If you’re over 50, have a pot belly, not much left of your hair, ill-fitting dentures, puny fixed monthly income and you never were all that successful with the opposite sex anyway – I see how you then may find the idea of retiring in Thailand appealing. From the expats observed in two largest cities, no foreigner will find it too difficult to find a companion who will make him feel better about himself and about life in general. However, if you don’t (yet?) fall in any of the above categories, you may discover that things here aren’t quite as they were painted for you in the glossy travel brochures or on many websites.
First, there is the famous Thai food. In the capital as in the northern city of Chiang Mai good eats can be found easily, not just Thai but international cuisine as well. But, try to venture into the rural areas and you will be disappointed as everything is either too spicy, too greasy, or – more often than not – both. In a large border town of Mae Sot, it is impossible to obtain good food at the largest hotel. If you cycle downtown, you’ll find 4 or 5 places to choose from, none of them all that great. Trying to order room service is a major challenge as my Thai is about as good as their English (mind, you, I don’t speak any Thai at all).
Now, what about those friendly natives and their hospitality? Well, the hotel staff certainly appears tourist-friendly which is understandable as tourism is a major revenue source here. Communication is difficult but market vendors use calculators to show their asking prices, then you haggle as best you can until you pay the price you consider fair or walk away. You seldom see any old people anywhere, which makes one wonder whether the lifespan is that much lower here than in the U.S. or if old folk don’t venture outside much. Children are everywhere, some of them sent to beg on the street, others often seen working, but during the day most appear to be going to school.
The sound of Thai language is something I won’t miss one bit. People here are screaming their heads off even if they are standing next to each other, especially women whose high pitched voices are thoroughly annoying. This is something that improves as people get educated and learn to control and better modulate the sounds they make, because TV anchors and interviewed college professors or business executives seem to speak just fine.
Yesterday’s incident by the pool reminded me that this still is very much a Third World, or – as politically correct people would prefer us to say – a developing country. There was this beautiful butterfly batting its wings very close to my long chair and I stayed still trying not to scare it away. A local juvenile jumped from his seat and killed it to loud applause of his friends. What kind of a degenerate kills a butterfly?! Most likely the kind that learned no respect for living things around him and who’ll graduate to kicking dogs for fun and from there it’s just a small step to beating up his sister, his wife, or his mother. Seriously, on my only outing to town, I have seen a grown man repeatedly kick a dog and laugh at its yelping. I resisted a temptation to walk over, kick his sorry ass and see just how gratifying that would be. Instead, I stopped going to town altogether.
Holed up in my hotel room, I am counting days to my flight out of Thailand. I like its tropical climate and its green scenery but other than that, this place has been greatly overrated as far as I’m concerned.