Monthly Archives: April 2016

So you want to move to Thailand…

Great!  It’s good to get out of your comfort zone and experience a different reality for a few months or a few years.  Here are some things to consider:

  1. Get everything in order in your home country.  Have a house?  What will you do with it?  Where will your mail go?  Where will you put all your stuff?  How will you pay bills? etc, etc….
  2. How will you access money?  If you end up working in Thailand you can open a Thai bank account and keep your money there.  I don’t work and all my money is in my U.S. bank account which means I pay a fee each time I withdraw money from the ATM.  It’s not too much but it is kind of annoying.
  3. What kind of visa will you get?  I’m not working and wanted lots of leisure time so I went with a student visa.  I think it’s a pretty good balance between cost and convenience, plus I’m learning the language more than most expats who have been here much longer than I have.
    1. A tourist visa is good for 60 days and can be extended once at a local immigration office for 30 days.  I think the initial cost for a tourist visa is 1000 Baht.  The 30 day extension is 1900 Baht.  Total is 2900 Baht per 90 days plus costs to travel to a Thai Embassy / Consular office outside the country.
    2. A student visa to study Thai language (or possibly other subject) is a convenient way to stay in the country for a year at a time.  The initial cost is 2000 Baht plus 1900 Baht for each 90 day extension.  Keep in mind tuition for the school you’ll go to and the requirement to attend classes.
    3. If you have a work permit then you need a different kind of visa.  I’m not sure how much it costs or the process involved but I would guess it is similar to that of a student visa.
    4. There is the relatively new Multiple Entry Tourist Visa.  I don’t know many details but it is supposedly good for up to 6 months stay in Thailand but can only be applied for in your home country.
    5. Starting a business in Thailand is also an option for those motivated to go that route.
  4. Where will you live?  I’m a little biased but I think Krabi is a pretty nice place.  There is of course Bangkok and if one is moving to Thailand to look for work it’s not a bad option.  Phuket is also popular with tourists and expats.  Chiang Mai is to the North and culturally is a very interesting city and also popular with tourists.  Best bet would be to do some research before hand, pick 3 or 4 options and spend a few days to a week at each one to see which place suits you the best.
  5. Will you work?  If so, what kind of work?  Work for foreigners is limited and can be difficult to get unless you are interested in teaching English or becoming a diving instructor.  You could enter Thailand on a tourist visa, find job, then make a visa run to get a new visa / work permit.  People do it but working in Thailand without the proper visa / work permit is not a good idea.
  6. Thai culture.  It’s very different than the West.  How will you adapt?  Thailand isn’t just paradise, beaches, and beautiful women.  There’s a lot to like about Thailand but there’s also a lot to dislike.  I’ve enjoyed my time here but I hate the driving here and also have a hard time accepting the fact that as a foreigner I will never have the same rights and privileges as a Thai citizen.  So I decided awhile ago I won’t be living here permanently.
  7. The transition from tourist to resident.  Enjoy your first few weeks here.  Live it up!  But that gets expensive (even in Thailand) really quick.  Figure out when and how you will transition from a tourist to living a more sustainable daily life.
  8. Cost of living in Thailand can be very cheap to very expensive.  Be realistic about how much you will need to spend to live a lifestyle you are comfortable with and can maintain.
  9. Learn the language.  Learn to read.  English skills of the average Thai person are very poor, especially outside the popular tourist areas.  It’s makes things much easier to speak a bit of Thai.  It also lets you know when you are being overcharged because of the color of your skin.  But speaking the language with a moderate level of proficiency can sometimes get you the Thai price 🙂
  10. Making friends.  I’ve found it hard to make friends with Thai people.  Sure, there are Thai people I am acquaintances with but all the people I’ve met in Thailand that I would consider a friend are foreigners.
  11. Western products in Thailand are very expensive and cost more than you would pay in your home country.  For example, when you tire of drinking Thai beer, a pint of IPA  (if you can even find it) from England or America could cost around $10.
  12. It’s really hot in Thailand.  During the hot season it can regularly be over 40C / 100F.
  13. Sometimes it rains all day, every day.  The rainy season can be kind of depressing.
  14. The cool season is magical.  Perfect weather, hot but not too hot and usually no rain.
  15. There are a lot of weird insects around here.
  16. Transportation.  Everyone has a motorbike.  If you’re sure you’ll be here a long time at least a year or two, consider a car.
  17. Medical insurance.  You should have something.  I got travellers insurance through World Nomads.  Luckily I haven’t had to use it but I assume it will work.  There are also insurance policies foreigners can purchase in Thailand.
  18. Finally, don’t do things in Thailand you wouldn’t do in your home country!  I could write a whole post on this but briefly…
    1. You probably wouldn’t drive a motorcycle without a helmet at home so DON’T DO IT IN THAILAND!  Thailand is one of the most dangerous countries to drive in.  I see near misses multiple times a day.  Minor crashes nearly every day and see or hear about major crashes involving fatalities almost weekly.  When driving leave your ego at home and be extremely defensive.
    2. Meet a beautiful girl who seems perfect and proclaims you the love of her life?  Great, I’m happy for you.  But in a few weeks when she asks you to meet her family or send her a significant amount of money DON’T DO IT!  It sounds stupid but so many foreigners fall for this.  It would seem crazy to give a girl you just met at home a lot of money or meet her family after a few dates.  It’s crazy to do this at home and it’s crazy to do this in Thailand.
    3. Despite what you may have read about in Pattaya, some parts of Bangkok and Phuket, Thai society is for the most part very conservative.
    4. And on and on…  Just because you are in Thailand and it’s new, interesting and exciting, don’t let your guard down.  Educate yourself on the common tourist scams so they can be avoided.  Related to #3, most Thai people are shy.  Be wary of the ones that approach you out of the blue.

