legitimately and also improving my language skills. Taking Thai classes was something I planned to do anyway. I think that if you plan to live in any country for a significant period of time it's just downright rude not to learn the language properly.

So here's to eating more hot food......



.... dating pretty girls .....



.... and having fun experiences in Thailand.


41 comments:

  1. You still with pokerstars or having some new adventure? great article

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. no, not with pokerstars.

      thanks :)

      Delete
  2. Enjoy Penang! You will love the food and the people.

    ReplyDelete
  3. love your blog! Why did u leave the PS team?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks :)

      Explained in the previous blog post.

      Delete
  4. Cool post. Lived there for 5 years myself while part-time grinding and co-owning a fish and chip joint as well as a couple internet cafes. Great city, great lifestyle. Enjoy your time there and good luck at the tables!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nice post. I like the illustrative material. So much better to read ;)

    ReplyDelete
  6. (oh man, how I loathe authentication forms!!)
    Well, I do love and enjoy every single post you made about food, even if still not convinced about those fried baby geckos =)

    I'm fascinating by those cultures and foods, so keep on posting =)
    And welcome home, Dale =)

    Claudia

    ReplyDelete
  7. Nice post. Would love you to do a more detailed video/blog on Thailand.
    Costs, groceries, diff. areas, hospitals, dental, internet reliability, noise,Hotels etc.
    Also, whats the situation there like since there was recently a milit. coup in may?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good resources are the Thailand thread on TwoPlusTwo forums and the expat forum thaivisa.com

      Basically anything involving people's time or local goods are dirt cheap but if you want imported clothes, groceries etc. they'll be more expensive than they are in Europe or America.

      ADSL Internet is good these days but has been bad at certain times in the past. If you're playing online poker you should always have a backup though. You can get 4G if you take a postpaid deal with True, all you need to show is your passport and address and they will hook you up.

      As for the coup well everything has been nice and peaceful since that happened. No more protests. And the military junta are kicking a lot of ass when it comes to corruption. There was a taxi mafia / monopoly in Phuket that had been going on for years and years but they stepped in and arrested everyone involved, stuff like that.

      Delete
  8. Great, thx!
    I"m in toronto and considering a move. I do play online and am concerned about outages esp. since i play husngs.
    Interesting your take on the coup as everything i see looks like a huge mess over there, but guess its been like that for many years now since Thailand has been through about 12 of them. Dont you have to be in bed though by 10pm? ;) ..curfew must suck.
    I"ll do my homework but i guess its 1) Get 60-90 day temp visa 2) apply for 1 year educational visa?
    How long you can keep renewing your educational visa?
    Could you please recommend the best place/hotel to live at or around the best beach , yet still nearby a decent amount of things?
    thx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's no curfew, the curfew only lasted for a few weeks immediately after the coup. First it was 10pm-5am then 12am-4am. But nobody where I live observed it. The only thing that closed was 7-Eleven. All the independent businesses stayed open.

      I live in Bangkok so no beaches. If you like beaches I'd suggest living in Phuket. If in Bangkok you can visit Pattaya or Hua Hin a couple of hours by bus. Personally find beaches boring. :)

      I'd recommend just getting normal hotels and looking around yourself at different areas to see what you like best. Everyone is different. I like the area I live in as it's best for me but most expats live in other areas. You get the best deals from long term apartments / hotels by walking in and talking to them. Some don't even have websites. So good idea to just find an area that looks nice and start walking into places and asking them.

      Good luck. :)

      Delete
  9. Great to know about curfews, thx.
    I do agree beaches get boring, but its nice to have nearby along w/ urban living if possible.
    Im looking to start w/ a month long hotel stay and go from there w/ around an initial target budget of $1k month. Guess we'll just take a look around when i get there.
    thx alot for taking the time Dale, really appreciate it.
    Pete




    ReplyDelete
  10. Love that T-Shirt of Charlie Chaplin in previous post, I'm old school but he's my idol, always loved the talent of making people laugh without ever saying a word...

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hey Dale I am planning to move there this time next year > 27 year old male from Toronto Ontario Canada >>> Student and poker player. Taking time off school to travel and experience the world and I saw a show on discovery channel called "Don't drive here" aha and learned the cost of living in Thailand is terribly cheap! And I have followed your blog and poker career for years. Maybe roomies while I move there help a guy get himself set up and show me around?

    email me your skype bud> my email is eminem888eminem@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I dunno man. My mother warned me about meeting strange men from the internet. lol

      I'm basically never on Skype so best to send me a facebook message with anything you need to know and I'll do my best to help you out.

      cheers

      Delete
  12. Hey Dale, i was going to ask you the same question as Wutang..and i'm in toronto as well ;)
    Mind if i contact you through youtube?
    Also, would yo mind sharing the hotel your at for $300?...i've been looking around and havent come across much...esp. since i cant read Thai.
    thx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi. I'll share my hotel name after I leave, for privacy reasons. I think if it's your first time living in Thailand you're better off staying in a more tourist / expat area than local area anyway.

