Back to My Future – Series IntroductionBy Garry | December 1st, 2008 | Category: Back to My Future | No Comments »
To the multi-national expatriate community in Thailand, a Thai virgin is someone who has never been to the Royal Kingdom before. For such people there are numerous cultural and commercial shocks, which manifest themselves through a loss of behavioural and financial prudence.
Many first time visitors expect to arrive in a Shangri-La of deserted palm fringed beaches and low-density towns depicted in travel brochures and are, at least initially, severely disappointed with what they find.
Often visitors need eight or ten days to ‘get into the mindset’ required to enjoy their time in the ‘Land of a Thousand Smiles’, and having done so, they suddenly find it is time to leave behind many new friends and an enjoyable lifestyle.
Back to My Future
As a brief guide to the unwary, I would like to introduce some realism that can save much heartache for the rose bespectacled first-time “farang” (non-Thai person).
For the irregular overseas British traveller, commercial shocks begin at the airport of departure. Long haul flights generally require that you register a few hours before take off and this places you, especially at Heathrow, at the mercy of the ‘duty-free’ vendors and concessions in the departure area.
Faced with 60 to 90 minutes to kill, hordes of travellers head directly to the duty-free tobacco and alcohol vendors, to stock up for their holiday. But are they getting a good deal? If their flight is direct from Heathrow to Bangkok, and they absolutely must have British cigarettes for a two-week holiday, then yes, they probably are. But if the journey is being planned on a tight budget then they may do better by waiting a little, as I reveal later in the series.
In this series, originally written nearly a decade ago, I’m going to present both my experiences, and some thoughts about money saving tips, as well as some sound advice for first time (or even second time) arrivals in Thailand. If you’re here, or you’ve been before, you might disagree with some of what I say (more likely if you’re a highly seasoned traveller), but I ask you to remember that everyone’s experiences will differ, and that does not make any one person’s experience invalid, nor their advice inaccurate.
Some of the advice I’ll offer may be controversial, or even counter-intuitive, though I do ask you to consider it is coming from the experience of a decade of continually living and working within South East Asia, and prior to that a decade of continual long distance travelling commercial, with a decade of military service prior to that … and all the formal self-preservation training inherent to the latter.
It’s said amongst Thailand’s expatriates, perhaps all expat communities worldwide, that you’re not truly an expatriate until you’ve seen someone arrive after you, and known then to die in abnormal circumstances (before you – obviously). Old hands here also say they’ve known far too many people suffer that fate. I’m no exception, and next year (as I work through the archives) I’ll be adding many a cautionary tale of that ilk. Don’t let such tales prevent you from visiting what is a wonderful country for a holiday, or more permanent residence, just use them to hone your sense of self-preservation, and awareness of your surroundings.
If what I write gives you the occasional pause for thought, and doing so prevents you experiencing the less pleasant side of global travel, my words will have been useful. However, in this series, those words are more likely to save you money, and overall, facilitate an easier and less stressful holiday, and I am sure that is a priceless bonus?
Tomorrow – The Duty Free Dilemma