Cost of Living in Thailand

This seems to be a popular topic among expats living in Thailand.  I thought I’d throw in my two cents.  Living costs can vary widely.  Live simply and the cost of living is very cheap.  Live a Western lifestyle and things start to get more expensive.  Keep in mind that this list of expenses applies only to me living in Ao Nang, Krabi.  Live in a different part of Thailand and things might be cheaper or more expensive.

  1. Visa: I entered Thailand on a student visa to study the Thai language.  School tuition is 30,000 Baht per year.  The visa fee is 2000 Baht and 1900 Baht every 90 days or 7,700 Baht per year.  Travel to Laos is about 15,000 once a year which includes round trip airfare, hotel, food, taxi, etc… which comes to just under 4,400 per month.
  2. House / Apartment:  I’m currently paying 13,000 Baht per month for a small two story house with two bathrooms, hot water, air conditioning, kitchen, and living room / extra bedroom.  The location is pretty good within walking distance of the beach and many restaurants in Ao Nang.  Live outside of Ao Nang in a smaller room without air conditioning or hot water and rent could be as cheap as 3,000 Baht per month.  Live in a villa with modern appliances, pool, 24 hour security, maid/garden service, etc and rent can be 40,000 (or more) per month.
  3. Transportation: I drive a Honda Scoopy scooter.  It’s my girlfriends but I make the payment for her.  It’s around 1800 Baht per month.  These can also be rented from many places around Ao Nang for around 3000 Baht per month.  Used motorbikes can be bought for around 20,000 Baht.  Maintenance is very cheap.  Oil changes, flat tire fixes, etc…  Usually comes to 100 or 200 Baht per month.  Gas is about 300 Baht per month.  Total = 2,300 per month.
  4. Utilities: Water is around 200 Baht per month.  Electricity depends on how much the air conditioner runs.  Lately we’ve been paying around 1500 Baht per month.  Trash appears to be free.  Set the bag out on the street and somebody takes it away.  Total = 1,700 Baht per month.
  5. Internet: 700 Baht per month.
  6. Cell Phone: Many options are available.  I pay 400 Baht per month for 3GB of data.  Phone calls which I rarely make are charged at 1 or 2 Baht per minute.
  7. Food: Eating out in the local Thai restaurants, dishes are around 50 to 100 Baht.  Western style restaurants with Western food are usually more, around 300 to 400 Baht.  I also do a fair bit of cooking in my room which brings down the cost a lot.  I’d estimate I spend around 6,000 Baht per month on food for myself.
  8. Climbing: I usually go to Tonsai or Railay once a week.  Round trip longtail boat ticket is 200 Baht and I usually spend around 200 Baht for food and a beer when I am there.  1600 Baht per month.
  9. Entertainment: I don’t go out much and prefer to buy beer from 7-11 since it’s a lot cheaper.  But sometimes it’s nice to go out for a drink with friends and watch a local band play or play a game of pool.  Small beers are usually around 50 Baht per 12 oz bottle.  Big beers are usually around 100 Baht per 22oz bottle.  1000 Baht per month.
  10. Medical / Dental: Travelers insurance was around 1,000 USD per year.  A visit to the dentist for cleaning / checkup was around 2,000 Baht.  Luckily I have not needed any other medical care.  Total = 3,100 Baht per month.
  11. Misc: I’m sure I’ve forgotten lots of little things.  There’s the ice cream lady who I buy coconut ice cream from when I see her drive down my street.  Various other snacks, haircuts, and other day to day minor expenses.  Call it 3,000 Baht per month.