      You can easily find a lot of serviced apartments / monthly hotels on this site: http://www.thaiapartment.com/

      Delete
    2. If you're interested in chatting further about a type of concierge service you'd be willing to provide please let me know. Obviously looking for someone with a rep I can trust. Thx

      Delete
  13. Is your lease month to month? How is the WiFi and do you get a stove in your room? Long shot I know.

    I know that area, it's pretty nice and IIRC you have a awesome gym on your doorstep.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The WiFi is fine. It's a bit of an older place so there's an actual LAN port in the wall and I use that rather than the WiFi, even though signal strength is good, just for extra solidness. It's def slower than having my own ADSL connection but can download HD movies in a couple of hours. It never craps out completely but now and again you can get few dropped packets which can cause a couple of seconds lag like once an hour when playing online poker.

      Not as great as the fibre optic internet I had in Scotland but as far as hotel WiFi goes it's been better than 90% of the connections I've had in upmarket hotels in developed countries.

      There's no kitchen, just a big bedroom with a desk and a bathroom. No cooking is allowed, but not a big deal because the hotel restaurant / room service is only closed 4 hours per day and they cook much better than me, and for less than it would even cost me to buy the raw ingredients some how, they obv don't shop at hi so supermarkets like Tops or Gourmet Market :)

      Delete
    2. Oh yeah the lease I have is monthly and after the first month I can keep extending it and only have to give them 15 days notice to check out. Seems fair.

      They also have 2, 3, 6, 12 month contracts for the rooms and I think it can be like 10 - 20% cheaper taking the 12 month contract compared to 1 month, but bigger deposit and bigger commitment obv.

      Delete
    3. Cheers, I guess I could just buy a electronic stove for a thousand or so. I like that area, it's a bit out the way but I remember the gym being really nice and plenty of food options. Who knows one day you might see me in the lift with a Ladyboy around my shoulder.

      Anyway nice blog, if you ever fancy going out, more than welcome to hit me up on twitter.

      Delete
  14. Thx.. Apartments are easy to find but trying to find a nonbiased/influenced review of a target $500 month dexent hotel is tougher.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The only way to do it is go look around and check them out. I found a few places online that I thought were going to be great but ended up not liking something about them when I checked them out. Usually the area wasn't that great, not close enough to BTS / MRT or enough decent restaurants near by.

      Delete
  15. Do you know of the official penalty for playing poker online in thailand/bangkok?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not aware of anyone ever getting in legal trouble for playing online poker in Thailand, and most people I know are quite open about it.

      Most gambling sites are blocked in Thailand but most online poker sites are not blocked. No need for a VPN to play online poker, but you can use one anyway if you prefer more privacy over your internet activities.

      Delete
  16. Most online poker sites are not blocked? Which ones are?
    Prob. best for me to spread some money around to diff sites to hedge.
    thx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know any poker sites that are blocked. Full Tilt used to be but it's not any more.

      Any websites that do get blocked by the Thai internet censors are blocked by their hostname. So in the case of a poker site, the client accesses the server with it's ip address, so even if they block whateverpokersite.com as long as you already downloaded the client you could still log in and play and do whatever.

      Delete
  17. Great...thx for the clarification.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Good to see another scotsman is enjoying Thailand,poker and life in general!
    I miss Thailand :-(
    going back one day though......
    http://tiltbook.com/aceofspades/

    ReplyDelete
  19. Nice blog Dale! I will be subscribing. This article in particular really hit home as I just got back to my home country of Canada after 2.5 years in Thailand. I am going through all of the culture shock and feeling like a tourist that you describe. I already have a ticket booked for Bangkok in one month and in many ways I cannot wait!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I understand you cant get netflix in bangkok. Could you please share some other restricted ones?
    Would the nature of obtaining a VPN raise any kind of concern in thailand. Sorry dont exactly know how VPN's work. If i chose to go w/ one any recommendations?
    thx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never used Netflix, I usually just download everything I want from well known torrent sites.

      VPNs aren't illegal and are common. I use Tunnel Bear. You can switch between countries that you're pretending to be in. For example I switch to UK and watch streaming from BBC iPlayer.

      You worry too much.

      Delete
  21. Thx Dale ;)
    Never been to thailand and going for 1 year at least, so trying to cover everything.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Probably a good idea to visit somewhere before deciding to live there but good luck. :)

      Delete
  22. Thx, I"ve spent a ton of time reading up, watching videos, talking to many people and google maps street by street. Have at least a decent read so far and think i'll enjoy it. My more than mild case of yellow fever will carry me for awhile ;)
    Btw..i'm looking at expanding my game and was wondering if you offer any coaching services?
    thx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. no I don't coach, but there's loads of good training sites online that offer better value than coaching.

      Delete
  23. Ok, Yep im familiar with them all thx.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Do you have any connections for ed. visa? Looking to do private lessons w/ least amount of hrs.
    thx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Try Walen Thai School. The law just changed and you now need to be on a course that's 8 hours per week instead of 4 to get the ED visa.

      Delete