Adding this all up is 37,200 Baht / 1,063 US Dollars per month to live in Thailand.  I have a pretty comfortable lifestyle so cost of living in Thailand could be done for much less.  It could also be done for much more.

Chong Phli – Deflowered

Anong and I met Martin at Chong Phli for a bit of climbing.  First, we warmed up on Family Affair 6c.  Martin led most of it and used his fancy new clip stick for the cruxes.  I was lazy and climbed it on top rope.  I got through the first crux without too much trouble but had to rest at the top.  Maybe tired from yesterday’s climbing but I felt like the crimp at the top was slipperier than before.  Maybe it’s the heat / humidity.  Anong tried it but got stuck at the first crux.

Then Martin put up Deflowered 6b+.  I was lazy again and climbed it on top rope.  A section in the middle was a little tricky to figure out beta.  Then at the top it gets difficult.  I had to rest but once I found the holds hiding around the right side of the tufa it was much easier.  Then at the top is what makes this route cool.  You have to climb up behind a big stalactite and then climb through a hole.  I had trouble getting through the hole but once I found the right way to position my body it wasn’t too bad.  I’d like to climb this one again but and 80 meter rope is needed to lower the lead climber all the way to the ground.  With a 70 meter rope the leader will have to down climb a couple meters.  But a 70 meter rope will lower the second all the way to the ground if the rope is not clipped back into the quickdraws.  Fun 3D climbing at the top but the route is very dirty.  I think I would like to try this again.

So maybe next time I climb with Greg I will try this since he has an 80 meter rope.  But I think I can figure out how to do this with my 70 meter rope, an extra rope and another person to transfer the belay to.

Tonsai – Wake & Bake

Anong and I went to Tonsai with Greg.  We also met Mateusz and Holver there and climbed with them a bit.  We warmed up on the beach / Dum’s Kitchen area.  Greg put up Schlingel Moritz 6a, Anong top roped it and got to the top of it for the first time.  It’s cool to see her getting better.  Then I led it and cleaned.  I had a bit of a hard time with it.  The starting move is very powerful and I had to try a couple times.  Some of the longer reaches at the top also gave me a bit of trouble.  Last week I climbed the route easily.  I couldn’t figure out why it seemed so hard today.

Next, we did Schlingel Max 6b.  Greg was first to climb, he got one bolt past his previous high point but couldn’t get through the crux.  Then I climbed.  Again, it felt harder than I remember.  After getting to the top I realized it was the bottle of wine I drank the night before.  I didn’t really feel hungover but I didn’t have the power / endurance I normally have.  Note to self: Don’t drink a bottle of wine the day before climbing.  Next Anong climbed / cleaned on top rope.  She had not climbed this route before and did well.  She got up to the crux but could not get through.

Meanwhile, Mateusz and Holver were working on Wake & Bake 7a+.  We watched them put up the route.  First Mateusz tried  but couldn’t clip the second bolt.  Then Holver tried and made it up to the second but could not get to the third.  Then Mateusz tried again and fought / willed his way to the top.  It was cool watching these two try the route.  I think I am a little stronger than them but they are bolder / more confident than me and have better technique.  So with some more training, I know I can be much better than I am.  After Mateusz put up the route, they let me try on top rope.  I powered through the opening moves up to the crack then took a rest.  Then started up the crack.  Figuring out the sequences was tricky but I quickly learned if I stem off the left side of the wall things get much easier.  One more rest and I got to the top of the crack.  Then there is a good ledge to rest on.  From here the moves are not too difficult but are beta intensive.  So I got to the top of my first 7a+ on top rope.  It was very difficult but I feel like it’s something I will be able to do.  It will be my goal to redpoint this before I go home at the end of the year.

We ate lunch then headed over to Monkey Wall and climbed two of the routes I did last time.  We did the first pitch of Curious George 6a and the first pitch of Chunky Monkey 6b.  We finished up at about 4:30 and began making our way to Railay to catch a boat back to Ao Nang.  This time of the year it’s better to go to Railay because there aren’t usually people in Tonsai wanting to go to Ao Nang so you wait a very long time in Tonsai and/or pay extra for the boat.

Climbing – Chong Phli

Last Wednesday Anong and I went climbing at Chong Phli.  We did a little climbing with Martin and met Tamryn there later in the day.  We warmed up on EFZ 6a+, then Anong led Zak Attack 5 which I happily repeated on top rope.  After that I climbed Exfoliation 6a+ then put up Chutzpah 6a+ so I could try Hunting Shrooms 6c+ on top rope.  I think I climbed Hunting Shrooms twice and have mostly gotten the beta of the crux figured out.  I should lead it but I’m still scared.  By this time the sun was coming onto the main wall so we headed around to the back.  Martin put up Early experiments in transportation 6c.  I tried it two times on top rope.  It was a little tricky figuring out the crux.  Second time I climbed it cleanly.  Then we did It’s a Mammoth 6a.  By now I was really hungry and tired.  We packed up and headed home.

Climbing – Songkran

I haven’t written about the last several days of climbing I’ve done because I haven’t done anything interesting.  But I have been working on figuring out the crux of Hunting Shrooms 6c+ at Chong Phli.  I’ve been able to climb through it on top rope a couple times.  A new bolt also went in and protects the crux move much better than before.  So I should be able to lead it soon but I think it will still be very scary.

A few days later Anong and I went to Railay.  We were planning to climb at 123 Wall but the tide was extremely high and none of the climbs could be done there.  So instead we went to Muay Thai wall.  First we did Valentine 6a+.  I thought I had already redpointed it but turns out this was the first time for me.  Next, we did Alone 6b on top rope.  After this we ate lunch and headed over to Wee’s Present Wall to climb with Tamryn.  We climbed Way To The Top 5 then Roi-Et 6a.  I hadn’t climbed these routes in awhile so it was fun to try them again.  Next we moved over to a new climbing area.  Cave Wall was established in January 2014 and has two routes.  I looked at No Good Deed Goes Unpunished 6b+.  This is a long intimidating route with vertical to overhanging climbing.  I decided to give it a go and was able to onsight it!  Now I want to try the other route on the wall which I expect would be a similar climbing style but is a little harder.

A few days after that, I went to Tonsai to avoid Songkran in Ao Nang.  I stayed 4 nights / 5 days and climbed every day!  I climbed with a variety of people, got lots of massages, and drank lots of beer.  It was a fun week!  Here’s a list of climbs done:

Day 1:
Cobra Wall:

  1. Snake Skin 6a+, redpoint
  2. Cobra Head 6a, redpoint
  3. Snake Whiskey 6a+, redpoint
  4. Baby Snake 6c, toprope

Day 2:
Dum’s Kitchen:

  1. Schlingel Max 6b, redpoint (first time!)
  2. Don Quijote De La Mancha 7a, toprope

Monkey World:

  1. Chunky Monkey pitch 1 6b, onsight
  2. Curious George pitch1 6a, onsight
  3. Monkeying Around pitch 1 6a, onsight

Day 3:
Dum’s Kitchen:

  1. Schlingel Moritz 6a, redpoint
  2. Schlingel Max 6b, redpoint

Fire Wall:

  1. Groove Tube 6a, redpoint
  2. Boobtube 6b, onsight
  3. Up In Smoke 6a+, onsight

Day 4:
Wee’s Present Wall:

  1. Hello Christine 6a+, redpoint (first time!)
  2. Same Same But Different 6b+, top rope 2x
  3. Way To The Top 5, redpoint

123 Wall:

  1. We Sad 6a+, redpoint (finally!)

Muay Thai Wall:

  1. Alone 6b, redpoint (first time!)

Day 5:

Dum’s Kitchen:

  1. Schlingel Max 6b, redoint

Tyrolean Wall:

  1. Missing Snow 6b+, redpoint
  2. The Wrath Of Nantawan 7a, toprope
  3. Langes Feschtl 6b+

The Nest:

  1. Overstay 6b+, redpoint (first time!)

Thai Tone Rules

Learning the tone rules for the Thai language can seem overwhelming at first.  The tone of a syllable depends on the initial consonant class (3 choices), whether or not a tone mark is present (2 choices), vowel length (2 choices), and the syllable ending (2 choices) which would result in 24 individual rules to memorize.  Luckily this can be simplified much further.

The rules for when a tone mark is present are the simplest and were the easiest for me to remember so I’ll present those first.

  1. If the initial consonant class is high or middle, then the tone matches the tone mark.
  2. If the initial consonant class is low with tone mark อ่ – ไม้เอก, then the tone produced is เสียงโท or falling tone.
  3. If the initial consonant class is low with tone mark อ้ – ไม้โท, then the tone produced is เสียงตรี or high tone.  

Note that the other two tone marks will never appear over a low class consonant.

The rules for when no tone mark is present are a little more complicated but are not too difficult to learn.

  1. If the initial consonant class is low or middle and the syllable has a live ending then the syllable is pronounced with a middle tone.
  2. If the initial consonant class is high and the syllable has a live ending then the syllable is pronounced with a rising tone.
  3. If the initial consonant class is middle or  high and the syllable has a dead ending then the syllable is pronounced with a low tone.
  4. If the initial consonant class is low and the syllable has a dead ending with long vowel then the syllable is pronounced with a falling tone.
  5. If the initial consonant class is low and the syllable has a dead ending with short vowel then the syllable is pronounced with a high tone.

That’s it!  Only 8 rules(3 with a tone mark, 5 without a tone mark) to remember in order to read the tone of a Thai syllable correctly.  I created this simple mnemonic to help remember the rules when no tone mark is present:

Thai: ผม ชอบ รับ ประ ทาน ปู ผัด
R/Tone: r2/rising r4/falling r5/high r3/low r1/mid r1/mid r3/low
English: I like to eat crab fried

Note that in Thai the adjective comes after the noun so the above would be correctly translated as “I like to eat fried crab”.  Here’s a spreadsheet I made with the Thai alphabet and the tone rules.  Check the “Tone Rules” tab.